I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In this classic, John le Carre's third novel and the first to earn him international acclaim, he created a world unlike any previously experienced in suspense fiction. With unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le Carre brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage in the tale of a British agent who longs to end his career but undertakes one final, bone-chilling assignment. When the last agent under his command is killed and Alec Leamas is called back to London, he hopes to come in from the cold for good. His spymaster, Control, however, has other plans. Determined to bring down the head of East German Intelligence and topple his organization, Control once more sends Leamas into the fray -- this time to play the part of the dishonored spy and lure the enemy to his ultimate defeat.
***2018 Summer of Spies***
I can’t have a Summer of Spies without reading John Le Carré, he’s written too many of the most well-known espionage classics. Having enjoyed The Constant Gardener, I decided to switch gears and try something in the Smiley series. George doesn’t feature very much in this book, although he certainly does make an appearance. While his presence seems trivial at first, by book’s end I realized that he’d played an interesting role in the outcome.
This novel took me back to the bad old days of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, and the risks of defection from behind the Iron Curtain. All the stuff that I studied in junior high & high school. I also remember when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989—it was a time of great hopefulness that seems like a naïve, idealistic dream nowadays. I was impressed by the gritty but beautiful descriptions of things, the wheels within wheels of plotting, and how well Le Carré led me down the garden path, only to surprise me during the last pages.
You couldn’t get much more different from the fantasy-spy James Bond tales! Cocktails vs. alcoholism, sophisticated women vs. a plain library worker, gambling at a casino vs. gambling with your life. There’s not much in Alec Leamas’ life that any reader would aspire to and no one in their right mind would want to change places with him. And yet, I like Le Carré’s version better. At least Leamas values his Elizabeth and tries to protect her, not because she is some frail female flower, but because all human beings deserve to be protected from being abused.
A must-read if you are interested in the espionage genre.