DiskuteraThe Green Dragon

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jul 1, 2013, 11:58am

Looks like I forgot to order the book. Did so yesterday so should have it in a week or so.

Redigerat: jul 22, 2013, 10:00am

Looks as though I'm the first to finish this one! I have mixed feelings about the book. As a depiction of life in Soviet-era Moscow, it is superb. Scenes such as the one with Natasha and her washing machine and descriptions of the bleak winter streets are amazing and really drew me in. I also liked Renko, for the most part. The first 150 pages or so were compelling plot-wise, but around the middle of the book it really started to drag for me. There were too many scenes of Renko and various officials talking at each other elliptically, which I think I was supposed to be gleaning clues from, but I was obviously too dim to get them. The scene where Kirwill is telling Renko all about his Irish-American family background and childhood almost made me put the book down in frustration. The plot did pick up again a bit later, and I liked the section with Priblyuda at the dacha. But the ridiculous moment of miscommunication that led to the final section of the book moving to New York killed it again for me, and the whole New York bit felt like an unnecessary development. The ending of the book was too Hamlet like - bodies strewn everywhere - and the environmentalist in me was dismayed by the fate of the sables - there goes the local ecosystem! (not that I'd have liked the alternative either). I wasn't too keen on the few female characters either, I felt they were objectified male-fantasy types. I gave the book 3 stars for setting and atmosphere. I really had hoped to enjoy this more, but it was a bit of a disappointment in the end.

jul 22, 2013, 9:59am

PS I've just noticed that the Non-spoiler thread is in the Book Talk group, not the Green Dragon. Weird. I had to find it by using the link in the main Morphy's Magical Monthly Reads thread.

jul 22, 2013, 11:08am

I agree that the Kirwill family bg wasn't necessary, but I think the New York bit was. How else could they resolve anything with Osborne being so politically powerful in both nations? Any solution had to at least appear on the up and up even though it wasn't.

jul 22, 2013, 11:31am

I suppose it had to, but the change of location felt a bit jarring to me after the build up in Moscow. I also felt that there wasn't the same depth in the depiction of America that there was in the Russian section, maybe because Smith knew his readers would be more familiar with it as a setting and not need so much detail. And I must admit that I was very tired when reading this, and didn't always follow the machinations and double crossing of the various factions, which is more my fault than the book's.

Redigerat: jul 23, 2013, 5:26pm

I don't know if this counts as a spoiler, but I'll put it here anyway.

part of what I've always loved about this book (and to a lesser extent the sequels) is the otherness of Arkady's worldview. I didn't make many notes while reading, but at the end (p 347 in my hardcover edition) is this bit about Arkady dreaming what he and Irina would do in Kirwill's fabled cabin of escape.

"Was there tundra in Maine? They'd have to get coats and tea - as much tea as they could buy. And cigarettes. What did Kirwill mean 'like Siberia with beer cans'? No matter; Arkady found himself smiling at the prospect. He didn't enjoy hunting much, but he loved to fish and he's never been in a canoe. What else would they do? He'd ask Irina to tell him her life from the beginning, leaving nothing out. When she got tired, he'd tell about himself. Their life would be two stories. How long they'd have to stay he had no idea. Osborne would want to find them but he'd be busy hiding himself from Kirwill - they could wait. They'd get some books. American authors. If he got a generator they could have lights, a radio, a record player. Seeds for a garden; beets, potatoes, radishes. He could listen to music while he planted - Prokofiev, New Orleans blues. In hot weather they could go swimming, and in August there'd be mushrooms."

stuff like that slays me. Pasha's pineapple. The washing machine. The bathhouse.

And Arkady's sideways reasoning and insights. I'll put that another place.

jul 25, 2013, 8:08pm

Just finished and still digesting. In the early part of the book, Renko seems like one of those guys who doesn't really respond when bad things happen, including his wife leaving him. Eventually we see more of what's going on inside him. As an honest and thoughtful man, he's clearly a misfit in his society and his career. His not pursuing advancement through the Party is a clear indicator that he doesn't want to play the game. But whom can the honest man trust? Not his boss, not his wife, not even his closest friend.

I liked the Kirwill family story; it lent ballast to Kirwill's character and provided a counterweight to what was happening in Russia.

Good choice of books. I'd heard about it for years but never read it. More after I've had a chance to chew on it a bit more.

jul 25, 2013, 8:57pm

Kirwill's story humanizes him a lot. Otherwise he is in danger of being just a thug. It is a lot of story though.

I think what Arkady internalizes is very selective and some things that aren't important are only sorted in the subconscious.

jul 27, 2013, 1:33pm

I was going to give this five stars - lower than average but still readable then got to the grisly, miserable ever after ending and decided I just didn't like this book. The inspector was more a victim than a hero and the female protagonist was mysterious to the point of being two-dimensional. I didn't like either of them and I'm not sure you are meant to. The plot was slow and there were far too many confusing tangents. About the only thing I did like was the peek in Russian Culture.

jul 27, 2013, 1:56pm

I also wasn't crazy about the shoot-em-up ending, but what else could happen? Osborne wasn't going to be brought to justice in either country, no matter what happened (or does someone think that was possible?) I had figured that either Irina or Kirwill would kill him, but I guess Smith thought Renko needed to be the one to supply the coup de grace to the book. Did Kirwill need to die as he did? I suppose maybe he had little left to live for?

I'm a little bit curious to see what sort of position Renko is able to return to after all the carnage in Russia as well as New York, but not curious enough to pursue it immediately.

I would have liked a little more balance between the sections in the different locations, but that would have required trimming the Moscow section tremendously or adding a good bit of filler to the others. I would have liked to see more interesting female characters, but I guess that wouldn't have fit in with the milieu being depicted.

jul 28, 2013, 4:35pm


I read this book in the early 80's, saw this thread and had to click on it. Reading that book was one of the more enjoyable experiences for that time period. This thread served as something of a refresher course. Thank you!