May 16, 2006
DARK STAR by Alan Furst (Random House, 2002). I have never been much a fan of spy stories. Oh, sure, I read all of the James Bond novels back when I was in high school, but that was more for the sex than for the espionage (it was a different time, and Ian Fleming was about the hottest thing a high school kid could buy), and anyway, James Bond is more a superhero than a spy. I’ve sampled a few other writers in the years since, but somehow the spy stuff has always left me yawning. I had heard good things about a writer named Alan Furst, however, so a few months ago I picked up his novel DARK STAR, which sounds like a science fiction novel, but isn’t. What it is is the tale of Andre Szara, a Pravda reporter who doubles as a Soviet agent in France and Germany as World War II is drawing near. The characters are complex and compelling, the prose is rich and atmospheric, and Furst evokes his period so powerfully that I almost felt as though I had lived through it. I still don’t much like spy stories, but I think that I like Alan Furst.