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This is such an amazing book. But the reader insisted on doing a Russian accent any time a Russian was speaking. It ended up being super distracting.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I expected a truthful hard-hitting expose and I got a cold hot dog with relish instead. It's hard to believe that anyone worth their weight as a journalist would write such a bland limp-wristed portrait of the world's most corrupt and criminal leader. Oh, I forgot, he still lives in Russia.
An Anna Politkovskaya he is NOT. I suggest reading something a little less whitewashy like Karen Dawisha, Masha Gessen, or Bill Browder. Anyone who reads this will know less than when they started...
Good narration, though.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This is a really good retelling of Putin’s rise to power and of the “collective Putin” that has run Russia through the first two decades of the 21st century. It provides a great deal of insight into intrigues and fills in important details missing from many Western analyses.
The only criticism I have is of the narrator. Between his inability to pronounce key names (e.g. he keeps saying “Volushin” in lieu of “Voloshin”) and his unfortunate decision to voice quotations from Russians with an “Ensign Chekhov” accent, he has detracted from an otherwise riveting book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I listened to this having watched a lecture by a US intelligence expert on Russia, who described Zygar as the foremost analyst of Putin's Russia. Having spent time in Russia many years ago and following its politics ever since, I sense his assessment is correct. This narrative rings true, with numerous interviews with some of the peripheral players in this Byzantine story. This book carries important insights as we see a new Cold War no longer predicted, but seemingly now accepted as fact.
I have to agree, though, with another reviewer; the narrator is awful. Admittedly he has a challenge as the book is peppered with verbatim quotes from the various interviewees, and it is important to distinguish between these and the author's own "voice". So a bad "James Bond baddie" accent ("Ah Mister Bond, what an unexpected pleasure") might be excusable. But what really mars the book is his pronunciation of surnames. They are not just odd, they are flat wrong. I sometimes struggled to understand who he was talking about until I cottoned on and thought: "Oh, he means HIM!". In this vein, Prime Minister and ex-President Medvedev is given a degree of anonymity that the FSB could not achieve. In Russian, many surnames change when referring to a female, with an "a" added at the end. In the mouth of this narrator, Shevardnadze and Lyushenko are amongst many senior political figures who undergo a sex change.
All of this is not enough to ruin a powerful piece of investigative journalism, but it does make it a good deal harder to follow a complex web of intrigue. Beyond that, it just grates like hell.