|Robin White: The Ice Curtain|
Press (Hardcover), ISBN 0-385-33316-1
If Siberia is blue, white, gold and black, then White's poetic beginning offers a mellow contrast to the bloody red scenes of man's inhumanities against man. White writes graphically of brutal attacks, mutilated faces, cold-blooded killings, evil men abusing their power and a pervasive lawlessness -- in other words, survival of the fittest at its most primal. The brutality of the cold strips Russia down to its barbaric roots, casts off layers of civilization, and hides its most private perversions behind a false wall of government and empty laws. No romance softens the icy edges of this barren landscape, no heroic gunslingers or sheriffs with tin badges -- although hero Gregori Nowek resembles Gary Cooper in his iconic role in the movie High Noon.
Instead of protecting a cow town from a vengeful gunslinger, Nowek fights for miners. The miners excavate tons of ore from the Siberian diamond mine at Mirny, but serve at the pleasure of the owners, nothing more than slaves, captives of their own hope for a better life. Paid half in script with the other half of their wages deposited into an offshore account, the miners live with less than the bare necessities of life. If they leave, the money in the offshore accounts reverts back to the mining company: Kristall. The workers attempt to break through the Ice Curtain -- a network of greedy Russian officials, diamond smugglers and the Cartel, a Western organization controlling the diamond trade. A quashed strike attempt leads the Siberian Delegate, Arkady Volsky, and his assistant Nowek to Moscow, vowing to bring the miners their pay.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia serves as a center for smugglers and thugs. The miners' needs pale as diamonds disappear from government coffers, and the whole Russian economy teeters on collapse. Only Nowek can save his country.
White writes an over-the-top, danger at every turn, Russian mafia, corrupt government, rich Westerner kind of thriller that attempt to resurrect the suspenseful Cold War espionage novel. Women play only walk-on parts in this man's world of ice, snow and corruption.
The writing waffles between exquisite prose to he-said-she-said dialogue, with a couple scenes brutal enough to make even the most hardened reader wince. The specifics and sprinkling of Russian language throughout gives the story authentic realism and pulls the reader into the Siberian landscape where we shiver, crank up the thermostat and ceaselessly turn page after page.
here to share your