- Hardcover: 464 pages
- Publisher: Bantam; First Edition edition (October 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 055309128X
- ISBN-13: 978-0553091281
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (161 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Icon Hardcover – October 1, 1996
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Trapped in a snowbound cabin or on a long flight, there's nobody more reliable than Forsyth for guaranteed diversion. His narrative engine is one of the best in the business; his characters spring quickly to life; he blends research and imagination into high drama. Icon is set in the Russia of 1999, where an ultra-nationalist zealot you might recognize from Nightline is about to become head of state. When his dangerous agenda leaks out, no Western government wants to take action -- so a private task force including ex-CIA agent Jason Monk is sent in to derail the demagogue. It's all in the grand tradition of previous Forsythe winners, from The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File and The Dogs of War through The Fourth Protocol and The Deceiver.
From Publishers Weekly
While for sheer reading excitement Forsyth has yet to top his fiction debut, Day of the Jackal, published a quarter century ago, his later novels (The Fist of God, etc.) display a mature mastery of storytelling melded with a deep knowledge of realpolitik. Here, contemporary Russian crypto-fascists prove every bit as villainous as their Communist predecessors whom Forsyth portrayed in The Fourth Protocol and The Deceiver. It's 1999, and ultra-nationalist Igor Komarov's victory in the upcoming Russian presidential election seems assured. But within Komarov's party headquarters, an elderly janitor accidentally discovers Komarov's secret plans for Russia, laid out in a document that comes to be known as the Black Manifesto?a blueprint for a return to dictatorship, military expansionism and genocidal ethnic cleansing. The manifesto soon comes to the attention of British intelligence, but both they and the CIA are restrained by their governments from taking official action. So with the backing of an organization of international VIPs, former British Secret Service chief Sir Nigel Irvine mounts his own covert operation to subvert Komarov. Ex-CIA operative Jason Monk, who once ran highly placed agents in the Soviet Union, will be Irvine's point man. As usual, Forsyth interweaves speculation with historical fact, stitching his plot pieces with a cogent analysis of both Russian politics and the world of espionage?particularly the legacy of the real-life Aldrich Ames, a Soviet mole who tunneled deep into the CIA. Shifting back and forth in time and space among a large cast of characters, Forsyth expertly builds suspense toward a climactic New Year's Eve skirmish in Moscow. It's another strong performance by a writer who knows exactly what he's about, and who here catalyzes narrative with another memorable protagonist, the stealthy and daring Monk. Major ad/promo; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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There is a gathering of old foreign policy and intelligence hands from Britain and America, none of them currently in office. They are given copies of the Manifesto to read, and knowing their governments will do nothing, decide that action must be taken. At its head will be Sir Nigel Irvine, the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, known as M16. But what to do and whom to use?
In the 1980's, a counterintelligence agent for the CIA, Jason Monk, had been remarkably effective running spies who had come over to the American side. But it was also during that time period that the notorious traitor, Aldrich Ames, had exposed more than a dozen spies buried within the Soviet system. Ames himself was an incompetent alcoholic who rose beyond any sensible level through organizational sclerosis, and was protected by a drinking buddy high up in the CIA hierarchy. Knowing, as the CIA itself did, that something was terribly wrong when agents begin to disappear, but unaware of the mole, Monk does not follow procedures within the CIA in an attempt to protect his agents. It is to no avail. Angry, frustrated, he is pensioned off and ten years after leaving government service, runs a fishing charter service on a small island held by the British.
Irvine appears one day, but is obviously no fisherman. He convinces a reluctant Monk to use his considerable skills to infiltrate Russia to stop the possibility that Komarov will be elected. Through deception and guile, Monk solicits aid from a variety of people, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, an old, blunt talking military hero of the late USSR, an honest and dedicated leader of a police force, and the mastermind of the Chechen underworld who owes Monk a favor. Whether the tide will turn in time to save Russia from reverting to Fascist tyranny is dependent on numerous events occurring with precise timing. But Grishin, looking to achieve heights within a Komarov government, is a skilled purveyor of evil, vowing to eliminate the intruder and his helpmates.
Given his personal habits, the speaking skills, the personal cleanliness, the aversion to alcohol, Komarov is obviously modeled on Hitler, but in a different geographic setting. He even has his own propaganda minister. You anticipate that if Komarov wins, the Duma, like the Reichstag, will be reduced to ashes.
As if he was a superb architect creating a fabulous edifice, Forsyth weaves his story with minute detail, and also creates an exciting, relentless plot.Like most of his admirers I suppose, it is The Day of the Jackal that I point to as Forsyth's best book, and maybe the best thriller of all time. But it is fair to say that Jackal edges out Icon by only a hair on Vladimir Putin's balding head. It is simply superb.
"Icon" suffers from a beginning that suggests otherwise. You read the first 300 pages and they grab you in a way few books ever do, with alternating suspense yarns set years apart, each somehow building on the drama of the other. You agonize for poor Jason Monk as his Soviet assets are undone one after the other by real-life traitor Aldrich Ames, kind of what Benedict Arnold might have been had the Revolutionary figure succeeded in not only giving up West Point to the Redcoats, but Fort Ticonderoga and Philadelphia as well. The fact that its now well after 1999 and the ultra-nationalist movement in Russia has not taken control doesn't lessen the sense of fear and loathing Forsyth gets across as he slowly sets up the principal story with a nice sense of balance, nuance, and loving detail. You think to yourself: "Can it be? Did Forsyth find his wellspring once more?"
Then it all goes to pieces in Part 2, along with the chief villians. After drumming in their diabolical competance in Part 1, Forsyth apparently allows them to forget their medication in Part 2. Not only do they act ridiculously, but Monk the hero, like the protagonist in "Fist Of God," seems to anticipate everything that happens in such a way to alleviate any creative unease the reader might feel. The book that starts so promisingly ends not with a bang but a yawn.
Even at the very end, when Forsyth reveals a key trick in his narrative, he does so in such a rote way as to raise more questions than answers. Clearly he went for a "He was my father" type finale, but what we get instead is another of those coincidences that pock the narrative's second half.
I love Forsyth, even lesser Forsyth. There's a lot to enjoy here, especially in the first half, and people who like their resolutions tidy and suspense-free may enjoy the rest as well. But I sort of wish the master could have taken more time to sort out the second half of his story with the same apparent care he bestowed on the first.
Very clever sociopath takes over the reins of the fascist party. He is good orator and presents politics which applies with the Russian population and it looks that he will be elected the next president. By coincidence it is observed that his real intentions are similar or worse that of the old Nazi party in Germany.
A US agent gets the task to hinder that this sociopath gets elected and his method is very clever and remarkable to read about.
It is not new in history that mad men become heads of state wit dangerous consequences.