Book Review – Moscow Gold: Ian Kharitonov

The review -

What kind of person would write an action thriller with Russian protagonists that are appealing to a western audience? It would a Russian origin author who isn’t a victim to the Kremlin propaganda machine. 


Don’t get me wrong. This book doesn’t glorify ‘merica. Every nation-state involved in the plot is portrayed with moral realism, as opportunistic evil organizations that think in terms beyond good and bad. And it’s not really wrong, because that’s how every nation is in the real world. When any nation finds an opportunity, many others will get involved in the chaos, leading to the deaths of the masses who never know what’s really going on. 


With critical honesty, I wish to inform you that Ian’s writing is very rough and has an enormous room for improvement in terms of narration, characterization, character depth, pacing, details, and his writing. But that doesn’t matter. He’s aimed this to be in the style of the 20th-century classic pulp paperback books. And yet, he ended up doing something way better. 


Eugene Sokolov, the main protagonist of the series, is a former Russian rescue officer who’s gotten disenchanted by his country’s politics, and also with the stupid political games of the whole world. If you haven’t read the previous installments of this series, like me, that’s okay. Ian makes this book understandable on its own. 


So, in this book, Eugene who is previously framed as a terrorist by the Russian authorities for an attack on a highly populated Russian city, the attack somehow orchestrated by their own government which Eugene tried to prevent. With a target on his head, he manages to get back into Russian soil, after a legal deal with a not so legal Bratva mobster’s special lawyer. Before Gene can try to clear his name, his former boss is assassinated by the FSB, who are lucky enough to frame Gene for it. 


With shootouts and chases that seem tactically sound, brutal to the extent of portraying Russian fiascos by an author who understands the stark reality of the place, cat and mouse games with people trying to outsmart each other, it sometimes feels like grim every man for himself type of world. But, even that’s not true when you go further into the story. 


Getting to the core of the plot, it involves the following- (Not in order)

The Spanish revolution that happened around a hundred years ago, a stolen cache of Moscow Gold, narco-economy, Venezuala, greedy American bureaucrats, money laundering, Bratvas, FSB, Spain, Catalina, decapitated heads, kill teams, cannon fodder, fertilizer bombs, organized revolutions, hybrid warfare, banks, blasts, death by spoon, realistic jokes on commie morons, think tanks, history, hookers, museums, fake GRU agents, trolling and Russian proxies, cyber stuff, drugs, guns, data analysis, UN, floods of fake tourists, torture, assassinations, fake news, public manipulations, and lots of money!


In other words, it’s a serious kind of fun. Trust me, I haven’t spoilt the story. The above paragraph is a trigger warning to sensitive readers and an invitation to interesting readers. On a positive note, Ian is smart enough to avoid a romance subplot in a story that is set in a dangerously realistic world. Sure, there’s a femme fatal important to the plot. That, of course, gets weird and ends just as grimly as possible in a story written for the hard-hearted. 


Despite the levels of violence found in this story, it is far from morally decadent. I’d say it’s morally realistic. Eugene is a good guy who understands the need to do nasty stuff without hesitation in order to survive. He cares for his brother and very few others who are his true friends. Even in the most brutal situations, he does not morally compromise himself to encourage or patronize certain barbaric acts of humanity. On the other hand, he is not a stereotypical good guy boy-scout character as he knows to fight fire with fire and to be on the morally good side rather than on the side of any national entity. 


His brother, Constantine Sokolov, is the academic who isn’t soft enough to portray a cowardly humourous side-kick. Constantine understands the need for brutal measures and aids Gene, with his brains rather than brawn. There’s some fun banter between them, but it does not undermine Constantine. 

The varied assortment of characters, the clusterfuck of chaos brought about in the plot, and the fun dose of uncensored stuff would make this an enjoyable read for those minds free from the cages of cultural censorship, sensitivity, and liberal snowflake stuff. For the logically curious, open and hardened minds, this book can send you into an introspective, reflective, educative, and hilariously fun ride into what humans do in the real world regularly at someplace or the other. If you’re looking for a literary piece of work to satisfy your cultural sensitivities, then run far from this book. 


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