Saturday, December 31, 2011
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre
La Carre’s famous spy works more or less defined the genre, way back before there was a Tom Clancy. His world is one of double crosses, complicated setups, midnight meetings, cold and drizzly nights in cities which have been renamed, and exist in a binary continuum on either side of an Iron Curtain. It’s a curiously dated time now, when simple things like cel phone calls or using a credit card were either impossible or far more complicated. As a result, a lot of the intrigue is almost a tad difficult to get one’s head around; the simple solutions we’ve taken for granted don’t work, yet the world still vaguely looks and talks like ours.
In the Spy Who Came in From the Cold, a once intrepid agent is forced to go back across the line one more time. It’s an unpleasant world of intrigue, where no one’s motives are what they seem, and where even the conditions for victory seem unclear; I suppose it’s a bit like the cold war itself in that way.
This is a short book, and a fast one, and I’d recommend that anyone interested in the early days of spycraft and spy fiction go through it. But do so now, because in another twenty years, when even the politics are largely forgotten, this book isn’t going to make much sense anymore.