I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are entirely my own.
The KGB agents are vicious, and they are closing in… His odds of escaping are bleak… Will he prevail although everything is muddled in a treacherous love triangle? Whom can he trust? The inevitable checkmate could bring him freedom … or death. Checkmate Run is an adrenaline rush of a story about a precocious young man’s deadly struggle to survive the brutal Soviet regime. Alex Loevsky is a medical student and an inspiringly rebellious poet. He becomes enmeshed in a breakneck battle against the rampant cruelty of the totalitarian state, where just the desire to think freely is nearly a crime on par with treason, and being born Jewish is more than a mere hindrance. Alex aspires to be a physician. Despite his top academic standing, he has to overcome unspoken rule that aim to restrict the number of Jews entering medical school. Before sitting his admission exams, he is unable to locate his name on the list of alphabetically grouped applicants. He soon discovers that a special group has been created and that everyone in it, including him, has Jewish-sounding surnames. Finding this odd, he goes to his friend and confidante–his aunt Anna. They formulate a daring scheme to shift his name to the regular group. Alex gets the highest score in the admission exams, but to his chagrin, he discovers that everyone in the special group has been flunked. Shortly thereafter, with the help of his literary mentor, Andrey Simyavsky, Alex’s poetry gains recognition, and New Word, a coveted avant-garde literary magazine, starts to publish his work regularly. All of a sudden, Andrey is arrested, convicted in a closed trial, and sentenced to seven years of hard labor after his banned novel, Lyubimov, was covertly published abroad. While searching for the secret transcripts of the trial, the KGB murders Andrey’s wife. Alex, who is suspected of hiding the transcripts, is hounded, severely beaten, and left to die. He manages to escape and runs into Lara, a fellow medical student, who saves his life. Aunt Anna enlists the help of her friend, who now holds the rank of general in the Interior Ministry Force. They devise a plan to shield Alex from the KGB by keeping him in solitary confinement inside the Internal Ministry prison. Six months later, the general arranges for Alex’s release, but with one caveat–Alex is forever barred from creative writing. While incarcerated, Alex is expelled from medical school. The general applies pressure on the corrupt dean, and, with Lara’s help, Alex is reinstated. A few years pass, Alex witnesses the murder of a dissident who seeks to expose to the Western world the torturous reality of life in the Soviet Union. The murder leads Alex to the core of the dissident’s underground movement. His life becomes a death-dealing game of chess; he needs to remain one step ahead of his ruthless opponent–the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate–and must win the game in order to survive. Unexpectedly, the KGB attempts to recruit Alex as an informant. Being entrapped, he experiences betrayal at the hands of the woman with whom he has had a long and passionate love affair. As Alex and Lara grow closer, their friendship turns into love. They get married, and a year later, they have a son. Concern for their son’s future fires up their desire to escape the country that turned on them. Having nothing to lose, Alex and Lara navigate through the imminent danger of terrifying twists and turns in their bid to cross the Iron Curtain.
Fascinated with this author’s life story, and taken by the beautiful cover, I decided to review this book when given the opportunity. Even though this is the story of the author’s own life and his escape from Russia, it is written in first person just like you read a fictional story and is extremely engaging. I love the way the author writes, its so beautiful and allows you to visually see everything that happens throughout the book. However, there were a few things that I didn’t care for concerning content; one being language. Just in chapter one there were probably about 5 cuss words, some fairly bad. Two was the sexuality that actually caused me to put the book down. It was just a little too detailed and crossed a few too many lines for my audience. So, although I was really interested in the author’s story, I would have been more pleased had he left out the language and kept the sexuality at hints without the details.
So I am going to rate Checkmate Run 2 out of 5 stars and do not recommend it to any of my followers.
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