My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A superb end to a simply wonderful series. A marvellous end to the book. Happiness tinged with sadness. Tragedy and hope. It didn’t really feel like a goodbye.’ An au revoir, hopefully. Though that’s probably me wishing it, rather than it actually being so. And yes, he saved the best for (the) last (two).
As the book begins, it is three years since the second war to end all wars ended. But the world feels for many just as unsafe as it was. Perhaps more so. The series’ ‘hero’ John Russell and his old espionage ‘friend’ and part-time Soviet controller, Shchepkin find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into the new world of spies and mistrust, as the two new world powers let paranoia about each other override any thoughts of justice and retribution for the people who suffered most. The ordinary man and woman in the street, wherever that street might once have been in Europe, are just as expendable in the new Cold War as they ever were in the ‘old’ war. Russell and Shchepkin reach the conclusion that there is probably no escape for them, or those they care for, not alive anyway. Unless, that is, they can find a secret about one side or the other, to use as blackmail. They know plenty of secrets, of course, but the people they know secrets about, also know secrets about them. It needs to be a big one, a huge one, a secret so potentially devastating, that it would be worth leaving them alone to pay for. If they survive long enough after disclosing it, to use it, that is.
I don’t think there’s been a deep message to be got from the Station series. David Downing hasn’t been on a cliched anti-war, anti-Nazi, anti-conflict, mission. That’s for us to read in maybe. The things I take from the series are maybe the triumph of spirit and that people, no matter where they come from, are fundamentally decent at heart. That war affects every side differently, but in the end the same. There are no winners, the human race loses. Masaryk Station, in summing up the series that has gone before it, is about betrayal. Of people, each other, of ideas. It’s about starting to build your own future, because no one else is going to do it for you. Certainly not the Big Powers, as here. They say they are, but they can’t be trusted with the future and certainly not with yours’. Universally relevant wherever you find yourself today, it’s about all sides being let down by their leaders, elected and unelected.
Despite (obviously) being written by an English (speaking) writer, the series has been remarkably even-handed and non-judgemental. You draw your own conclusions, if you want to. Obviously, the events and atrocities will speak for themselves, however, they can be open to interpretation, however you want to interpret them, depending on which side you were or are. There were no winners, nothing was solved by 5 years of war and 40-odd million dead.
It’s impossible to pick a best book of the six Stations and would be wrong to even think about trying. Could the series be returned to? Yes. Should it? That’s a whole other question.
Masaryk Station especially and the series as a whole leaves me with sadness, hope, tragedy, happiness, possibility. Leaves me with a smile on my face and hope in my heart and glad that I travelled with David Downing, John Russell and Effi Cohen.
Click on the cover for my reviews of the previous Station books. The covers are to the paperback versions I have. Yes, I got the wrong Zoo Station. Irritating.