Checkmate Run by Allan Alexander is an intriguing story of Soviet Russia during the Cold War. It is a story about one man’s struggle against powers which tried to quash personal expression and ideas that were different than the status quo. The events take place between 1965-1975 as a young man named Alex learns the harsh and life threatening reality that he faces every day.
The story opens with a prisoner getting ready for trial. A trial that is heavily swung in the government’s favor. He is found guilty and sentenced for hard labor. We then meet Alex, a young man who has recently published a poem in a national magazine. A poem which openly criticizes the government. Alex is of Jewish descent and he must use trickery and subversion in order to achieve his goal of becoming a doctor as the government is discriminatory toward the Jewish citizens. With the help of his aunt and her powerful friends, he is able to get into medical school. When a friend and fellow author, Andrey Simyavsky, has been arrested for treason, a series of events occur that will change Alex’s life forever. He vows to fight in any way he can. He soon becomes on the radar of the KGB, the Russian spy and state-security branch, and he must fight quietly and undermine the growing reaches of the government. Will the KGB finally be able to stop Alex? Will he be able to escape?
I enjoyed this book very much. It’s hard to give a description of the book without giving too much away. Every event in the book is a piece of the puzzle, a calculated chess move in which Alex tries to outsmart the KGB and they are trying to catch Alex in “illegal” activities. I always knew about the harshness of life behind the Iron Curtain but to read about it in such detail, it’s heartbreaking. I have a deeper appreciation for the freedoms we have here in the US. We may not like what people say or do, but we can do the simple things like openly criticize the government without fear of losing our freedom or our lives. I was also intrigued of how the book Doctor Zhivago played at role in the story. I must confess I’ve never read the book or seen the movie but now I will. The last few chapters move at a furious pace as the danger greatly increases for Alex. I highly recommend Checkmate Run.