Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow

A Novel

Book - 2018
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jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

***Please read quotes after having read the book unless not concerned with spoilers. There are 61 quotes posted in goodreads as of this morning. Mine are collected as I read the novel and likely many duplicated***

Twenty-seven-year-old Nate Nash was two minutes away from meeting the legend, the jewel in the tiara, the most valuable asset in CIA’s stable. Only three hundred meters from the quiet street where he would meet MARBLE: sophisticated, urbane, in his sixties, major general in the SVR, which was the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the Kremlin’s overseas spies.
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Nate was average height and thin-framed, with straight black hair over a straight nose and brown eyes that kept moving, …

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

MARBLE was short and stocky, with deep brown eyes separated by a fleshy nose. He had bushy white eyebrows, which matched his full head of wavy white hair, giving him the appearance of an elegant boulevardier.
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The middle-aged Muscovite was gone, replaced in eight seconds by a creaky old pensioner wearing a cheap cloth coat and hobbling along with a cane.
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Khrushchev visited a pig farm and was photographed there. In the village newspaper office there was a heated discussion about the photo caption. “Comrade Khrushchev among Pigs”? “Comrade Khrushchev and Pigs”? “Pigs around Comrade Khrushchev”? None will do. The editor finally makes a decision: “Third from left—Comrade Khrushchev.”

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jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

He was active and prominent in the changeover from KGB to SVR in 1991, chose the right side during Kryuchkov’s abortive 1992 KGB coup against Gorbachev, and in 1999 was noticed by the phlegmatic First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, a blond scorpion with languid blue eyes.
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…he personally suggested that Putin blame Western—specifically US—interference for the demonstrations leading up to the elections. The candidate loved the suggestion, eyes unblinking, as he contemplated Russia’s comeback on the world stage
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Today’s Kremlin was suits and ties, press secretaries, smiling summit meetings, but anyone who had been around for any length of time knew that nothing had changed since Stalin, really. Friendship? Loyalty? Patronage? A misstep, an operational or diplomatic failure, or, worst of all, embarrassing the president, would bring the burya, the tempest, from which there would be no shelter.

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jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

Nate’s liternoye delo, the operational file: Young, active, disciplined, good Russian. Behaves himself regarding women and alcohol. No drugs. Diligent in cover position in the Embassy Economic Section. Effective while on the street, does not telegraph his operational intent.
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Put three teams on him. Wrap him in onionskins. Twenty-four hours a day.
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Gondorf had a dummy hand grenade mounted on a wooden base on his desk. The plaque on it read COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT. PULL PIN FOR FASTER SERVICE.
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“No, I don’t believe you can meet agents. You’re now a shit magnet,” said Gondorf.
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The Rodina, sacred Motherland of black earth and endless sky, would have to endure a while longer, as the chain-wrapped corpse of the Soviet was exhumed, hauled dripping out of the swamp, and its heart was started again, and the old prisons were filled anew with men who did not see it their way.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

“Energy, population decline, natural resources, client states. Forget all that. Russia is still the only country that can put an ICBM into Lafayette Square across from the White House. The only one, and they have thousands of nukes.”
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“The kid who pulls the tablecloth and smashes the crockery to get attention—that’s Moscow. They don’t want to be ignored and they’ll break the dishes to make sure it doesn’t happen. Sell chemical weapons to Syria, give fuel rods to Iran, teach Indonesia centrifuge design, build a light water reactor in Burma, oh, yeah, people, nothing’s out of bounds. “But the real danger is the instability all this creates, the juice it gives the next generation of world-stopping crazies. People, the second Cold War is all about the resurgent Russian Empire, and don’t kid yourselves Moscow is gonna sit back and see how the Chinese navy handles itself when—not if—the shooting starts in the Taiwan Strait.”

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

Dominika gave him a smile that only recently she had come to recognize had an effect on people.
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Two figures in a darkened room filled with vermilion Bach, two klikushy in a forest glen, planning mayhem.
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…different secrets nowadays, but the same as ever, secrets that needed stealing.
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Like all Russians, he had lost family in the 1930s and 1940s to Stalin, resisting the Germans, the purges, the katorga. But more than that. He rejected the imbalance and illogic of the Soviet system, he despised the top-heavy favoritism of the cheloveki, the insiders’ sloth and self-indulgence that crushed the human spirit and had robbed Russians of their lives, their country, their patrimony.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

Dominika gravely explained that when the music played, or when her father read aloud to her, colors would fill the room. Different colors, some bright, some dark, sometimes they “jumped in the air” and all Dominika had to do was follow them. It was how she could remember so much. When she danced, she leapt over bars of bright blue, followed shimmering spots of red on the floor.
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“Your little girl shows the attributes of a synesthete. Someone who perceives sounds, or letters, or numbers as colors. Fascinating.”
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“Her synesthesia appears to extend to human reactions. Not only words or sounds, she also sees emotional content as colors. She spoke to me about what sounds like halos of color around people’s heads and shoulders.” Vassily stared at his friend. “Perhaps she will develop into something of a savant in matters of human intentions.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

The men in the room looked at one another and back to her, and she read them like a hymnal.
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Ustinov’s apartment sprawled on the top floor of a massive neoclassical building in the “Golden Mile” section of the Arbat.
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…in one corner hung an abstract reclining nude, fingers and eyes and toes pointing in all directions, a Picasso, Dominika guessed. That will be me in fifteen minutes, she thought wryly.
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The physical act was easy enough, she was not a prude. But she wondered what she would lose if she seduced this man. Nothing, she told herself. Ustinov couldn’t take anything away from her, neither could the leering briefers from the Service, nor lavender-scented Uncle Vanya with his mouthed condolences.
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Ustinov pulled away and looked at Dominika through tunnel-visioned eyes. His body was an exposed nerve; his brain was detaching itself from the anchor points inside his skull.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

They had told her the sidewalk outside Ustinov’s apartment was stained with the tears of his one-night stands.
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Informally, he was a chistilshchik, a “mechanic,” an executioner of the Russian secret service. In the KGB years, this department was known variously as the Thirteenth Department or Line F, or simply as mokroye delo, “wet work.” During the height of the Cold War, Line F had managed kidnappings, interrogations, and assassinations, but in the new SVR such things were said not to be even remotely contemplated or condoned. Granted, fractious Russian journalists were found shot in Moscow elevators, or regime critics succumbed to high concentrations of radionuclide polonium in their livers, but that had nothing to do with the modern Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. The age of the “umbrella pokers” had passed.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

The only women involved in field operations were the co-opted wives of rezidenturi officers, and the vorobey, the trained “Sparrows” who seduced recruitment targets.
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Russia’s elite, the Sword and Shield of yesterday, the Globe and Star of today. Her youthful ideology had once horrified her freethinking father—she knew that now—and she no longer totally accepted the ideology.
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The campus was a kilometer off the four-lane Gorkovskoye shosse, screened first by a tall wooden palisade, painted green to blend in with the trees. Past this “forest fence,” three kilometers farther into the woods, ran two additional wire fence lines, between which black Belgian Malinois hounds ran free. The dog run could be seen from the windows of the small classrooms, and from their rooms in the two-story barracks the students could hear the dogs panting at night.

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jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

The irony was that America was in decline, said the lecturers, no longer the high-and-mighty US. Overextended in wars, struggling economically, the supposed birthplace of equality was now divided by class warfare and the poisonous politics of conflicting ideologies. And the foolish Americans didn’t yet realize they would soon need Russia to hem in a galloping China, they would need Russia as an ally in a future war.
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Russia had lost the Cold War, get over it. There was a hush in the classroom. Another classmate stood, eyes flashing. “Russia most certainly did not lose the Cold War,” he said. “It never ended.”
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“…You are a graduate of the Academy and a junior officer in the Service now. You will obey orders, accept assignments given to you, and do your duty. You will defend the Rodina.”
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A shiver ran over his scalp as he saw the blue eyes, intense and unblinking, ripsaws and scalpels, fix on his face for three alarming seconds.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

“You got performance anxiety,” he drawled. “The longer you stare at your pecker, the softer it’s gonna be. Keep trying, but ease off the accelerator.”
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…Get to work on her, for Christ’s sake. I have an idea how we can blow air up her skirt for a better look.”
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“Obdirat, I want you to flense the flesh from his bones. I leave it to you how to do it.”
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Shithole Tour—Third World countries in Africa and Asia. Some case officers make their bones in the restaurants and hotel rooms and sidewalk cafés of Paris. Gable’s world was one of midnight meetings on deserted dirt roads in red-dust-covered Land Rovers.
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He was loyal to his assets, then to his friends, then to the CIA, in that order.
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The dickhead with the pistol yelled something in Kurdish, sounded like sash weights in a washtub.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

Call it the Mozambique, double-tap center mass, third round forehead, suppose it was invented over there or something.
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…like the old days, only there aren’t any good old days…
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This school, this mansion secluded behind walls topped with broken glass, was an engine of the State that institutionalized and dehumanized love. It didn’t count, it was physical sex, it was training, like ballet school.
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Dominika was surprised to note that she was beginning to go numb. Numb to nakedness, numb to lewd commentary, numb to strangers’ eyes looking at her breasts or her sex or her buttocks. They can do what they like, she told herself, but I won’t let them look me in the eyes. Other students reacted in their own ways. One silly little idiot from Smolensk with the lilt of southern Russian dialect vamped and hip-shot her way through the sessions.
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How could she have had the courage to choke to death, she thought, but not to lie with a man for thirty minutes?

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

They were fledgling “Ravens” now, trained in a smaller villa down the road, three of them expert in the art of seducing the vulnerable and lonely women targeted by the SVR—the minister’s spinster secretary, the ambassador’s frustrated wife, the underappreciated female aide of a general. The fourth young man had learned another specialty: befriending the sensitive, fearful men—cipher clerks, military attachés, sometimes senior diplomats—who secretly yearned for male friendship, companionship, love, but who were heart-piercingly vulnerable to the threat of exposure.
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He was ready for the hook, she was sure of it. He wanted to start spying for her, he just didn’t know it yet. She remembered a phrase from her old pensioner instructors during the ops course. “Don’t worry, comrade,” Dominika said. “This svekla, this beet, is almost cooked.” She felt like a veteran repeating it.
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…They are krovopiytsy, attached to the belly, sucking blood, impossible to remove.”

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

…Anyway, go after her, hard. Take your time, in a hurry.”
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…I handle the CIA’s best asset, a high-level penetration of your frigging monolithic service, to thwart the worldwide evil designs of the Russian Federation and your lupine president for life, he thought. “I’ve been doing some interesting economic work lately, working on timber exports from Finland,” he said.
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How she longed to wipe the eye of the beast, to puncture the desiccated self-importance of these users and falsifiers.
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Beauty, brains, tradecraft, and incandescent blue eyes. It was apparent that she knew her duty, loved her country, but there was something beneath the surface, an underground spring bubbling unseen. Pride, anger, disobedience. And something else, hard to define, a secret side, an addiction to rebellion, as if she courted risk.
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Dominika’s knowledge was like a knotted bag of snakes—safe for the moment, but don’t bang it against the wall.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

“Perhaps we’ll be like the two girls buying sausages. The butcher has no change, so he gives them an extra sausage. ‘What are we going to do with the third sausage?’ whispers one girl. ‘Quiet,’ her friend says. ‘We’ll eat that one.’ ”
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One of Comrade Stalin’s aphorisms: If there is a person, there is a problem. If there is no person, then there is no problem.
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“Corruption, repression, imprisonment. Soviet behavior is the default, it’s strangling democracy in Russia.” “You almost seem pleased to repeat the list,” said Dominika. “I suppose there is none of that in America?” “Sure we have our problems, but we don’t let dissidents die in jail, or murder political opponents.” Nate saw Dominika’s face change. “There are people who value humanity, who believe that all humans have rights, it doesn’t matter what country they’re from…
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I will show you where the crayfish spend winter. She knew this phrase, its deadly portent.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

At the end of two years’ internal service in Moscow, he droned, an additional bonus of a quarter million dollars would be deposited in her account. Finally, on the mutually agreed-upon date of her retirement from service, the CIA would resettle her in the West in a location selected with her security in mind and would provide her with a retirement home of not less than three thousand square feet.
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“Fxcking guy,” said Gable when Maratos left, “thinks espresso means ‘nonstop train’ in Spanish.”
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The nerve pain was different from the tendon pain, which was different from the pain of a cable tie cinched tight around her head, across her open mouth. Dominika found that the anticipation of pain, waiting for what was next, was worse than the agonies they could generate. The
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…not just the expected nepotism. Just look at those eyes, nutcracker eyes—not the ballet.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

“For ten years he thought every Soviet agent was a double, every volunteer was dispatched, every piece of information was disinformation. He was charming and poisonous and paranoid and utterly convinced that his night sweats were reality. He might have been right…
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New London, Connecticut. Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Brunswick, Maine. Only three bases. Subs were big. Only one place repairs them, they’re getting old, being refitted all the time, like the Akulas in the late 1980s, Schukas they called them, really, a lot quieter, and Alice got her back on track. Electric Boat Works, big shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, across the Thames River from New London.
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…the holies: employment, salary, taxes, residence, phone, Internet, vehicle, banking, mail, marriage, education, children, arrests, divorces, travel, parents, ethernet or cable, straight or gay.
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OGPU and the NKVD and the Cambridge Five, a primer of Cold War history.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

1985, the Year of the Spy, all victims of Ames, and Hanssen, victims of inexplicable treachery that fed them all to the belching blast furnaces of the Soviet Union.
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She was dressed in skintight spandex shorts stretched by tree-trunk legs, calves and quadriceps bulging. Her arms, shoulders, and neck were corded with muscle, her jawline bulged. She wore a tight tank top that covered not feminine breasts but dinner-plate-sized pectorals with nipples. She had brilliant green eyes, the whites bluish with health and vitality. Her face was etched around her mouth and a sharp, straight nose. Her forehead was deeply creased by the frown splashed across her face. She wore her red hair slicked tight to her head, pulled back in a ponytail, a bullet, a torpedo, an assembled action figure, a crossover SUV with the parts cobbled together.
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Jennifer suddenly sat straight back up like an unstoppable serial killer at a lakeside summer camp.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

…his empty fingers that grasped and ungrasped, waiting to hold a knife.
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Egorov was driven through the Borovitskaya Gate in the western corner of the Kremlin, tires drumming over the slick cobblestones, past the Grand Palace and the Cathedral of the Archangel, and left past Building Fourteen to a yawning, deserted Ivanovskaya Square.
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She loathed the intelligence officials who sat before her in the committee room, slouched in their chairs, at turns earnest and evasive. Boucher knew they were lying to her every time they spoke, confident, slick, smiling, and knowing. She knew the briefing papers they carried in their zippered security bags were so much wallpaper, concealing the real story. “The hardworking men and women of intelligence,” they’d say, “the National Clandestine Service,” they’d puff, “the gold standard of intelligence collection” they’d announce. These were the familiar phrases that drove Boucher up the wall

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

…the little blond harridan was masterful, but nothing they could do, no regime of tradecraft or technical tools, could guarantee SWAN’s safety indefinitely.
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Za dvumya zaitsami pogonish’sya ne odnogo ne poimaesh, he thought. If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.
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“There was an announcement of the highest adultery level: First place, Movie Stars; second place, Theater Actors; third place, KGB. Someone shouts: I’ve been in the KGB for thirty years and I never cheated on my wife! Someone else shouts: It’s because of people like you that we’re in third place!”
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…the case is beginning to produce intelligence of a sensitivity and relevance to Russia not seen since 1949 when Feklisov was buying Fuchs ice cream in exchange for his notes on a working bomb.”
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He was sawing at a cabbage roll with disastrous results. Korchnoi could not take his eyes away, like looking at a bad traffic accident.

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jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

…I want you to identify the ten biggest secrets in the United States government. It could be military, political, domestic, cyber, banking, space, energy, Islam, or the tattoo on Pat Benatar’s ass, I don’t care—”
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TrapDoor work, a different kind of coverage, a philosophy, the difference between a dog chasing a car and a cat watching a bird.
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Likha beda nachalo.” Trouble is the beginning of disaster.
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There would be other days and nights. All they had to do was be right once.
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…her eyes wandered around the room and settled on the four-poster bed and then on Golov. “Even remotely interested?” she asked to his infinite horror.
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“A frightened man came to the KGB. ‘My talking parrot disappeared,’ he said. ‘This is not our case,’ says the KGB, ‘go to the criminal police.’ ‘Excuse me,’ says the man. ‘Of course I know I have to go to the criminal police. I am here just to tell you officially that I disagree with that parrot.’ ”

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

The DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 ... was deferred twice and taken off the docket. The bill intended to establish a national fingerprint and DNA archive for background checks, criminal and immigration registration, and identification for federal employees in sensitive jobs.
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…she had become the flaxen-haired milkmaid walking alone on the gray moor as the first howls of the hounds came up out of the fog, from the boggy ravines, over the rocky ledges. It was already too late to run.
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…golden dart frog, nor did they know that the two-inch, bright-yellow leaf-sitter lived exclusively in the Pacific-coast rain forest of Colombia. An FBI toxicologist with research materials at hand could have informed them that the batrachotoxin secreted from the skin of the tiny amphibian is highly lethal to humans—a neurotoxin that locks the muscles violently into a state of contraction, causing respiratory paralysis and heart failure.

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jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

…nestled among the pines of Likavittos Hill. From the soaring balcony they could see the spotlighted Parthenon, and the flat sprawl of city lights winking all the way to the horizon, and the black strip of the sea, and the harbor lookout where Aegeus waited for a ship with white sails.
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Then Liberté came over the ramparts like something out of Delacroix with one breast out of her bra and she drove the red and the yellow pens into his buttocks…
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His message soared heavenward in a super-high-frequency burst in the Ka band, washed over the satellite, tickling its sensors. The already-stored reply was activated and returned on an attenuated signal in the Q band in the space of three seconds.
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Across the river, from an apartment in a partially completed high-rise, three teams of watchers used colossal yoke-mounted naval binoculars to watch Korchnoi orient his covcom equipment to an azimuth of thirteen degrees to communicate with the satellite.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

The crowded courtyard was littered and dirty, bleak walls of unfinished cinder block were topped by a jumbled lattice of barbed wire, the familiar ocher walls of the Y-shaped, five-story building were unmistakable. Lefortovo Prison.
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“The Narva River Bridge,” said Benford, pointing at one of the photos. “On the right, Russia. On the left, the West, if that’s what you want to call Estonia.”
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“There’s no work-release program in Lefortovo.”
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Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko was the storied Red Army sniper, the deadliest female sniper in history, with 309 confirmed kills during the Crimean campaign in World War II.
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Her felt-soled boots were splayed out flat behind her. She snugged the VSS Vintorez rifle, the “thread cutter,” against her riotous, chapped cheek and sighted through the NSPU-3 nightscope three hundred meters diagonally across the water at the western end of the Narva Bridge—


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