Reviewed by Becca
TITLE: Of Our Own Device
AUTHOR: M.K. South
PUBLISHER: Book Baby
LENGTH: 766 Pages
RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2017
What do you do when you realize that the American Dream you have been working for so hard is not enough if it will be yours and yours alone? And that what you are told to do will destroy the only true friend you have ever had?
Summer of 1985. Jack Smith is a rookie CIA case officer posted at the American Embassy in Moscow. Despite his gregarious nature, Jack is a lonely man: not only is he a reluctant spy, he is also gay. When he meets Eton Volkonsky, a talented nuclear physics student, Jack’s bosses instruct him to develop the Russian as a future agent. Their friendship deepens, and Jack is torn between his suspicion that Eton and friends are with the KGB and his attraction to the man. But he continues telling himself and his bosses that he is just doing his job, developing his agent. Only when he leaves Russia does Jack admit that he has been fooling himself all the while. He takes on assignments in various countries, with a hope that eventually they will get him back to Moscow.
As introspection and growing doubts about what he does for living torment Jack, the world is buffeted by a whirlwind of dramatic events – diplomatic and spy wars, the rise of AIDS, the Chernobyl catastrophe, the war in Afghanistan and the disintegration of the communist bloc.
I will be honest. I am having the hardest time writing this review. Not because the book was bad. Far from it. But because there is just so….much. The biggest problem I had with this book is just that the writing got…..slow? There would be action and you would get into it and then BAM tons of information that made me have to put the book down for a few. One thing you need to know is this is NOT a romance by any means. This book takes place in the middle of a crucial time in history. And although it is fiction, there is a lot of non-fiction and if you were alive then, a lot of things you might remember happening. I was too young at the time to really know what AIDS meant and what it meant to be gay in that time frame, but I do remember the uproar. And it’s sad to say in all the advancement it’s still hard for the lgbt community. In this book, for Jack it was impossible.
Jack was a spy for the CIA and deep undercover. He was also gay. Although after reading this I often wondered if he was more bi than gay? Jack has a lot he has to do as far as being an agent. And he has to hide that part of himself. Jack’s character, I felt for him so many times. He is never free to be himself. Ever. He is caught up in so many things sometimes I think he doesn’t even know who he really is anymore. Definitely a hard life to lead. Then he meets Eton, who the CIA wants to recruit. But Jack isn’t sure who,with Eton and his friends, are with the KGB. And Jack is about half in love from the moment they meet. During all the espionage and lies, Jack and Eton grow closer, and Jack is doing his best to hide what is developing between them. He also holds back information to keep his bosses from trying to get to Eton. Jack just wants Eton to follow his dreams and hearing his beautiful music makes him realize how wonderful a dream it is.
I think, though, out of all the characters in this book, Eton would have to be my favorite. The minute he sees Jack he wants to kiss him but he keeps himself closed off. And no one knows what he thinks. Even as a reader you are so confused about Eton until the author starts letting you see Eton’s journal entries. And I was hooked. Eton is such a beautiful soul. The songs and poetry he writes for Jack make you cry it’s so heartwarming. And when you look back at his actions with Jack you can see the yearning he has to be with him. He just can’t. He can’t be out and it’s killing him. His music is how he expresses himself and I can just picture the passion on his face as he sings. And then as he sings to Jack. As they get closer, Eton finally gets a moment where he is free to just be himself. He doesn’t have to hide he is gay. He doesn’t have to hide his feelings for Jack. He can just be. And the passion that erupts between the two is overflowing. And I, of course, bawled like a baby. When I think back or look back at what people who are gay had to go through, hell, are STILL going through, it makes these moments much more beautiful.
*End spoiler alert*
Even though I pointed out the passion in between these characters and and within themselves, please remember this is not a romance book. This book is about espionage and the crap going on between U.S. and The Soviet Union. And truthfully, a whole bunch of other countries. Information about each other was flying everywhere. People were being executed or imprisoned if they were ‘busted’. The drama with Reagan and Gorbachev. The Berlin Wall. And I think the worst moment of all. Chernobyl. Gah the mess that is Chernobyl. To this day it’s still off limits. And I’m glad the author didn’t leave out the insanity of that in this book. What really happened and what happened with the people who lived there. It wasn’t pretty. I also like that the author showed what it was like to be a spy. In so many books, being a spy is so glamorous. Like James Bond or something and it is far from it. Life as a whole for regular people can suck but can you imagine being a spy for real? Trying to hold together so many lies and stories to keep yourself under cover. AND having to remember everything you told every person you come in contact with and not forget a single thing. I think I would pass.
Overall, this was a good book. I would definitely recommend it to those of you who like books that deal with espionage and things of that nature. For those looking for a quick read or one of romance, this is not for you. (Although there is a little romance and definitely sex in the book). Still, that’s not what this is about. Anyway, it is a good book and one that I hope that you all will like as much as I did. Happy reading!