PositiveThe New York TimesThe book does have its flaws. The simplistic vilification of Russia — without evidence or better context — reinforces the view of some thoughtful Russians that Americans have become irrationally hostile toward the country and even the culture. The sourcing is also sloppy in places. The authors are respected journalists, and one can trust their use of anonymous sources or not, but in the span of four pages describing the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, for example, they quote four different ones.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewBeer has done more with his own House of the Dead than merely reprise the accounts of great writers before him. A senior lecturer at the University of London, he has mined an impressive trove of resources, including state archives in St. Petersburg, Moscow and two Siberian cities that became hubs for the expanding penal system, Tobolsk and Irkutsk. From these rich lodes emerges a history with the sort of granular details that make the terror of the 'very name ‘Siberia’?' so vividly, so luridly clear.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIt is to Mr. Smith’s credit that even in debunking so many of the most colorful myths — and at Tolstoyan length — he has not written a dull book. Only occasionally does he bog down in academic quibbles with previous biographers or tortured reasoning ... Mr. Smith can seem too forgiving of his subject at times. He explains away behavior that, even if exaggerated, was nonetheless horrendous, including accusations of rape.