The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov Rothdas book review RSS
3.0 Stars

A decent book, that loses a some of its enjoyment simply because times have changed and much of it is no longer that relevant. The story has two main parts that are woven together. The shorter and more enjoyable part is a re-imagining of the Christ story. This re-imagining is from the viewpoint of Pontius Pilate, and is a sort of collision between security services and real-politik on the one hand and a supernatural peace on the other. This story is written in the style of a hyper realistic political or spy novel, with a focus on details like the troop contingents assigned to different areas, the division of political power in Jerusalem, the characters in the Roman security services, etc. These were my favorite chapters, both because they are actually moving and because of the interesting and unusual perspective on an old story.

The second and larger part of the book is set in 1930's Russia, as the Devil comes to Moscow. Here the tone is reversed; as the Devil and his cohorts trick, tempt, baffle, humiliate, and only occasionally decapitate various officials and venal self-seekers in Moscow. This Devil isn't so much a lord of darkness, as a fairy-tail figure, a fickle and powerful tester of mankind. He comments that the people of Moscow don't seem to be any worse than earlier people, it is just the housing crisis that makes them bad. :) A lot of this story is about the Devil's tricks to get a suitable apartment for himself and his entourage, as well as other people's efforts to secure lodging there once they realize spots have opened up. Anyway, this part is fine, and writing it certainly must have taken courage when you lived in 1930's Russia, but much of the humor and commentary is not as biting in 2015. If it was written about the San Francisco housing market or some such I might enjoy it more. There's also a love story that gives the book its title, but that didn't really do much for me either. For some reason I've never really clicked with Russian love stories.