This is supposed to be a classic about life under Stalin. I very much enjoyed those sections of the novel that describes places and scenes. The author's words draw a picture that you clearly see, be it the feel of the air on a frosty night or a street in Moscow. Likewise, I found the Communists’ maneuvering and killing during the Spanish Civil War interesting.
What I didn't like were the character portrayals. For me it felt that each character, and there are quite a number, are put into the story to deliver a message. That message is clear - life in Stalinist Russia was absurd. Knocks that life dealt you were totally beyond your control. Tulayev is killed at the beginning of the book and the murder has to be found......but not really! Everybody BUT the real killer was was accused and wiped out. The death of Tulayev was simply a great excuse for wiping out inconvenient opponents, people with opposing opinions or any imagined enemy. Yes, this does reflect life during the reign, but the numerous examples hammered in the point excessively.
Good writing, but you can sum up in one sentence the message that is being delivered. The characters are all flat and two dimensional.
The narration of the audiobook by Gregory Linington was fine. It is not his fault that the story was lacking.