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Literature: Aquarium
Aquarium is a 1985 book, Based on a True Story, by Viktor Suvorov, the pen name of Vladimir Rezun, a former GRU officer, who defected to the West in 1978. The book describes his life - with certain details changed, naturally - until he fled to the West.

The young Senior Lieutenant Suvorov, during an exercise, is noticed by the ascending Lieutenant Colonel Kravtsov, assigned to command the intel department of the army's staff. Kravtsov takes him to work under his command. After some time (during which he received some basic training with the Spetsnaz), he is noticed again - by the GRU. He is brought to the organization. The Aquarium is the glass walled headquarters of the GRU - and the first rule is "whatever is said inside, stays inside". After several years of training, he is sent to work abroad. Eventually, he gets into considerable favor. However, during an important mission, he hesitates to film something that would mean the downfall of his friend. Afraid of the repercussions, he flees to Britain.

Aquarium was first published in Britain, then published in America under the title Inside the Aquarium: The Making of a Top Soviet Spy. A feature film and a 4-part TV series based on this book were made by a Polish-Ukrainian-German team in the late 1990s.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Briefcase Full of Money: A sneak peak of a hidden apartment in a bag is used to tempt potential recruits. Of course, the new shiny bills there are not the cash actually used for payment.
  • Buried Alive: Suvorov is told about a man who was revealed to be a traitor. He begged not to kill him. Well, he was buried alive and died on his own.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: The first lesson Suvorov was taught in the Spy School - avoid this as much as possible.
  • Defector from Commie Land
  • Demoted to Extra: At one point, a man says that Suvorov found himself a nice girl, who previously allowed no others near her. She is never mentioned afterwards. In reality, she became his wife, and he fled to the West with her and their two children.
  • Exact Words: See Buried Alive, above.
  • Gadget Watch: He uses one with a microphone during a training mission. Seems like using it during dinner was a mistake, with all the cutlery noise.
  • Gone Horribly Right: During his training, Suvorov had to recover a package stored in a secret spot, while avoiding the KGB. He is arrested as soon as he gets to the spot, despite believing himself to be clear. Turns out he was arrested for real - by KGB agents constantly watching the very good spot for foreign spies.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Suvorov mentions a Spetsnaz guy beating off four men with staves, while he was armed with a sapper's spade. According to another book by him, this style is a common skill in the Spetsnaz - the enemy is unlikely to be used to this.
  • It's Raining Men: Suvorov participates in a few Spetsnaz deployments by parachute.
  • Murder by Cremation: When he is recruited, Suvorov is shown a film of a traitor being burned alive.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The book shows the life of a spy quite different from what most people are used to.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: See Murder by Cremation.
  • Roman Clef: Appears to be the version of Based on a True Story in use here — a generally true story, but with certain details changed.
  • Shovel Strike: See Improbable Weapon User.
  • Spy School
  • Staring Contest: Suvorov described how, during his training, he was taught that no man can be recruited unless you can win a Staring Contest with him; otherwise, he has the stronger will. Suvorov spent quite a bit of time in the zoo, staring down tigers as practice.
  • Tank Goodness: At the start of the book, Suvorov is a tank company commander. The scene is rather memorable.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: At one point, when training in Spetsnaz, he is actually trained not to be afraid of snakes. According to him, before the training, he would rather eat a man than a snake when starving. After the training, he's still disgusted at snakes, but at least it's the other way around.

Andromeda NebulaRussian LiteratureArcia Chronicles
AngelmakerSpy LiteratureBernard Samson Series
Apprentice AdeptLiterature of the 1980sArcher's Goon

alternative title(s): Aquarium
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