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Book Name: Circus

Author: Alistair MacLean

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Overall Rating: (3.83/5) View all reviews (total 6 reviews)

Great reading' Sunday Telegraph 'An action-packed story... finger-biting suspense' BBC 'A magnificent storyteller' Sunday Mirror 'The most successful British novelist of his time' Jack Higgins--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Being for the Benefit of Mr. B

by Christopher "chrysaetos"

I'm not a fan of the circus and I hate clowns. Being a MacLean fan, but with my current mentality, I figured he had finally run out of ideas (at this point in his life). But the cover of the 1975 Fawcett Crest edition (see "customer images" for the paperback edition) was intriguing: a man falling off a high-wire, the bicycle tumbling after him. Is someone killing off circus people? I had to read.It turns out that the circus plays as a backdrop for a secret CIA mission. Believe it or not, but the agenda in this tale is about an incredible circus performer recruited by the CIA to break into a prison (that the circus "moves" next to) to steal -- as the back of the book explains -- "a formula capable of annihilating the earth itself." Sure enough, MacLean was like the Crichton of the 70s and managed to weave an entertaining yarn around the idea of anti-matter (certainly not new in 1975).MacLean refrains from delving too deeply into describing anti-matter or how this formula will end up being used. His somewhat amusing approach to it takes place as a discussion between semi-ignorant CIA agents and Bruno, the acquired circus performer, all of whom are frightened by the power of anti-particles.As the title may suggest, the book is a slight deviant from other MacLean adventure tales, but I rank it up there among his best works. The book is full of extremely original death scenes that, despite being accustomed to MacLean's formulas, took me completely by surprise. There are more twists in the last chapter than there are in some of his better books, and MacLean pulls it off realistically, and without creating a convoluted mess.Keep an eye out for Carter. While no first name is ever given, he is the doppelganger cameo of Chief Officer John Carter of MacLean's "The Golden Rendezvous." (MacLean has done this with other characters throughout his novels.)

Espionage under the Big Top...

by D. S. Thurlow

1975's "Circus" is a suspenseful Cold War thriller by master story teller Alistair MacLean, featuring a popular circus on tour in an unnamed Eastern European country. As in many of Maclean's novels, practically none of the characters are exactly who they seem to be, while the espionage mission, to steal the secret plans for an exotic anti-matter weapon, is only one item on a seemingly crowded agenda.The hero of the story is one Bruno Wilderman, Eastern European expatriate and master circus aerialist. He is asked by the CIA to break into the Lubyian Prison in the city of Crau in order to steal the above-mentioned plans. The only access to the prison may be a near suicidal aerial traverse of a three hundred yard long electrical cable nine stories in the air. To complicate the plot, the sudden deaths of two CIA agents before the circus even leaves the United States indicate the enemy is onto the plot. The trails of mysterious deaths will follow the circus across the Atlantic and into Eastern Europe. Wilderman, nominally under the direction of the CIA's Dr. Harper and his beautiful young assistant Maria, soon learns that he will have to make his own plans if he hopes to survive the mission.The premise for the story is solid, but the plot too often devolves into "they know that we know that they know that we know" shannigans. The mission is immediately compromised, and the reader is asked to believe that Wilderman can put together his own effort to break into the Lubyian, one worthy of a "Mission Impossible" episode, under the noses of both the CIA and the Secret Police in Crau. MacLean fans will sense that he was to some degree going through the motions on another spy thriller, but to his credit, MacLean keeps the surprises coming to the very last page."Circus" is recommended to fans of Alistair Maclean as an entertaining read.

not one of MacLean's best, but still a thrilling book with a good pace

by gil

The United States secret service is attempting to steal the plans of a new weapons of mass destruction developed by the USSR. To do that, the services of an international trapeze artist are required. Very early in the plot it becomes clear that the Americans have an infiltrator in their midst, whose identity remains unknown, in the best tradition of MacLean, until a very late stage of the book.Why I thought it is good enough ?Old readers of MacLean will identify most of the artist's motives and techniques, but they are used with literary skill and the reading is fluent, the reader feels thrilled and intrigued most of the time.Why I thought it is not 4 or 5 stars ? Alistair Maclean's best books are much more compact, the level of tension is much higher, the images more detailed and reliable, and the whole experience is unlike anything other authors are capable of copying. This book could have been written by someone else. It is not a MacLean Gem.But overall, one still has a good time reading it.

"Seems like a bit of an anti-climax..."

by H. Jin

..so says one of the protagonists near the end of the book. I know exactly how he feels.'Circus' is a good example of Maclean's late-career decline. His early tales were tightly-plotted and exciting, with plenty of action, and interesting (if not exactly original) characters. In contrast, apart from a mildly interesting plot, this book is loose and lazily written, almost as if Maclean couldn't really be bothered.The characters are little more than two-dimensional cut-outs: Bruno is the typical introverted loner hero with a tragic past, who nevertheless seems an expert at nearly everything. Maria Hopkins is an utterly clueless 'heroine' whom we cannot for a second believe is a CIA operative. And these are two of the most well-drawn characters! What about Manuelo, Roebuck and Kan Dahn? We know what motivates Bruno to act as he does, but what's their motivation? Or Harper's? Or, for that matter, Van Diemen's? We're never given any insight into what drives these characters; there's lots of shrugging of shoulders and "we may never know why he did what he did...". It reads like a cop-out.The writing, dialogue and descriptive passages are leaden and often lazy. For example, there is the thriller cliche of the bad guys allowing the heroes to progress so far because they plan to trap them at the very end. This does nothing except rob the book of any action or suspense, and of course our heroes easily predict the trap and dispose of the villians without breaking a sweat. The romance between Bruno and Maria is corny even by thriller standards. And while a couple of characters are unexpectedly dispatched, we never feel any real threat directed at Bruno. He's portrayed as so skilled at everything that we never believe there's a situation he can't get out of.The book's only real good point is that the anti-matter plot is interesting, and the way in which the CIA plan to use Bruno is quite novel. It's clear Maclean had a few good ideas here. What a shame he couldn't make something better out of them.

MacLean at His Best

by Indiana Jeff Reynolds "Preacher Jeff"

I had read several of Alistair Maclean's novels, and had an 8 year break when I got a hold of this. This novel is a prime exhibit of why I enjoy him so much. A mystery, revealing tid-bits here and there, leaving you guessing who the good guys are and who are the bad guys.If you want to be on the edge of your seat for a while, this book will do it.

The Blind Eagles

by Nash Black "Troubadour"

Three brothers headline the circus of Tesco Wrinfield as aerialists who perform in masks and hoods.The oldest bother has powers of total recall and attacks the attention of the CIA who need someone to enter an Iron Curtain prison to retrieve information about anti-matter.CIRCUS by Alistair MacLean in a spell binder that keeps you glued to your seat til the end of the show.Nash Black, author of QUALIFYING LAPS.

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