|Cover Artist(s):||Suzan Lovett|
|Fandom:||Man from UNCLE|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Perestroika is a slash novel by Elizabeth Urich. It is illustrated by Suzan Lovett. It contains much art and is reported to be one of the most beautiful of Man from UNCLE zines. The zine won a 1992 Fan Q.
This novel was written between August and December of 1989. Ignoring the 1983 television movie, it postulates in that 1972-73 there was a gradual parting of the ways-rather like continental drift. No earthquakes, no visible fault lines. Just...drift.
By now we all know that perestroika means, roughly, "restructuring." As for the other languages used herein-well, a linguist I ain't, and college was a while ago. Apologies for my inevitable bungling in French; I can't vouch for the Russian, Spanish, or Italian, either. Grateful thanks to Denetia Arellanes for publishing this monster, to Suzi Lovett for her glorious artwork, and to both ladies for invaluable suggestions and assistance with the manuscript. All errors, inconsistencies, and flaws are my responsibility, not theirs.I loathe long prefaces. Start reading.
This was supposed to be a short story about Napoleon in Kiev reading the headstone.
Then the old soldier showed up. Ah well. My excuse is that, like Sasha, I have exquisite taste in men. Speaking of Sasha — we shall not if you please, indulge in significant eyebrow arching at the inclusion of an adolescent girl in this novel. My guess is that most of you are in the same demographic boat with me, which means we were all adolescents back when the series first aired. So watch your eyebrows, dearie. Yuri Churbanov is a real person. Son-in-law of Leonid Brezhnev and former first deputy interior minister, he was convicted on bribery charges and is currently serving a 12-year sentence in a labor camp near Nizhny-Tagil in the Urals. There is of course absolutely no historical basis whatsoever for the plotline involving Afghanistan. The juxtaposition of music as different as Don Henley's and Carly Simon's may seem a bit odd. Then again, so is the juxtaposition of two people as different as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. A list of songs used and the albums they can be found on follows. Please note that they are sung by, and usually—but not always-written by, the artists.
- Don Henley Building the Perfect Beast (1984): The Boys of Summer, You Can't Make Love, Not Enough Love in the *World, Drivin' with Your Eyes Closed, Land of the Living, Building the Perfect Beast
- The End of the Innocence (1989): The Heart of the Matter, How Bad Do You Want It?, Shangri-la, The End of the Innocence, If Dirt Were Dollars, Gimme What You Got, Little Tin God, I Will Not Go Quietly
- Carly Simon The Best of Carly Simon (1975): Legend In Your Own Time, You're So Vain, Anticipation
- Coming Around Again (1987): The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of, Give Me All Night, Coming Around Again, Do the Walls Come Down?
- Greatest Hits Live (1988): Nobody Does It Better
- Working Girl (1989): Let the River Run
Below is a small sampling of the extensive interior art:One fan writes:
Suzan Lovett's drawings are the tapestries on the castle walls. The cover alone - heck, any one of the interior plates with which Perestroika is so generously sprinkled - is worth double the price of the zine. Her work is somewhere in the twilight zone between illustration and portraiture, a combination that goes beautifully with the writer's braiding of Real and Better-than-Real. Here again, Tasteful inclines its patrician head. The most explicit thing Suzan shows us is Illya's jeans-clad backside. Even in the illos that accompany the sex scenes, the most you'll see is a glimpse of chest, or the light glancing off the side of a bare hip. 
"No review of this novel would be complete without mentioning the fantastic Suzan Lovett art throughout. In a fandom where art is rare in zines, this novel is blessed with an excess. Okay, not really an excess, but there's plenty to enjoy. Between the glorious color cover that interprets Napoleon and Illya as the fierce but proud lion and wolf, and the meltingly tender but playful naked lovers on the back cover, this zine offers no less than 21 full page illustrations. Some of them are exceedingly hot, some of them tender, some of them cute, but they're all very beautiful. I find it impossible to select one as a favorite, but the drunken (and nearly naked) Illya talking to an amused Napoleon comes close." Also see Telephones and Fandom. 
Many commentators below have pointed to Perestroika as an example of highly romantic fan fiction. This frontspiece is unusual in that it blends text, character portraits and a floral background motif together to set an intimate and romantic tone for the novel. The positioning of the two characters is also symbolic of one of the main story themes, namely separation and reunion. While Napoleon and Illya are gently leaning into one another, their hands remain inside their pockets.
This drawing shows Napoleon and Illya with their daughter, an OC in the novel. As one reviewer below comments: "Very few slash stories deal with male pairs raising children." Since the zine was published in the early 1990s, the kidfic trope has become more common in fan fiction, but it was unusual for the time.
an example of what one reviewer called "Suzan Lovett's virtuoso pencil performance, particularly Ilya's butt.
This image depicts Napolean 'proposing' to Illya by symbolically replacing a family ring with one Napoleon has selected. During the 1990s, the gay marriage rights movement was glimmering on the horizon, coming after decades of other forms of GLBT activism such as AIDS awareness. Still, many slash writers, readers and artists incorporated commitment ceremonies and gay marriages in their fanworks.
Reactions and Reviews
One of the most beautiful zines ever produced (the illos are stunning, and plentiful), and it's an angst fest with loads of wonderful resolution. Not to mention an interesting plot with lots of political intrigue and cold-war brinksmanship. I normally detest children in slash fic, but I really didn't mind the girl in this one; she's an interesting character in her own right, and neither overly sweet nor intrusive. (IMO; I know some others feel differently.) 
Twelve years after resigning from UNCLE, Napoleon Solo has what seems to be the perfect life - except for the hollow sensation that he's missing a huge part of himself. On a bitterly cold day in Kiev, standing before Illya Kuryakin's grave, he recognizes that hollow sensation for what it is and wonders if he'll ever recover from losing his partner.
Happily, neither Napoleon nor the reader has to wonder for very long. A grumpy, elderly man bumps up against him and drops a message in his pocket. The message catapults Napoleon - and the still alive but very much in hiding Illya - into the greatest and most rewarding adventure of their lives.
The basic plot: Illya, suffering from the same emptiness at the core of himself that Napoleon feels, isn't dealing nearly as well with it. His fierce independence and the complex circumstances of his life have brought him to a point where he's lost everything that ever mattered to him, caught in a trap not entirely of his own devising. And it's up to the ever-resourceful Napoleon to reclaim his partner's life, for both of them. The first problem is to get Illya out of Russia so that he has a life to reclaim; the second is to awaken him from his emotional paralysis.
At 201 pages, this novel covers a lot of territory, geographically, time-wise and emotionally. Illya's nationality and past are characters in their own right, and Russia is visited more than once. How accurately Soviet conditions are portrayed is something this reader cannot judge - I suspect plenty of literary license - but the end result is emotionally satisfying. The author tackles major canonical mysteries and offers solutions that work very well within the context of the story. Illya's wedding ring? It's central to the primary and secondary plot threads. Napoleon's youthful marriage? It plays a role. Is Illya a defector or a loyal Soviet? That too is addressed.
While the story line relies heavily on a domestic theme - there is a child involved - Napoleon and Illya must also wrestle with their political and emotional reasons in working for UNCLE originally and now returning to work for the organization. They must somehow learn to find balance in their lives, something that had been lacking for a long time. No surprise that in this story such balance is found in each other.
This novel has drawn criticism for being overly sentimental. Well, it is very sentimental, at times bordering on saccharine. Even readers who love to wallow in sentiment are going to recognize this. The domestic scenes are pure fantasy and require a certain amount of critical suspension. What makes the sentiment acceptable, even enjoyable, in this reader's opinion, is the quality of writing and nuanced characterizations. Both men are conflicted and carry physical and emotional scars from their years with UNCLE. The connection and essential trust between them is tangible, as it was in canon, but strained after so much time apart. The biggest complaint I have with the characterizations is that they aren't as competitive and edgy as they are in canon, and that Illya occasionally appears a bit too needy (although he is never soft). But on the whole they're still the same smart, cranky, smug, arrogant, manipulative guys they always were. The banter ranges from good to excellent. Domestic bliss and needy Illya are still popular in MfU slashfic to this day. Elizabeth may not have established the pattern in 1991 when she wrote this novel, but I think she handled the clichés better than most.
While the child story thread is often intrusive, I found the parenting aspect something that really works with my perception of canon. In the show we saw Napoleon and Illya interact with children (boys in that case) and their attitudes toward Sasha here are remarkably consistent with their canonical behavior.
Elizabeth's writing style is extremely vivid. She has a real talent for describing visual details in a way that allows the reader to feel the scene as well as see it. To see these guys the way she does is truly a wonderful experience. And although she doesn't write explicit sex scenes, she manages to make you feel as if she had.
No review of this novel would be complete without mentioning the fantastic Suzan Lovett art throughout. In a fandom where art is rare in zines, this novel is blessed with an excess. Okay, not really an excess, but there's plenty to enjoy. Between the glorious color cover that interprets Napoleon and Illya as the fierce but proud lion and wolf, and the meltingly tender but playful naked lovers on the back cover, this zine offers no less than 21 full page illustrations. Some of them are exceedingly hot, some of them tender, some of them cute, but they're all very beautiful. I find it impossible to select one as a favorite, but the drunken (and nearly naked) Illya talking to an amused Napoleon comes close.Perestroika by Elizabeth Urich. 8.5" x 11"; comb-bound; 201 pages; full page layout; large, easy-to-read typeface. Originally published in 1991 by nowayjose press. Available from Agent With Style as of October 2004. 
This is an UNCLE Illya/Napoleon slash novel with has obviously been written, illustrated, and published with great care and thought. I had an interesting reaction to this novel. The writing is rich and expressive. I really enjoyed the relationship that Illya and Napoleon had with Illya's adopted daughter. Very few slash stories deal with male pairs raising children. And I adored the art! I relished the lovely men which Suzan Lovett drew in such passionate detail. And yet I found myself strangely unfulfilled with the story. This is a first time zine, but I felt that it would have worked better as an established relationship tale. The relationship seemed to me to develop in the middle of a vacuum. There wasn't a whole lot of development that I saw which showed how Illya and Napoleon came to extend their friendship into romance. I think that the author is so familiar with her two main characters and their dynamics with each other that she has assumed that readers all have the same familiarity; she has assumed that the reader will fill in details from the characters' pasts as portrayed both in the aired show and in other fan works. Neofans such as myself, who aren't as familiar with UNCLE, might be left a bit in left field... This can be a thorny issue for fan writers. If a lot of the background is filled in, the neofans are served well, but veteran fans can feel a gross sense of redundancy; they feel as though the punch line of an in-joke has been overly explained. At any rate, I recommend the novel unreservedly for veteran UNCLE slash fans, and with only a few reservations of familiarity for the neofans in UNCLE. 
Good but not graphic were PERISTROIKA and TRILOGY by Elizabeth Ulrich -- these were a bit too warm-and-fuzzy and thin on plot for my taste, but PERISTROKA won the 1991 Fan Q. PERESTROIKA also had ~12 b&w plates by Suzan Lovett (who draws beautiful nudes and clothed-nudes). 
For Elizabeth Urich's soaring prose, balanced like one of the Great Wallendas between Professional Cool and Farmish Warmth. Also for Suzan Lovett's virtuoso pencil performance, particularly Ilya's butt. How nice for we the fans that Davy McCallum took his swimming so seriously when he was in school. 
You'll believe an elephant can fly, puppets can become real, live boys, giant sharks can be dispatched with a bottle of seltzer and a BB gun, and a Democrat can win the White House. Even more unrealistic you will believe that two middle-aged professional paranoids can find love, happiness, and contentment in a monogamous relationship. Just don't mention this last one out in public, your next of kin will send you off to Auntie Mayhem's for a custom-fitted hug-me jacket. 
Perestroika [was] too romantic for my taste. 
... the romance—literal in this case-is almost entirely between Solo and Kuryakin; there is little romance in either man's connection to the U.N.C.L.E. or in the depiction of the U.N. C.L.E. itself. In fact, and probably the biggest failing of the novel, there was not much reason for this to be a MUNCLE story at all, for the Command is barely defined, in cither realistic or romantic terms. Only the political power of the organization was much featured. Despite the overtones of its title, and a couple of cameos by Gorbachev and Reagan, Perestroika is, politically, pretty simple-minded; the ideological basis of its universe, what there is of it, is 19th-century royalism, complete with counts, landed gentry, and dynastic marriages. Under strict examination, Urich's U.N.C.L.E. is either not credible or else disturbingly cabalistic, for there is little sense of executive limits provided. However, it isgiven enough trompe d'oeil to pass in the course of the novel, enough verisimilitude to keep one's disbelief suspended. Further, the sharply realistic details of the two main characters, along with their intensely romantic story, glows so brightly center stage, the reader barely gives a hoot abou t the background. Because of the realistic characterization, this novel has to be acknowledged as MUNCLE, simply because the two leads are so unmistakably (a version of) Solo and Kuryakin. It, too, is a satisfying story. 
This is a majestic, twenty-five room mansion of a zine, as much a standout on the dealers' tables as stately Wayne Manor would be in the middle of a mobile home park. By comparison, most other fannish real estate is nothing more than a bunch of upended large appliance boxes, with doors and windows cut out with Mom's garden shears. (Still others are Port-a-Potties by the side of the freeway, but that's another review.) Its architect is author Elizabeth Urich, with interior design by artist Suzan Lovett.
Elizabeth has my deepest gratitude for whiting out the canon of the 1983 TV-movie, and gifting us with a more believable version of Illya at fifty. (Who was it, anyway, who came u p with the bright idea that a fellow who wore turtlenecks rather than fuss with a tie and a science wiz at that, would go into the fashion business?) The mysteriously aloof younger man has become an utterly alone, older one, who cannot bring himself to leave Russia because it is, literally, all he has left. "I've seen you scared before," Napoleon tells him early in the story. "But you weren't just scared, back in Kiev. You were paralyzed. Like a deer caught in headlights."
All that Russia holds in store forlllya is imprisonment. Madame Comrade Tatiana Severinovna Kuryakina, with whom he spent "half an hour of wedded bliss at the age of nineteen," is about to be tried for two decades of crimes against the Soviet people. She is not a nice lady, and if she can hand over her alleged partner in crime, guilt by association being a time-honored Russian tradition, she stands an excellent chance of having her stint in Siberia cut short. The fact that she hasn't said "boo" to her erstwhile husband since 1956 is not a factor, for reasons having to do with the country's political climate. Napoleon, who is essentially the same guy the movie postulated, pulls strings, calls in the markers on favors owed since he left U.N.CL.E.,and finally strikesa bargain. He and his ex-partner will come back into the fold, he in Waverly's old job, the Russian as Lab Chief if U.N.C.L.E. will help him smuggle Illya out of the Soviet Union.
And not just Ulya, but twelve-year-old Sasha, who is "neither my daughter nor my granddaughter," but, because of the unbelievable grubbiness of Kuryakin family relations (and it's real complicated), looks just like him. (Poor, poor child....) The author offers no apologies for the inclusion of an adolescent girl, let alone one who is beautiful, precocious, and being raised by two gorgeous "dads" who love her and each other, and even indulges in a little good-humored finger-waggling in her Afterword, reminding the reader that most UNCLE fans were adolescents themselves when the series first aired. (Or, in my case, five or six years shy. Hate me.) And why argue with success? Sasha definitely works.
Perestroika is richly plotted, but I'm not going to go into it all here, because what really moves things along is the emotional jockeying for position between the two agents. Oh, have I mentioned that the zine is slash? But so damn' tasteful. Elizabeth's sex scenes are romantically suggestive, but to be read for emotional rather than physical titillation. In other words, don't bother to uncap the, uh, personal lubricant. There're no descriptions of anyone slicking up Tab A for easy insertion into Slot B.
Someone told me they'd heard it was gooey. "Is not either!" I got ready to defend, but in the nanosecond it took for my mouth to fall open, I remembered that the zine does indeed get a little sticky in parts. Okay, a lot sticky. But there's goo and goo, if I may wax so eloquent. And the stuff in Perestroika is no anemic white Twinkie drool, but kin to the creme center of a Godiva chocolate.
Only after laying the zine aside did it hit me that I don't really buy one middle-aged man calling another "my fierce little blue-eyed wolf," even to himself. But that was after. Longafter. Everything else about Elizabeth's characters will make you believe that these two inhabit the same Earth we inhabit. Walk the same streets, watch the same shows, fight the same IRS. And it's just that which is one of the most striking things about the zine, the wonderful balance between the grit and litter and unpaid bills of the real world, and the atmospheric romanticism of, say, Beauty and the Beast.
An extra, added attraction is the undercurrent of melancholia that permeates the writing. No one does Sad like Illya, and Elizabeth takes full advantage.
Suzan Lovett 's drawings are the tapestries on the castle walls. The cover alone - heck, any one of the interior plates with which Perestroika is so generously sprinkled - is worth double the price of the zine. Her work is somewhere in the twilight zone between illustration and portraiture, a combination that goes beautifully with the writer's braiding of Real and Better-than-Real. Here again, Tasteful inclines its patrician head. The most explicit thing Suzan shows us is Illya's jeans-clad backside. Even in the illos that accompany the sex scenes, the most you'll see is a glimpse of chest, or the light glancingoff the side of a bare hip.The whole thing is so gorgeous, you'll be pressing it on your non-UNCLE-loving friends in the frenzied belief that this is the Word, the Grail, the Sacred Shroud that will set their feet on the Only True Path to Fannish Righteousness. Even if it doesn't, they'll wish like hell Elizabeth was writing in their fandom. 
I am not an U.N.C.L.E. fan. Rather, I should say, I'm not into U.N.C.L.E. fandom. I like the show well enough (it was my second love as a teen, right behind Star Trek when both shows were on prime-time), and the guys were surely attractive and interesting, but the slash fandom simply never caught me.
I was persuaded to do this review by Marion and Jan Davies because the novel, originally published in 1990, was "An Important Classic" that deserved an impartial read and review. Somewhat apprehensively, I took up the challenge; I am superstitiously wary of "Important Classics."
At 201 pages, Perestroika is not a quick read. It took me four or five days of available reading time to finish. What I discovered was a delightful novel that pushed many of my personal selective buttons, and I would recommend it highly to anyone who hasn't already encountered it.
The story opens in Russia, 15 years after the dissolution of Napoleon and Illya's partnership. Napoleon has come to pay his respects at the grave of his recently-departed former partner, Illya, who is, of course, not dead at all. Alone, destitute and desperate, Illya reveals himself to Napoleon. Trouble in Russia has driven him underground, to faking his death, and Solo, now retired from U.N.C.L.E., makes plans to return Illya to America.
On the way they pick up The Girl, a twelve-year-old Russian relative of Illya's who is so sweet she'll stick to you like maple syrup. Precocious, perfect Alexandra/Sasha (yes, she has two names, used intermittently) is The Girl to end all girls. Both Solo and Kuryakin fall helplessly under her spell and both are so primed for the joys of fatherhood (or is it grand fatherhood?) that they become her guardians and mentors as they arrive at Napoleon's horse farm in upper state New York. This is the weakest element of the story; she's too perfect; they are too perfect with her.
From the beginning of the novel, though, the most important facet is the relationship between Solo and Kuryakin; the banked fire held at embers for many years begins to flare and many old hurts and disappointments are discussed and challenged. There is a gradual building of their love and desire, laced through with much backpedaling and angst. And this the author handles with skill and care, never too maudlin or sticky. Our guys are neither wimps nor fops; it's a very sensitive outgrowth of the characters as they were portrayed on the show.When the relationship is finally consummated, we cheer, although the path, even after that, is not smooth. The intimate scenes are handled with delicacy and just the right amount of detail. If you're looking for fourteen-page sex scenes describing every movement and thought, you won't find it in Perestroika. The author is too hip for that porno approach to her characters. 
I will admit I am not a great fan of Man from U.N.C.L.E. That aside, Perestroika is a zine I would like to have in my collection. I recently borrowed it from a friend and was at least half determined that I was not going to like it. Boy, was I wrong. First, the zine is illustrated by Suzan Lovett, who has produced the most beautiful paintings of our two heroes that I was hooked before I began reading. Lynch me, if you like, but I'd never looked at Napoleon before and thought he was attractive. Ms. Lovett managed that on the cover alone!. The story is well written and entertaining beginning in Russia with Napoleon visiting Illya's grave, sadly reflecting on what had not been, only to find that ... Of course, Illya was alive. Heroes don't die, you know. Thus begins their flight from the authorities, stopping to pick up Illya's child on the way. Back to safety then and the realisation of how much they need each other and the start of their life together. I don't want to give everything about the story away but that's the basics. Admittedly it gets a bit sugary occasionally due to the addition of the little girl but nothing is completely perfect. Don't be put off though, this is a lovely zine and definitely my favorite way of looking at their lives a few years on. I will certainly be buying this zine myself.
One of the reasons I love this zine is because of the Suzan Lovett artwork sprinkled throughout the zine (Illya drunk on the phone is my favourite). But the story itself really kept me enthralled, and I've read it over and over. Even though I've sent my other MUNCLE zines off to new homes, this one will stay with me forever. 
Definitely a keeper for the art alone, but the story grabs you too. Not real explicit, but then it doesn't need to be. And for the record, my fave illo is the one of Napoleon & Illya lying in each other's arms on the rug. *sigh* 
What we have here is an important novel, if not necessarily for MUNCLE fandom, then certainly for slash fandom in general. It typifies, and is sure to influence writers of, the slash genre because, on its own terms, it succeeds so well.
First of all, there is something you must understand: Perestroika, by Elizabeth Urich, is really Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Na poleon Solo is Mister Rochester, Illya Kuryakin is Jane Eyre, Sasha, the 12-year-old girl, is Adele, Felicity Whitlock is Blanche Ingram, and their being in the closet is the wife in the attic. The housekeeper, the horses, and the hounds all play themselves. Naw, I'm nut.
Now I'm not saying that Urich thought to herself, "Gosh, what classic of literature can I rip off?"--rather, that she and Bronte went fishingin the same waters and pulled up specimens of the same genus. Rochester/Solo is the extremely rich and powerful master of a huge estate, who deeply loves the reserved, penniless, and blond Jane/Ilya, whose only tie to him at first is the daughter of the house, Adele/Sasha. Just as the whole point of Rochester's pursuit is to get Jane to say "I need you," Solo spends this whole novel (and several thousand dollars) to get Ilya to say, "I love you."
Urich is not unique in this romanticism; that is the hidden agenda of most slash writers, and probably most non-slash, too. Those others simply haven't the sheer craftsmanship to enable them to create a work of such depth as to have an underlying mythos that approaches that of a great book. This parallel to Jane Eyre also explains why the action that starts off with such a bang stops dead after thirty-some pages-Bronte didn't begin her novel with an escape from Kiev, and Urich had to catch up. Once the characters arrive at the estate, the parallels take over, and the action plot goes missing for a hundred pages. It is astonishing, and as a writer I might add a little frightening, how powerful and subliminal the pull of a genre can be. You may think you are headed in a perfectly personal direction, one that you've thought upand plotted out all by yourself, and afterward find you've been preceded on that path by half the galaxy. It's hard to create something totally brand new, especially in the field of love stories. But, especially in the field of love stories, readers don't really want anything too outrageously original. What they do want is a story that delivers.
And Perestroika certainly does that. This is an extremely romantic novel of striking delicacy, and a thumping good read. If you like slash or the char-acters, you will enjoy this novel. Even if you don't, you might like it anyway. Even I, ye olde curmudgeon, can't help admiring most aspects about it, though I am disturbed by a few.
Not by the basic craft, though. In characterization and language, Urich succeeds brilliantly. The people and especially their dialogue are terrific. I faunched after some of those lines ("You are subtle.") Plus there was her admirable skill in not translating the Russian, French, or whatever, tags, but still making their meaning quite clear in context. This was an elegant solution to the technical problem of rendering a character's speech accurately when he uses a language the reader (probably) doesn't know. And finally, many readers may appreciate her veiled presentation of physical moments between the two men (while others may not). Warm and sweet, it's not gooey.
There was one craft problem in plot: Urich too often shied away from or short-circuited her jeopardy-not good when it is a logical or reasonable consequence of characters' actions and decisions. Solo talks of dating Felicity Whitlock as a beard, to hide his brand-new homosexuality (might that force a jealous reaction from Illya?), but she somehow just never shows up. Solo and Illya reveal aspects of their relationship at the office (might homophobes among the personnel take offense?), but everyone either disbelieves it, or thinks it's cute. Sasha goes off estate to school (might she be kidnapped by terrorists?), but they blow it, and Thrush Chief Ward Baldwin ambles by to assure Solo that, no sweat, they wouldn't dream of touching the kid. A helicopter crashes-no casualties. Solo and Illya are cornered by a KGB trawler-Gorbachev pulls a deus ex machina and gets them off. And there are more instances. One or two such benign reversals might wash, but such unrelenting kindness from strangers, or even enemies, feels forced in the otherwise unforced flow.
The problem is that the heavy limerence of the novel clashes strongly with the basic reality of the U.N.CL.E. work --spies, law enforcement, politics. Even granting that Baldwin and Gorby mean what they say, what's to keep some other bad guy from charging in? Baldwin's generosity seems the most gratuitous. The whole point of being Thrush, it would seem, would be to hold power overothers-"subjugation of humanity. " Unless he is lying to Napoleon about the kid's safety, what, aside from his stated purpose of revenge, has he to gain from his deal"? Why should the other Thrush leaders cooperate with him?. With the given background between the two organizations, it doesn't seem workable, or even plausible. Perhaps, even in Urich's universe, the deal only lasts a few weeks, anyway.
Otherwise, Urich scores well. She depicts a verisimilistic Solo and Kuryakin and gives plausible motivations for whatever less-than-plausible actions there may be (Napoleon's sudden and exclusive homosexuality, and Illya's acceptance of being a kept man, for instance). I found little to disrupt my suspension of disbelief.
Except...for the commercials.
It wasn't sufficient to say Illya drank vodka--he drank a specific brand of vodka. It wasn't enough to pack Raisa a selection of perfumes-they were specific makes and models of perfume. Brand-name clothes, brand-name cars, brand-name cartoons, yet ("Looney Tunes or nothing. Napoleon"). Certainly, Napoleon's and Illya's sophistication would lead them to select good things, possibly even finest-in-the-world things, though this apparently relentless, accept-no-substitutes attitude bespeaks a materialism I don't think was so prevalent in Napoleon's and particularly Illya's characters. Well, maybe in Napoleon—he was modeled on James Bond and we see the same grasping for All The Finest there.
But the irritating part is, the brands cited are not necessarily the world's finest, they are the ones heavily advertised the finest, in America. They aren't even strikingly good snob value. The perfumes were not some noted parfumier's secret private blend, but over-the-counterstock available in any department store. And if Napoleon's so filthy rich, why couldn't he fly in Illya's favorite peppercorn-and-potato-flavored vodka daily from Itursk, instead of forcing him to made do with a commonly available, although premium, brand? If Urich wished us to be aware of her characters' fine tastes, she only made me aware of her own susceptibility to advertising.
Undoubtedly, I am overreacting to this truly minor point because I have gotten so fed up with the modern advertising culture. I feel drowned in the clutter, and I hate the sheer waste of it. At least twenty-five percent of the cost of a nationally advertised brand is attributable to advertising alone. The last place I want to read a commercial endorsement is in a fanzine.
But Urich does bear some culpability. Even her people come with brand names, i.e., titles. (For the finest in espionage agents, try Russky Count spies, I suppose.) Thankfully, Napoleon didn't have a handle to his name, though he was said to be descended from a pope, but he was depicted as some kind of natural aristocrat. This is his unconscious parallel with Rochester, of course, but ultimately, this class-ridden, paternalistic stance is out of place in the late twentieth century. Why do the polyglot servants so adore being of service to him? Even the townsfolk acknowledge a light fealty, happy to risk outside attacks, apparently because he donated a library. Sure, people can act that way, but people can also show resentment over disproportionate wealth, or shy away from them foreigners from NYC, or dislike being front-line troops against possible terrorists. There was not even a hint of such ignoble feelings.
Even the U.N.C.L.E. board falls victim to the charm of Solo's natural nobility. He hasn't done a lick of political administration in 12 years, but they just have to have him, and only when Solo really needs a big favor can they sucker him in. The trouble is, as written. Solo just doesn't have the fire in the belly for the job, he doesn't stick it out, and I almost don't see why it was so important for him to play Master of the Universe as Head of U.N.CL.E.-Northwest. Aside from rescuing Illya from the clutches of Glasnost, he could have gotten nearly as good effect from sticking to playing Squire of Altoona VaJley. After all, Rochester didn't need to become Prime Minister to snag Jane.Nonetheless, this is a Ghood Zine. It's crisp, literate, andsmooth. It's delightful to see a story that succeeds so well on so many levels—that has so many levels-and it's a relief to have a well-written MUNCLE novel available. Also, the Suzan Lovett illos are gorgeous. Go buy it.  
You'll get my Perestrioka, White Rabbit, Lucifer Falling, Whisper of a Kill, Injured Innocents, Choices, Cosmic Collected, Broken Images, Second Grace, Harlequin Airs, Pandora's Box Affair, Primal Instincts 2, I Still Have Plans, and a variety of multi-media zines [out of my hands] only after my body is dust. 
At the risk of being drummed out of fandom for blaspheming against the holy of holies, here's an example of art I thought demonstrated a lot of skill but kind of WTF-y content (I think one of them calls the other "my lion" in the fic, but that's about the extent of the relevance of those animals)...Different strokes and all that, but this is a kind of fan art I just can't appreciate....Well, at least the artist played with the composition. It's not really a good composition because the elements don't mesh at all. But still, at least there's something original about it, even if the result is... ugh, so not my taste.
- from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #3
- from Partner Mine
- from a fan's top five favorite zine list in Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4
- As noted on the notable fanworks section of the MUNCLE article.
- from This is Katya
- from Partner Mine
- from The Zine Connection #14
- from a fan on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (October 28, 1992)
- from a fan's top five favorite zine list in Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4
- from a fan's top five favorite zine list in Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4
- from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4
- from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #3
- from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #3. The reviewer, Berkeley Hunt, gives it "5 trees." The reviewers in "Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?" rated zines on a 1-5 tree/star scale.
- from Z.I.N.E.S. v.1 n.2
- Pillow Talk no.4
- quoted anonymously from a mailing list (April 19, 2002)
- from a mailing list, quoted anonymously (June 2003)
- from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #3. The reviewer, Paula Smith, gives it "5 trees." The reviewers in "Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?" rated zines on a 1-5 tree/star scale.
- Many years later, Paula comments on this review: "I think I was reasonably fair because even when I slammed something, I always said what it was about the story I did or didn't like. For example, I gave the U.N.C.L.E. zine Perestroika five stars, but I said I didn't like certain things about it for personal reasons. I said what was good about it and what I didn't care for and I tried to keep the two separate." from a 2010 interview with Paula Smith for Transformative Works and Cultures
- a March 24, 2011 comment on a mailing list, quoted anonymously
- Most overrated fanartists thread at fail-fandomanon dated December 13, 2012.
- comment added to Fanlore on August 14, 2015 by Franzeska