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Book Review of Condemned as a Nihilist

By Kaitland Conley — July 18, 2009

Condemned as a Nihilist is the exciting story of Godfrey Bullen. At sixteen years old, the fun is only beginning for this young boy at the school he attends in London, England. But when, at the end of the school year, his father informs him that he would like Godfrey to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, he looks on it as quite an adventure to be had.

Godfrey Bullen was born in Russia, given that his father had once been head of the Russian branch of business for the London firm he worked with. He had lived there for ten years, so it was not as if he was going to a completely strange place. After learning of this news, he took the next two months to brush up on his Russian, spend time with his family, and work on his penmanship. At the advice of his father, he determined to stay out of any form of Russian politics.

The trip was uneventful, and upon arrival he hired a sled and went immediately to the home of his host, his father's business associate. Falling into a daily routine, he occasionally ate dinner with his host and his host's wife, and intermittently dined out, while going out to explore the city often during the day. Using the letters of introduction given him by his father, he was soon accepted as a friend in many of the Russian families. Two friends he saw often were Akim Soushiloff and Petroff Stepanoff, young students living together on their own, and who also introduced him to the young lady who would change his life forever.

Deciding to go out one night to a masked opera, he was asked by a young lady known to him simply as Katia, for aid in removing a couple from an embarrassing situation. Taking it all in good fun, and thinking it was some sort of a joke, he played along, only to walk into the arms of the secret police. Finding out that he had aided in the escape of a dangerous political prisoner, he was fortunately able to pull himself out of the scrape he had gotten himself into. After being arrested once again, he was convicted and sent to Siberia.

After the very long journey, he met up again with a friend of Akim and Petroff that had been arrested as well, Alexis Stumpoff. Together they made the first of Godfrey's attempts at escape. Running into difficulties, however, Alexis had to stay with the wandering nomads they had been living with at the time. Not being able to face the dangers of escape alone, Godfrey gave himself up as a vagabond, much less harmful in those days in Russia.

In prison he made a few friends, at one point risking his life to save one of his friends', and another standing up for one of his close friends, Luka. After befriending Luka, as he learned Luka's native language of the Tartars, he decides that if he's going to escape he wants to do it with Luka. Being warned for the second time that it was impossible, Godfrey and Luka set out for the wilds of Siberia. With a little bit of common sense and whole lot of courage, they eventually make it out of Siberia, into Norway, and eventually back to England. While he may not have accomplished much in the world of business, he did much toward proving himself a man, learning the ways of nature, and showing that nothing is impossible.

Condemned as a Nihilist is a well written and thoroughly enjoyable adventure, and another great book by G.A. Henty. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves action-adventure, wants a book highlighting the positive morals of courage, perseverance, and loyalty, or just enjoys reading about the Russian Revolution.

— Kaitland Conley

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