Slezkine's book revels in an overload of details. He has traced the 2,655 registered tenants through every stage of their occupancy; he follows them as they change apartments; he has read – at crushingly impressive length – from their personal letters and diaries; perhaps most amazingly, in the case of all those in-house fiction-writers (and all of their colleagues living elsewhere), he has read all of their writings, and he relates them all with generous sympathy and insight in these pages. Among the many other things it is, The House of Government is also one of the greatest extended appreciations of prewar Russian literature ever to appear in English ... regardless of its size and complexity – and despite some of its grim tidings, this book is an absolute delight to read, a masterpiece of the odd, almost unclassifiable kind that Russian literature is so adept at producing ... thanks to Yuri Slezkine, the House of Government is now immortal in literature as well.
[The] chapters on the Stalinist Terror are the most vivid. Over all, Slezkine’s writing is sharp, fresh, sometimes playful, often undisciplined. The momentum suffers from the narrative’s overpopulation; and Slezkine falls into digressions about the Exodus, Armageddon and repressed memory theory. Despite meandering, he makes certain arguments clearly: Bolshevism was a millenarian sect with an insatiable desire for utopia struggling to reconcile predestination with free will — that is, working ceaselessly to bring about what was supposedly inevitable.
...[a] brilliant and suitably monumental book ... Vivid, engaging and omnivorous in its deployment of anthropological and sociological ideas, The House of Government has a Tolstoyan cast of characters ... as we struggle to balance the benefits of industrial modernity with its huge costs — both human and environmental — Slezkine’s gripping history of these latter-day Fausts is especially relevant, even if their mental world seems so remote from our own.