Road to the Ocean is a long novel about Soviet Russia by a prominent Soviet novelist. It centers around "socialist construction": the operation of a Russian railroad; but the author, Leonid Leonov, has genuine literary gifts which do not lend themselves readily to propaganda, and he has tried to do something subtler, more complex and more humanly plausible than the ordinary Communist Sunday-school story. Leonov has a novelist's interest in the crude mixed materials of life and a literary sophistication very rare in Soviet fiction. His novel, which is extremely intricate, with a great multiplication of characters, involves elements of the landowning class dispossessed by the Revolution, of the bourgeois professional class trying to function in the new socialist economy, of the original generation of devoted and intrepid revolutionists who established the Soviet society and of the younger generation of the Komsomol who are helping to get it running in the spirit of Boy and Girl Scouts.
The presentation of all this is quite skillful: the interdependence of the various individuals is gradually brought out in a dramatic but usually not obvious way. Episode leads to episode by transitions apparently meaningless: a character who seems unimportant in one chap