◆ Zone 22 by Tig Hague
◆ Read September 2014
◆ Dutch Edition
❝ When Tig Hague kissed goodbye to his girlfriend Lucy, he was already thinking of his return. The couple were going house-hunting, looking for their first home together. Tig was only going to be gone a few days on a routine business trip - the annual highlight of an otherwise unglamorous job working on the Russian desk of a London bank.The thing about Zone 22 is that it isn't a great book, but it does tell a very interesting and horrifying story. It is a true story about a British man who ends up in a gulag-like camp in Russia.
But just hours later something went wrong at Moscow airport. Very wrong.
Misunderstanding a request from customs for a backhander to speed his progress into the country, Tig was pulled to one side to have his bag searched. A deliberate inconvenience, he thought.
But Tig's world was about to implode with dizzying, terrifying speed. A tiny lump of hashish, nothing more than detritus from a recent stag weekend, was discovered in the pocket of an old pair of jeans. Too small to warrant anything more than a slapped wrist back home, he hadn't even known it was there.
Tig was in Moscow's notorious Piet Centrale jail by nightfall - and that was just a stepping stone on his way to prison camp Zone 22 in the bleak, remote wastes of Mordovia.
He wouldn't be returning home for years ...❞
The first thing that came up in my mind while reading was not a pretty one. Tig Hague got arrested at Moskou airport because he forgot he still had a little bit of marijuana in his jeans pocket. My first thought? He's an incredible idiot. Practically everyone knows how strict the regulations are at airports, especially in Russia. I could not comprehend how it had not entered his mind to check everything before his flight. However, how stupid it may be, I know all too well that a lot of people find themselves in a similar situation.
So while this immediate character flaw bothered me, the real essence of the story is how the justice system in Russia is really corrupt and - frankly - unjust. The evidence in Hague's case got tempered with immediately, the words in his testimony were twisted and turned to make him look guilty. his assigned lawyers did not have the man's best interest in mind. But most of all, the author did not speak the language and was forced to do or sign things without having even a clue what it was about. It's very unlike the majority of the European judicial systems and it's terrifying that a system like that is still allowed to exist in our day and time.
Once Hague was sentenced to prison, he ended up in Zone 22, where corrupt officials and extremely bad treatment of prisoners are considered normal. Tig went through a horrible ordeal there: getting really sick, working too hard, spending thousands of pounds to buy off officials, losing a great deal of weight etc. To know that he was privileged because of the money and products he got from the embassy and his family, to know that most prisoners did not have this, puts things even more in perspective. The great thing about this book is that it doesn't sugarcoat things, but portrays the Russian penal system like it really is.
The reason why I only gave Zone 22 three stars is because, for all the shocking scenes it contains, it is rather repetitive at times and the author isn't a very great writer. Sure, it gets the point across, but that's about it. It's still very informative though and can definitely help you realize the flaws of our modern time and how great your own life really is.
3 stars because:✓ Good portrayal of horrendous ordeal
✗ Writing isn't great
✗ Writing isn't great