Service is professor of Russian History at Oxford University, however his expertise is made quite accessible in this book, which covers a period from around 1855 to 2008. Although Service's offering lacks some of the depth and human story of some other histories of the Soviet Union, he does provide an excellent overview of the key moments in the development of Russian history over a turbulent century. The narrative zips along through the key events of Russian history, detailing everything from problems under the tsars, to the excesses of Putin in the C21st.
Whilst a depth knowledge is not the main aim of the book, it is peppered with some fascinating and often chilling details. In one such example, Service details how Stalin implemented a numerical system to denote to the secret service how his opponents should be dealt with. As he flicked through his "albums" he would mark down a number to inform NKVD chief Beria how they should be dealt with (kill, imprison, or up to you). In another example, he talks about Stalin's tactic of padding around during Politburo meeting, walking behind the chairs of his ministers in leather slippers, in a style reminiscent of Al Capone. There are also some insights into the lives of the ordinary Russians trying to deal with the excesses of the regime - for the most part this seems to have involved lying to the authorities and hoping for the best... It is moments such as these that keep the human connection in Service's largely political narrative.
In addition to key events in the Soviet Union, the book also touches on aspects of international relations and the book would make an interesting supplement to a more intrepid GCSE Modern World student looking to understand the actions of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Overall, an excellent book which covers the key areas for the Russian Revolution as well as the decline of the Soviet Union. One cannot help but be astounded by the extent of corruption and destruction which the Russian peoples have to endure through this period. An eye opening experience: highly recommended.