Sarov:"You and I will die but the end result will be the same."
Alex: "A better world...?"
Sarov: "That's all I ever wanted, Alex! All this! I was only doing what I believed in! Give me the key card or I will shoot you."Alex : (throws the key card into the ocean) "Go ahead then if that's what you want, shoot me."General Sarov: "Why?"
Alex: "I'd rather be dead than have a father like you."
Sarov and Alex argueGeneral Alexei Sarov is the main antagonist in the 3rd Alex Rider book Skeleton Key.
General Sarov orders 1 kg of uranium-235 from a criminal leader known to one and all simply as "the Salesman". He gets it from 3 couriers who fly to his island of Skeleton Key (which is how that ties into the title), at the cost of $1,000,000. After one of the couriers (Carlo) asks for another $250,000 to keep quiet, Sarov orders the deaths of the three couriers through a trick in runway lighting, leading the plane into a crocodile-infested swamp, where they get eaten.
On the run from the Triads, Alex is sent off to Cuba by Alan Blunt from MI6, as protection. Alex is inwardly seething because although Blunt promised him protection, it seems he has been sent on the front line of World War Three, because he is given to two CIA agents who are investigating General Alexei Sarov, a ruthless Russian Soviet Union general who wants to purchase uranium. Nobody is sure why he needs it, nor why a plane flew into Skeleton Key Island and never flew out again, nor why uranium was on the plane, nor why the Russian president (representing new Russia) is meeting his schoolfriend Alexei Sarov (representing old Russia). The two are meant to be enemies - "the old general and the new president", according to either Blunt or Byrne.
The CIA certainly aren't telling Alex why they are there, but Alex works it out for himself when his Gameboy has a Geiger counter installed in it, and he wondered about it since agent Troy told him not to drop it on the plane, and when it squeaked when it picked up quartz (radioactive) in his bedroom clock. The CIA agents know General Sarov is watching them, his agent the Salesman is proof of it. When Sarov sends his man Conrad to blow up the greedy Salesman and prevent a double-cross, Alex realizes the agents are in danger and heads onto the boat to save the ungrateful agent Turner. Then Alex manages to go scuba-diving with the agents, despite their guide's rebuffs, and Alex is told to stay on board by Turner and Troy, who dive into the sea and are never seen again. The guide makes snide remarks about how Alex humiliated the agents, by being a child, but Alex said it's not his fault and he didn't choose to be there. Alex realizes, because the agents are strict, that they are in trouble, so he goes into the water, but finds a great white. It is killed by General Sarov's waste-disposal cave, which killed the CIA agents. Alex realizes not to climb up the ladder, and he swims back on the boat, finding the guide murdered by Sarov's men, who take him captive to the Golden House.
General Sarov meets Alex and saves him from being crushed to death in a cold fashion by Conrad, the deformed henchman he employs. General Sarov apologizes to Alex profusely, and says he didn't wish to kill him and he in fact wants to adopt him, because his own son had been killed in war ravaged Italy in the 1940s, and General Sarov knew his son resembled Alex, and he also says they both have the same name. He says, despite them being a world apart, they don't need to be.
General Sarov takes Alex on a tour round Skeleton Key, and then says the Russian president is arriving and he wants him locked in his room, and then at dinner he will meet him again.
Alex, desperate to contact MI6 or CIA, escapes in a car, but is found by General Sarov and as punishment he attatches a heartbeat sensor to him while Conrad holds a gun at his heart. As Alex's panic grows, the sensor detects it and Sarov worsens this by speaking if about to shoot him. He turns off the sensor making it appear like he was just shot. Thinking he was just killed, Alex collapses. Before he faints and is taken to his room, however, General Sarov says "If you wanted to visit town all you had to do was say."
General Sarov then invites Alex for dinner, and Alex meets president Boris Koriyenko, who is revealed to have been a cowardly, bullying schoolfriend of Sarov's. General Sarov has Boris filmed playing in the pool with young women and drinking and making foolish speeches. Then the film is edited, manipulated.
General Sarov has thirteen men for dinner, including Boris, which Alex notes as unlucky. General Sarov makes a sarcastic speech insulting Boris, but the drunken president takes it as a joke. General Sarov then toasts them all, and all the men drink, but then get knocked out by a drug in the caviar (or more probably the vodka), and collapse backwards. Boris is the last to be unconscious, and is about to angrily shoot Sarov but he falls over.
Then General Sarov takes Alex on a drive to the airport, and shows him the bomb he has - which is very tiny, but has enough power to destroy half a country. General Sarov explains his idea to Alex in the plane (which belongs to Boris, since he's the President; his pilot is devoutly worshipping Sarov) - he wishes to undo the collapse of the Soviet Union, the destruction of communism, and rebuild a communist empire worldwide, with the deaths of all his enemies, the deaths of all the sick and poor Russians, and the rebuilding of Russia with the rich, healthy, militaristic and bright Russians, communists and socialists prevailing, with General Sarov as world leader and Alex as his son and heir. Alex opposes the whole idea, and escapes at first opportunity.
But the stupid security guard threatens to have Alex arrested when he lands at Edinburgh and he threatens to call police for Alex not having a passport. But Alex tells them he works for MI6, and Sarov is mad, and has a bomb, and is extremely dangerous. The security pass on the radio message (which they hear because the security guard's phone is on) to police, then to MI6, then the seucity services send out men to Murmansk, where General Sarov has his fleet of rusting submarines which he will use to blow up and contaminate Russia. He also explains Britain will be affected and London will be uninhabitable.
General Sarov has Conrad shoot the guard and they both fly off to Murmansk with Alex again. At Murmansk, the bomb is inserted, and the men kill all the guards at the port, and take over. But suddenly, in the midst of the operation, the Russian navy arrive, and begin shooting. Alex is being strangled by an enraged Conrad, but he sucks Conrad onto a magnetic plate because ninety per cent of his body is filled with plates, and then Alex disarms the bomb, throwing the key into the murky water.
General Sarov comes up and demands Alex undo what he did. Alex said never. General Sarov said Alex would have been his son, but Alex said he'd rather be dead then have a father like him, so General Alexei Sarov took out his gun and shot himself in the head, killing himself in front of Alex.
Nationalistic, patriotic and devoid of any empathy, Sarov proclaimed that he was serving his country and took intense pride of his motherland, Russia however his actions state differently. They show him to be a deluded, insane, ruthless and downright hypocritical man as despite his patriotism he was perfectly capable of murdering thousands of Russians to fulfil his goals. Sarov greatly admires strong military regimes that were long abandoned such as communism and fascism and planned to reinstate them should he have taken control of Russia. His hatred towards modern-day Russia was intense so much that he took an almost Social Darwinist view of the world and claimed that he was "making it better place" by setting off a nuclear bomb.
Yet despite this, Sarov is capable of expressing emotion. He dearly loved his son, Vladimir and was devastated by his death. Perhaps the reason of his actions were guilt. He forced Vladimir into joining the army, actually divorcing his wife when she said otherwise and he was quickly killed by a sniper. To add injury to insult his government surrendered, almost as if Vladimir's death was for naught. As Russia became more modern, the fall of communism and the Berlin Wall, Sarov's hatred only festered.
Above all things, Sarov was a broken man, emotionally distraught over Vladimir's death and enraged over the country he pledged his life for becoming weaker appeared to turn him mad. Also one of his redeemable traits was his love for Alex Rider. He saw him as a son and perhaps a replacement for his lost Vladimir, he even planned to adopt him after the success of his plans however he saw Alex as Vladimir and not as the boy he was. Despite his anonymity and defiance towards Sarov and the fact he posed a threat to his plans he refused to kill the boy. Even when he had betrayed him, Sarov showed genuine sadness over Alex's impending death and actually shot himself when he stated he would rather be dead than have a father like Sarov.
Sarov was not above punishing Alex to extremely cruel degrees despite being only a boy. He threatened to have him whipped should he cause him any embarrassment to his guests and in the most famous display, endured him through severe mental torture; attaching a heartbeat sensor to him, then holding a gun to his heart all the while commenting as if he was about to shout him. Sarov then turned off the sensor, making it appear as if he was shot and killed. Such a display categorises the dynamic shift of Sarov's personality; from being affectionate and father-like to a ruthless madman.
- He is one of the few antagonists who does not actively attempt to kill Alex Rider.