This doorstopper of a book focuses on American and Soviet rivalry in post-World War II Asia while providing an overview of dramatic developments in 14 nations across Asia over the past century or so. This is an ambitious agenda, one that proves too much for the author and, one might add, any weary reader who manages to plow through to the end.

Francis Pike does not shy from offering opinionated commentary about the figures and events we encounter through this epic slog. The central problem is that in covering so much time and territory, Pike sacrifices sustained analysis and skims across the surface in a breathless gallop through what amounts to a kaleidoscopic caricature of history.

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