The book contains unforgettable images and circumstances. A few of my favorites: the plight of WWI POWs stranded in the midst of the Russian civil war, the rescue from the Soviet prison, the murderously insane Russian general, and the hapless Indian revolutionaries whose Soviet-supplied invisible ink turned into very visible ink in the humid climate of India. Particularly striking was the contrast of the Bolshevik purges and executions, and the British response to treasonous Indians (the Bolshevik-trained Indians received extremely light sentences after an extended trial).
This volume picks up the story with the Russian Revolution. Again, Hopkirk does an excellent job of out lining the players, the global politics, and how it all impacted on this traditional "crossroads of the world". Here, the focus is on Lenin, and Russia's (successful) attempt to claim/re-claim Central asia as its own.
My criticisim is that the story is not nearly as gripping as a story as was the Great Game. There are superb vignettes, but the overall narrative is simply not as good.
However, if you want to know why Russia was willing to dvote a decade (1980 to 1990) to its war in Afghanistan, which set the stage for the Taliban and Al Queda, then I know of no better book.
The action centres around immediate aftermath of the Russian revolution, just when the new soviet state was most intent on exporting revolution to the rest of the world. Hopkirk is at his best when he introduces Russia's nemesis in Central Asia - a certain Colonel Frederick Bailey, 'Great Game' hero and butterfly collector. Totally bonkers, in a truly British way. It's so exciting that you can scarcely believe that it's true - apparently it is.
Bailey, a british agent from the Raj, is sent to Central Asia to foil Soviet attempts to expand their empire south. Along the way he evades hit squads, execution chambers and even manages to circulate amongst the enemy by joining their own secret service and working as a double agent. About half way through, Bailey evenually gets back to India and drops out of sight - much to the frustration of the Soviets, but not before one final shoot out at the border post.
Hopkirk then sets off on another romp from Moscow to the Pacific Ocean, detailing the struggle between the Whites, the Reds and their respective supporters in the international community. This time there are multiple players -: the Soviet Comintern, Indian Communists, Turkish Nationalists, White Russians, British agents fighting for the Whites and some very, very cruel members of God's creation. Everything swirls around in a vast game where everyone is out to grab what they can from the dismembered Russian empire.
Almost everyone in here will be new to most readers - with the exception of Mikhael Borodin - but that shouldn't detract from an excellent piece of story telling. This is history the way it should be written. Five Stars is five too few.