Peter Hopkirk’s book describes the back-and-forth intrigue between Russia and Great Britain in the cold war for Central Asia. The parallels between this 19th century power struggle and the 20th century battle between the Soviet Union and the US are uncanny. In both cases, Afghanistan functions as the “roundabout” of Asia, gating the flow of goods and peoples from Europe and the Middle East to India and China. In both cases, proud superpowers, in their fixation on each other, step on and generally infuriate the natives and nobody seems to win. In both cases, against expectation, the small country of Afghanistan brings down the mighty and sows the seeds of decades of misery.