It is the unfortunate fact of collections of allo-historical scenarios like "Cold War Hot" (including the "What If?" books and "Virtual History") that the tend to be rather uneven in their quality. This is due to the reality that a collection of diverse writers will necessarily have different talents and different focuses which are more or less conducive to the writing of alternate history. That said, "Cold War Hot" ranks highly among the alternate history collections, and includes some of the best and most original pieces I have encountered.
Obviously, "Cold War Hot" examines various alternate paths that the Cold War could have taken that would have resulted in either combat where there was none, or in a greater, more violent operational tempo. Divided into ten chapters, the book considers every time period from the Berlin Blockade through 1989. It is notable that when compared to other similar collections, the authors generally spend very little time discussing what actually did happen; in fact, other than a "what really happened" section at the end of each chapter, the content is probably at least eighty percent allo-historical. While this is great for someone well versed in the various Cold War flashpoints, it could be frustrating for someone who has only a vague grasp of twentieth century history, so be forewarned.
The first two chapters are probably the weakest; the first deals with an air battle surrounding the Berlin Airlift, and the second with a successfully executed North Korean invasion of South Korea. Aside from the fact that both are rather predictable jumping off points, neither one is fleshed out particularly well and they both end rather abruptly. They aren't terrible, but they're definitely the week spots in this collection.
The next scenario somewhat belies the title of the book as it presumes a pacification of Vietnam achieved at a much lower level of violence. While a little bit slower than the other chapters, it is still very well written and posits a thorough and believable alternate path for the Vietnam intervention.
Chapters four and eight deal with events in the Middle East; the first around the Six Days War and the latter around the Yom Kippur War. From an operational standpoint, these are probably the two most thorough scenarios, as orders of battle are examined in detail, and armed clashes occur across the breadth of the Mediterranean. While the basis for both scenarios is well established in alternate political histories, it is in the "hot" aspect that they really shine.
Chapters five and six are my two favorites, as they deal with the most esoteric 'what-ifs' in the book. Chapter five in particular is in my experience completely original as it examines the consequences of a violent Quebecois revolution in the late 1960's. As someone who witnessed the relatively peaceful attempts at secession in the late 1990's, this was an eye-opening and thoroughly enjoyable scenario. Chapter six deals with a Soviet invasion of communist China. This is another scenario where the military aspects are thoroughly detailed, and it contains probably the best presentation in terms of fiction versus history. Moreover, this scenario has the added bonus of nukes and chemicals weapons being deployed and used, which only adds to the tension.
Chapter seven is another Vietnam scenario, and serves as a nice counterpoint to chapter three, as it deals with the ultimate escalation, an invasion North Vietnam. This is another chapter that is extremely strong in operational details, and especially order of battle and the deployment of specific units. Some of the dialogue is a little hackneyed, but overall this is a great chapter.
Chapter nine deals with a different outcome for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While there is some military action, this chapter's focus is primarily in the political realm, and it is largely successful. However, there is one glaring mistake in this chapter: there is a map which should display forces as "Soviet/Indian" and "Pakistani", instead it shows "U.S." and "Russian" which was extremely confusing for a few pages until I picked up on the error.
The final chapter I won't even describe briefly as it is completely out of right field, and doing so would spoil it. That's not to say that this is an unbelievable scenario; while tongue is planted firmly in cheek, it is not utterly beyond the realms of possibility, and it was great fun to read.
Ultimately, this is a very successful collection, with some genuinely original scenarios, and generally good to excellent writing all around. Each scenario is firmly rooted in history and entirely logical alternate decisions, and each ends up in a very different set of circumstances, which are the two hallmarks of the best alternate history writing. My only complaint (aside from the map error detailed above) is that the editing is sub-par to say the least. There are numerous grammatical errors and incorrect word substitutions that can really break up the flow of the narrative. That said, they don't detract anywhere near enough to avoid reading this otherwise highly enjoyable collection.