This is Humphrey Hawksley's third book portraying realistically how Asia's tensions could play out in nuclear or near-nuclear wars. The strength of all his books is that they are firmly based in reality, firstly in terms of existing tensions - for example between India and both Pakistan and China - and then in terms of how world powers might react to an escalating conflict.
This book centres on biological and nuclear warfare triggered by the unrealistic ambitions of North Korea and Pakistan - two countries that are currently liasing in real life on the development of weapons of mass destruction. It is scary because of the (often unwise) rapid-fire decisions that are taken by alarmingly ill-prepared world leaders, especially an (unsurprisingly) knee-jerk-prone US president and a blunderbuss of a British prime minister who punches energetically above his country's weight so that he can play alongside the president. There is no ultimate winner - certainly not Pakistan and North Korea, which get punished for their mad leaders' adventurism, nor the US, Russia, China and India. Mr Hawksley would like us to see India coming out best, both in terms of its responsibility during the crisis and its chances of recovery from the holocaust. Indeed he has told me that he sees India as a "moral guiding force of the whole book, putting everyone else to shame" because (as in his earlier Dragon Fire) it resists, for as long as it can, the escalatory spiral that engulfs the rest of the world.
Mr Hawksley knows his characters well. As a BBC tv reporter, he has interviewed world leaders and army and intelligence chiefs in many parts of the world - especially India and China where he has lived and visits frequently. He has good sources in the corridors of power and policy institutes of the US and other countries, which he taps before writing each novel - making each one a worthwhile read.