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on 21 April 2017
At times it was necessary to remind ones self this was reality and not a spy novel.
A well written and fascinating account of intrigue, skullduggery and barbarism in a part of the world still in the grip of despots and tyrants.
This and the Great Game by the same author I thoroughly recommend to those interested in the detail of this place and time.
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on 9 September 2017
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on 28 July 2014
'Setting the East Ablaze' completes Peter Hopkirk's Central Asian trilogy. Kicked off in 'the Great Game' (which starts at around 1800 and ends with the Anglo-Russian detente just before World War I), and followed by 'On Secret Service East of Constantinople' (German meddling in the East in World War I and the events in the Caucasus up to about 1918), this final part of the trilogy takes off where 'On Secret Service' left, discussing events in Central Asia proper (east of the Caspian) from about 1918 onwards.

As one would expect from Hopkirk, this is again a great read. Hopkirk has a knack for telling good stories that, together, provide an excellent historic overview of this volatile region. The characters populating this book include a British secret service agent who gets himself hired by the Cheka, an insanely bloodthirsty buddhist Russian baron who manages to conquer Mongolia with his private army, the fickle Afghan king, the former Ottoman dictator Enver Pasha who embarked on a second career in Central Asia (hired by the Russians to defuse muslim uprisings and then double crossing them and joining the rebellion), the octogenarian Emir of Bokhara and his giggling harem girls, Indian revolutionaries ending up in Bolshevik training camps in the deserts of Central Asia and many more, including, interestingly, large amounts of mainly Austro-Hungarian Prisoners-of-War who actually came to be a significant factor in the local military equation during the chaotic times just after the Russian Revolution.

Despite all the bloodshed and unbelievable cruelty, in the end it all came to nothing: the East was never set ablaze in the way Lenin intended (the 'toilers of the East' were so busy toiling they apparently had no time to listen to inflammatory Marxist rants), the Russians basically re-established control of what was already theirs in Tsarist times, and the English just gave away India after having spent so much effort on 'forward defence' in Central Asia of this supposedly crucial part of their Empire.
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on 20 February 1999
The man who gave us "The Great Game" now takes us 20 or so years forward, to the era after the Russian Revolution when Lenin send his followers into Asia to spread his word. It is a dramatic, sometimes tragic, sometimes comic narrative, full of extraordinary people, most memorable of which may be Colonel Reginald Bailey, a very British spy whose disguise as a fanatical revolutionary was so successful that he was once ordered by his Communist masters to arrest himself! Anybody with an interest in history, in travel, in adventure or just in good storytelling should try to seek out Hopkirk's splendid books.
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on 17 January 2010
Only Peter Hopkirk could find something as obscure as this subject to write about. Set in the period from mid-way trough WWI to the beginning of WWII in Uzbekistan, Kirghistan, Mongolia, Siberia and China, it's real Boys Own stuff. However, with the Russians and Chinese involved, there are some appalling descriptions of tortures and murders.
Naturally, the Brits are the heroes and inevitably their actions are 'heroic', 'daring' and 'benign'. None of this takes away from what is a great story.
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on 25 April 2010
Having read the other Hopkirk books about the "Great Game" I was looking forward to this "last chapter". However, it seems to be more about the aftershocks of the civil war between the Whites & Reds in the 20's & 30's than a specific imperial clash/exploration that the previous books detailed. It was nevertheless a very revealing book and I realise now that the utter barbarity of the eastern front in WW2 had its roots in the events covered by this book. So, good but not another "Great Game" book.
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on 11 December 2012
Great and exciting book! I love history, read a lot, fascinated by the revolution and the Russian Civil War, but these stories were completely new for me, the setting, the events are amazing, most of the times it felt like I'm reading a spy-novel. I'm pretty sure I'm going to read more from Peter Hopkirk sooner than later! The only flaw of the book is it's length, I could have read a couple of hundred pages more!
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on 19 February 2014
Although not quite reaching the heights of The Great Game by the same author, this is a highly readable and entertaining account of the machinations of Russia and Britain in Central Asia during the inter-war years. There are some very well drawn portraits of the colourful characters who made the most of the chaos of the Russian civil war after the Bolshevik revolution: cunning Borodin, bloodthirsty Baron Ungern Sternberg, daring Enver Pasha, plucky Colonel Bailey, 'Big Horse' Ma, the Chinese Muslim warlord. Combined with a brisk narrative that crackles along, it makes for a great read.

For anyone interested in Xinjiang (Sinkiang, Chinese/Eastern Turkestan) this is also an interesting book and underlines why China is so sensitive about the region today.
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on 18 January 2013
I bought this for my father, a Russophile. However, I read it before passing t to him and it covers a quite fascinating and untold period of Soviet history in excellent prose.
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on 17 September 2015
I have never knew anything about this area of the world before reading Peter books its almost unknown and unexplored even today.
The Great Game sets the scene our Victorian Forefathers were something else they were awsume I would reccomend all Peters books on this subject he has made it his own Fantastic Brilliant
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