This one-volume compendium is a sign that the Cold War is indeed finished. Generally accurate and concise, it has its share of anomalies -- why, one wonders, does Kurt Waldheim deserve a full page, when Maurice Thorez is unmentioned? The brief biography of Thomas Gates, Eisenhower's last secretary of defense, fails to mention his pivotal role in chairing a commission under Richard Nixon that put an end to the draft. Still, this work may help those in search of capsule biographies or brief accounts of well-known episodes. No surprises here, of course, but the book is adequate for its purposes. Those now entering high school may wish to browse through it, wondering at a riven world that their parents once took for granted and assumed would last indefinitely.