Meyer is a first-rate storyteller, but behind his story lies a wise insight often missed when Iran, Pakistan, and the former Soviet south are perceived as disconnected. In fact, they form the core of a new and deeply troubled inner Asia. Centuries of imperial overlordship have obscured the worrying way in which these lands come together. Meyer reunites them by exploring their historical past with a sharp eye for the arresting and the essential, highlighting the conceits, rationalizations, at times brutality, and high-minded ignorance by which the British, French, Russians, and, at key points, the Americans imposed their influence over these lands. The "dust of empire," in de Gaulle's phrase, has been toxic, and, as Meyer takes pains to underscore, an overweening United States is as capable of coming to grief in this part of the world as its predecessors.