"A fast-paced, intricate and humanistic work of reportage... Restless Valley is filled with unforgettable characters, eloquent vignettes and searing imagery... starts to read like a novel" -- Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books (click here for the full review)
“… sharp and entertaining… [The stories] are vigorous and bold.” – The Wall Street Journal (click here for the full review)
“The weird, the strange, the corrupt, and the grand are all evident in Philip Shishkin’s Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia. …he relentlessly pursues and then tells the stories of the most corrupt and powerful and also the most sincere and admirable characters who inhabit these mountains.”—Ahmed Rashid, the New York Review of Books (click here for the full review)
"This one's a thriller... exciting and absorbing" -- Tom Lutz, Los Angeles Review of Books (click here for the full review)
"'The Stans'—as the far-off states of Central Asia are known in the White House, remain a lost world. But few of the old Soviet lands have fallen farther, or faster, amid plagues both ancient and modern: militant Islam, secular greed, a surging heroin trade, civil war, revolution and throughout it all the rule of dictatorships. Throw in the Pentagon's hunger for a staging ground to take on the Taliban, and you've got a dark maze. Thankfully, Philip Shishkin illuminates this tale with uncommon skill. Whether curious tourists or students of 21st-century geopolitics, readers would be hard-pressed to find a better guide."—Andrew Meier, author of Black Earth: A Journey through Russia after the Fall
"You'll finish the book with a greater understanding of Central Asia and the feeling that you yourself have been on a journey that you'll never forget, and made some friends along the way. Shishkin's writing evokes John Le Carre crossed with Raymond Chandler and the result is a mesmerizing read." -- Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice
"Shishkin shines as a reporter." -- Joshua Foust, Foreign Policy magazine (click here for the full review)
"Absorbing.... an investigative eye for detail, probing interviews, biting wit..." -- Alexander Cooley writing in The Atlantic sister publication Quartz (click here for the full review)
"Enlightening... Shishkin vividly explores, through first-hand experience, interviews, and public record, the sort of events which could fuel a dozen action movies... A fascinating exposé..." -- Publishers Weekly (click here for the full review)
"Rarely does an outsider get to experience Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan as intimately as Shishkin, [...] who has made his way into virtually every turbulent moment in the recent history of these countries." -- Foreign Affairs (click here for the full review)
"... skilled reportage in which he displays a fine eye for detail and particularly for the human touches that underscore major events" -- The National newspaper (click here for the full review)
Imagine a region so rife with tensions and intrigue that in less than a decade it produced two revolutions in the same country, elaborately planned assassinations, a massacre of unarmed civilians, a heroin-smuggling superhighway, a civil war, and advanced cases of dictatorship, corruption, and money-laundering. On top of all that, the region has served as a staging ground for the American war in Afghanistan. This is the story of post-Soviet Central Asia, a place afflicted by conflicts both old and new, and now finding itself pinned prominently on the global geopolitical map.
In Restless Valley, award-winning journalist Philip Shishkin offers a riveting firsthand account of Central Asia, peopled with unforgettable characters—heroin cooks, revolutionaries, dictators, money-launderers, mafia kingpins, shrewd Western businessmen, and regular folks struggling with the absurdities around them. Animated by an acute sense of history, the book combines investigative journalism and travelogue, and features true stories that wouldn’t be out of place in a fiction thriller.
In a narrative that is compassionate and at times darkly funny, Shishkin focuses mostly on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, reconstructing how these fragile states above Afghanistan’s northern border have ricocheted between extreme repression and democratic strivings; how alliances with the United States and Russia have brought mixed blessings; and how Stalin’s legacy of ethnic gerrymandering incites conflict even now.