Lawson's books on American wars have been lively and readable, but short on subtlety and socio-political background. The shortages are more pronounced here, where more than 20 centuries of history are summarized in three or four pages, and simplistic negative assessments of Communist economy and government are handed down as the Word. The lack of subtlety is also a problem in the portrayal of Mao himself, for there is no continuity or connection between the grievously ""mistaken"" perpetrator of the Cultural Revolution described at the beginning (Lawson opens with the trial of the Gang of Four) and the end, and the wise, selfless, inspiring leader of his finest hour--or hours: the Long March and World War II. Nevertheless the chronology of those years is full of the brisk action and interaction and human interest detail that makes Lawson's histories see readable. The struggles and eventual victory of Mao's dauntless and committed army make rousing and dramatic copy; and readers will be with the Chairman all the way as he battles harsh Chinese terrain, Japanese ""fanaticism,"" Chiang's treachery, Stalin's shabby treatment (""Stalin's message made Chairman Mao literally hopping mad""), and the American no-win course that also frustrated Stilwell, Service, and others.