Bulliet's record as a forecaster of international upsets is only so-so: The Tomb of the Twelfth Imam (1979) had the Shah triumphing over the ayatollahs. But again, as in Tomb, the mixture of semi-serious futurology and black-comic frivolity is hectically engaging--with the focus this time on Pakistan and the Persian Gulf. Carl Webster, top idea-man at the Harvard-MIT Strategic Research Group, has disappeared--while in the middle of devising ""GULFSCENE III,"" a possible scenario for a power-shift in oil-rich Arabia. Furthermore, his wife, her lesbian lover, and a local cop are all murdered--apparently because they had access to the top-secret GULFSCENE papers. What's going on? Well, Carl (an amoral, childish genius) has been willingly abducted to Pakistan, where the new president is ready to put GULFSCENE III into action: it's a plan whereby Pakistan and India team up to grab the Gulf--using Pakistani soldiers (already in place as mercenaries for the Arabs) and Indian nuclear-bomb threats! So while Pakistani forces start mobilizing in assorted emirates, US authorities try to figure out exactly what GULFSCENE III consists of; then the CIA sends a team in to rescue Carl--who doesn't want to be rescued; tough CIA agent Roxanne Samsun (an honorary Afghan guerrilla) winds up imprisoned along with obnoxious Carl, trading insults with him even as they heat up romantically. But eventually, when it becomes clear that Pakistan intends to double-cross India and do a dangerous variation on GULFSCENE III, Carl decides to get rebellious: he and Roxanne foil an assassin, escape from Islamabad, and head (via Afghanistan) for Arabia--where they'll do their utmost to stop the scenario, aided by an eccentric gaggle of US/UK oil-world expatriates. Complete with final triple-twists and the inevitable KGB mole in Washington: busy, sometimes talky folderol--but savvy and nastily amusing enough to beguile the right sort of cynical, sophisticated reader.