Elliot (An Unexpected Light) traveled to Iran and returned with this finely detailed, timely portrait of a country and culture precariously balanced between East and West, dark and light, integration and Armageddon. Whether careening around the smog and traffic clogged capital city of Tehran in a battered cab or crawling through the rubble-strewn ruins of Persepolis, capital of the ancient Persian kings, Elliot's keen eye, supple mind and compelling way with words captures the rich, complex, contradictory essence of Iran, its history and people. Everywhere he travels, Elliot explores a central question—will Iran, a country with a deep and abiding history of scientific innovation, fine art, high culture and beauty, step into modernity or will the revolutionary mullahs, the guardians and promoters of Islamic fundamentalism, take the country further down the road of isolation. In the cities, a culture of duality exists—behind closed doors, liquor flows freely, music is enjoyed and women are free to express themselves fully. On the streets, however, religious extremism rules, manifested by squads of bearded enforcers looking out for infractions of their version of Islamic law. With Iran so central in the news, this is a good read for the armchair traveler and amateur geo-political strategist alike.