What it's really like on the frontline of humanitarian aid It's the early 1990s and three young people are looking to change their lives, and perhaps also the world.
Attracted to the ambitious global peacekeeping work of the UN, Andrew, Ken and Heidi's paths cross in Cambodia, from where their fates are to become inextricably bound.
Over the coming years, their stories interweave through countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti - war-torn, lawless places where the intervention of the UN is needed like nowhere else.
Driven by idealism, the three struggle to do the best they can, caught up in an increasingly tangled web of bureaucracy and ineffectual leadership.
As disillusionment sets in, they attempt to keep hold of their humanity through black humour, revelry and 'emergency sex'. Brutal and moving in equal measure, Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures) explores pressing global issues while never losing a sense of the personal.
Deeply critical of the West's indifference to developing countries and the UN's repeated failure to intervene decisively, the book provoked massive controversy on its initial publication.
Kofi Annan called for the book to be banned, and debate was sparked about the future direction of the UN.
Brilliantly written and mordantly funny, it is a book that continues to make waves.