Author: Stephen Coonts
Original language: English
Publisher: Open Road Media, New York, 1994
Coonts’s sixth techno-thriller to feature Jake Grafton (The Red Horseman) takes the heroic Navy aviator back to 1973, immediately following the events of his debut in Flight of the Intruder. Disillusioned by the killing and dying “for nothing” that he saw in Vietnam, Jake is at a crossroads. Should he try to find his way in civilian life, or stay in the service and make the demanding transition from hotshot jet jockey to professional Naval officer? He mulls over his decision while flying A-6 Intruders with a Marine squadron assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. As always with Coonts, the terrors and elations of flying take center stage, with Jake and his buddies bluffing death regularly during night landings and equipment failures, and in the face of mistakes that even the best pilots make. But as Jake deals with a threatening Soviet vessel, is chased by a MiG, saves his plane after it has been hit by lightning and finally is shot down and captured by Sumatran pirates, it becomes clear that the novel is comprised of episodes adrift from any solid plotline; it’s as if Coonts has stuffed this grab bag willy-nilly with every flying incident he couldn’t work into his other books. With its dominant question, about Jake’s future, a foregone conclusion, this story stands as one of the weakest in the series, recommended only for flight-hungry armchair pilots uninterested in ancillaries like proper plot, character development and suspense.