Extending his sequence of Robert Ludlumlike titles, Steele's latest jaunt (The Jericho Iteration, 1994) is set in an alternate world where America's space program, despite the establishment of a Moon base, a visit to Mars, and other successes, has run out of credibility and money and is being sold off to a German concern. One problem remains: A US silo on the Moon contains nuclear missiles that must be deactivated before the Germans take over. So the US Space Agency organizes one last mission, comprising pilot Gene Parnell, co-pilot Cris Ryer (a lesbian and thus despised by most of her colleagues), flight engineer Jay Lewitt—plus one British and two German astronauts, a couple of video journalists, and computer whiz Paul Dooley. As the ship nears the Moon, Parnell discovers that ``Paul Dooley'' has been replaced by a double, and that a treacherous plot is unfolding. The prime suspect is, of course, Ryer—but, disastrously, Dooley's partner turns out to be Lewitt. In the ensuing shoot-out, the journalists are killed by the Germans (the latter are both plotters) while the Brit gets blown away helping Parnell and the loyal Ryer. Behind all the shenanigans is a North Korean attempt to steal the missiles—which the CIA, in its usual efficient fashion, has known all about for months. Impressive in the hardware department, though with disappointingly stereotyped characters—and yet the generous padding, with reportage both real and imaginary, can't disguise the paucity of plot . . . or that Steele's real purpose is more propaganda than entertainment.
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