First of a trilogy in which Shirley (Transmaniacon, City Come A 'Walkin) steps up with an ominous, often persuasive, but overstuffed and sluggish hard-cover debut. In the early 21st century, America has suffered an economic collapse, allowing the Russians to invade Western Europe. In a fairly static war where tactical nuclear weapons are used but not ICBMs. the battlefront shifts between Amsterdam and Paris, with the Russians slowly yielding. Behind NATO lines, governments are cynically turning over responsibility for internal policing to the Second Alliance, ostensibly a private antiterrorist and security company, in actuality an amalgam of Moral Majority and fascist power-brokers with vast resources. Resistance to the SA is scattered and ineffectual until the advent of Steinfeld, a Mossad-connected agent being funded by the industrialist Witcher for undisclosed reasons. Slowly, Steinfeld puts together a team: Smoke, former lecturer and anti-fascist; Rickenharp, last of the old-fashioned electric-guitar rock musicians; Hard-Eyes, a revolutionary in search of a cause; and Claire Rimpler, daughter of the founder of a space colony, fleeing an SA-inspired takeover. These subplots, and others involving resistance moles within the SA, are well orchestrated; the scenario is chillingly plausible and carefully developed. But the main drawback here is the writing, with overblown descriptions, overbearing technical details, and a down-and-dirty, hard-rocking, jangling texture: all that Heavy Metal clanks loudly--and weighs a ton.