Americans are the Russians' secret weapon in the battle to preserve the Soviet Union in the too-near future. Peters's best-selling Red Army (1988), written just before the world turned upside down, was a thoroughly realistic ""what-if"" about a Soviet preemptive strike. Now he presents plausible Soviet disunion, a demoralized central government wielding a crippled Red Army against rebellious Islamic republics that have been armed with the absolute latest in weaponry courtesy of their new best friends, the Japanese. It is not a nice world. It is not a nice year. The new millennium has seen a disastrous war between the Americans and the South Africans, a worldwide plague called Runciman's disease that was far worse than AIDS, and shooting wars in South America. The US nearly foundered. Japan made no missteps. Now the resurging Americans have sent the Seventh Cavalry as a last-ditch effort to preserve their old enemy the Soviets against the Muslim horde and their computer-controlled, laser-equipped helicopters. The cavalry is led by Col. George Taylor, a veteran of the African and South American wars and a hideously scarred survivor of Runciman's disease. A soldier's soldier, Taylor plans a brilliant surprise counterattack on the rebel forces and talks the President into backing him against the advice of everyone from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of State. What the brains in Washington have not told Taylor is that the Japanese may be ready to unleash a weapon nastier than any chemical warfare. The cavalry charges straight into the worst cruelty yet to be seen in battle. All is not hopeless, however. At what should be the finest moment for Japanese technology, the masters of the electronic universe find that they may not be any better at controlling the Arab world than anyone else. Powerful stuff and wonderfully timely. Full of futuristic military gadgets, but always intelligible to nonmilitary readers.