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Extending his sequence of Robert Ludlum-like 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 As the ship nears the Moon, Parnell discovers that ""Paul Dooley"" has been replaced by a double, and that a treacherous plot is unfolding.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.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Ace/Berkley