Retired USAF Colonel Patrick McLanahan and his band of irregulars help turn the tide when the People's Republic of China makes war on its lost province of Taiwan, in another high adventure from past master Brown (Shadows of Steel, 1996, etc.). On the eve of Hong Kong's return to China, the nationalists on Taiwan unexpectedly announce their complete independence from the mainland and are immediately recognized by Kevin Martindale, the US President. Taipei's declaration enrages Beijing's hardline Communists, and the Red regime dispatches a carrier force to patrol the Formosa Straits. A heavily armed EB-52 Megafortress on a test flight with a civilian crew under McLanahan's command becomes involved in the resultant confrontation. Initially, the American bomber (extensively modified by McLanahan's employer to carry advanced weaponry) tips the balance, but China's vessels launch nuclear-tipped missiles that wipe out the nationalist warships. On the home front, political adversaries in Congress and business interests (concerned about their commercial stakes in China) put intense pressure on Martindale to let Taiwan go by the boards; the turf-conscious American military also presses the White House to take the McLanahan crew (over which they have minimal control) out of the increasingly deadly game. But under the crafty direction of Admiral Sun Ji Guoming (an ardent patriot bent on returning Taiwan to the mainland fold), hostilities escalate and US forces sustain severe losses. Ordered to stand down in the wake of a tragic mistake, McLanahan's experimental aircraft escapes to Guam (before that island is obliterated by China's missiles) and fights on the side of the nationalists in a climactic battle that effectively finishes off Sun's vaulting ambitions. Nobody, in detailing the lethal excitements of high-tech aerial combat in at least plausible geopolitical contexts, does it better than Brown.