A wobbly hybrid debut combining superpower confrontations with science fiction--from a well-known professor of astronomy. Something has drilled a small, neat vertical hole through a Russian state-of-the-art aircraft carrier; the Russians, blaming an American particle-beam weapon directed from space, orbit a powerful laser satellite which immediately begins to zap US orbiting hardware. Matters rapidly escalate as the President fumes. Meanwhile, CIA science-officer Robert Issacs ponders peculiar reports suggesting that a very strange Something is drilling small, neat holes right through the Earth! Issacs calls in the Navy, but the investigating ship mysteriously sinks. Suspecting that the hole-drilling Something is connected with the victimized Russian aircraft carrier, Issacs attempts to alert Russian scientists; but his insecure bureaucrat boss McMasters vengefully orders Issacs off the project. Unofficially, then, Issacs takes his data to a California think tank. Result: the mysterious Something is probably a microscopic black hole! (Readers will guess long before the characters do.) But where did it come from? Was it manufactured? If so, by whom, and why? Predictably, things slide off into ""mad genius"" explanations. Combine the plodding thriller aspects with typical first-novel mistakes (uneven pacing, thin characters, lack of focus, etc.) and self-destructive science-fiction ideas (Wheeler presents us with a manufactured black hole while simultaneously telling us such a thing is impossible), and the outcome is often readable but rarely gripping and never fully convincing. The best of the breed remains Gregory Benford's Artifact (1985).