The melodrama and suspense that weighed down Long's previous climbing novel, Angels of Light (1987), are jettisoned for a story of an American assault on Mt. Everest. Sino-Tibetan politics and the echoes of an old climbing disaster are the primary outside complications in this starkly realistic climbing adventure. Paramedic Abe Burns is the last- minute replacement for the medical member of ``Ultimate Summit,'' a team assault on Mt.Everest from the Tibetan side of the Himalayas. Burns was nominated by superclimber Daniel Corder, whose life Burns helped save on his first mountain rescue. The two men, who haven't seen each other since that time, have been psychically linked by their memory of Diana--Daniel's climbing partner who died slowly, trapped in the ice with only Abe for company after being abandoned by the teenaged Daniel. Now, after a trek from Nepal, the team--a mixed bag, including two women--gathers on the shoulder of the mountain to establish their base under the creepy, watchful eye of their Chinese host. During a long wait for their yak supply train, the climbers sort out their pecking order and become involved in the drama of a young Tibetan priest who's been the victim of Chinese political abuse. The spirit of the priest becomes critical to the climb itself--an ordeal described in unmistakably experienced detail. Rather long and devoid of creature comforts, but Long's well- researched story is outstanding for its grimly accurate and thoroughly unromantic depiction of one of the great wild adventures left on earth.