PANDORA'S CLOCK by John J. Nance


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 Nance (Phoenix Rising, 1994, etc) treads on familiar groundor flies at familiar altitudein his latest: a big ol' jet airliner thrillfest that finds additional inspiration in the recent wave of killer-virus paranoia. Apart from the exceptionally exciting airborne combat sequences, original elements are pretty scarce here: Nance plucks from The Andromeda Strain, The Pelican Brief, and any of a number of airplane books on his way through a novel that puts a deadly virus from the former Soviet Union aboard a packed 747. Captain James Holland, a stolid guy and indefatigable straight-shooter, is a man in mild midlife crisis, recently divorced from his wife and obsessed about getting old. Moreover, he has a young turk pilot from the airline on his back. The last thing Holland needs, then, is a heart-attack victim on his aircraft, an American professor who was inadvertently exposed to a 100-percent-fatal omega virus that a German research firm spirited out of Russia. Rumors abound about the virus's contagiousness as Holland's transatlantic flight from Frankfurt to New York is turned away from every airport in Europe. Eventually, Flight 66 is routed to the Sahara, where US authorities intend to quarantine the plane and its passengers while they die horrible deaths. Renegade CIA deputy director Jonathan Roth, however, sees an opportunity to use Flight 66's dire straits for political ends: Roth figures that since everyone is going to die anyway, he'll scheme to have the 747 shot down and blame it on the Arabs. The resulting aerial duel between the lumbering but durable Flight 66 and a stolen business jet armed with missiles is splendid, over-the-top entertainment. A couple of nominal romantic subplots, one in flight and the other on the ground, detract needlessly from what could have been an impressively taut performance. (Literary Guild selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1995
ISBN: 0-385-47944-1
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995


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