A sensitive Air Force cadet arrives on a visit to his parents in Tehran on the eve of the Shah's fall, unaware of the tapestry of coming-of-age experiences that awaits him. The time before Dante Diamond's landing in Tehran is filled with reminiscences of his term at ``the Zoo,'' the Air Force Academy, where one best friend, Mitchell James III, cracked under the pressure to follow in his family's military tradition, and another, Scott Hind, concealed beneath his commanding swagger the prophetic certainty that he would die on April 24, 1980. But even after Dante catches up with his parents--doting Beatrice and gung-ho Brigadier General Thierren Boyd (T-Boy) Diamond--his narrative, and his elliptical letters to his wife Faith, who never appears, are filled with recursive snapshots of his childhood, his Air Force training, and his brief affair with his flight commander Troy Daniels--all pointed toward his recognition of an uncanny affinity he finds within himself for Persian culture. Ghossemi Nehlad, the driver who saved the General from assassination, appreciates and fosters this affinity in ways that are hard to read, eventually matching Dante, a passionate mountain-climber, with a Kurdish sherpa named Asadollah, who may well be an agent of the Shah's secret police bent on sabotaging the planned climb of Kooh Dam†vand, Iran's highest mountain. Even the harrowing ascent of Dam†vand, however, is shrouded in a mystical reverie that the novel's historical conclusion intensifies still further. An endnote acknowledges that this first novel life as a long poem, and it shows: Liotta's gestures toward melodrama have the effect of providing grist for, or even simply interrupting, the meditations on Iran as seen from a strenuously Western point of view.