Bird-colonel Matt Pontowski (Dark Wing, 1994, etc.) takes his US Air Force Wing on a peacekeeping mission to South Africa, where aggressive white separatists may have made a go of cold fusion (giving them a nuclear capability): Herman's latest entry in a first-rate series of military/political thrillers. It's the near future, and the Afrikaner Resistance Movement has established a Boerstat in the Karoo (a mountainous wasteland north of Cape Town), where the insurgents have stockpiled an impressive arsenal of modern weaponry and (with the help of an Israeli scientist) come close to developing a hydrogen bomb in their remote redoubt (known as Iron Gate). Under the crafty leadership of mad, messianic Hans Beckmann, the breakaway state threatens the stability of South Africa's democratically elected and multiracial (albeit ineffectual) government. Aware of the dangers, America's President takes advantage of a Congressional recess to add Pontowski's aircraft (A-10 Warthogs and C-130 transports) to a UN force previously detailed to maintain order in the region's trouble spots. Bound by strict rules of engagement, however, the high-flying fighter pilot can't come to grips with a fanatic foe bent on achieving not only independence but also dominion. Nor, owing to budget constraints and partisan enmities, is he able to count on much home-front support. Pontowski and his immediate superior, the de Gaullelike commandant of a French Foreign Legion unit, nonetheless soldier on until the dissident homesteaders (backed by Middle European powers seeking a piece of the advanced-technology action) overplay their hand . . . . Vivid, violent scenes of aerial combat and plausible maneuvering behind the lines where geopolitical fates are determined: a notably exciting account of a low-intensity conflict that's uncomfortably credible on its own merits.