Real-life astronaut/first-novelist Carpenter dreams up a cold, wet world of underwater gliders, water-breathing Russians, and a Soviet plot to revive the Cold War--in this case, by using the latest in earthquake encouragement technology. Once you buy the premise of a supersecret American submarine that gets its mobility from gliding and soaring on underwater "thermals," you might as well buy a supersecret Soviet program to identify the toughest young commandos and then turn them into surgically modified submarine tracheal breathers impervious to the cold and capable of living for months underwater. From there it should be no trouble to accept yet another supersecret Soviet plot: this time it's to sabotage the Gorbachev reforms and restore the tranquility of the Brezhnev years by suckering the Americans into a shooting match with the help of the miserable frogmen, some old-fashioned nuclear explosions, and a huge computer-and-communications electromagnetic pulse--all of which will put an entirely unsuitable vice president into the oval office. The best hopes for America's future rest with Rick Tallman, an insubordinate, hotshot Navy pilot whose wings have been clipped. He's been ordered to become a SEAL, an underwater commando, and to take the controls of The Steel Albatross, the submarine glider, in order to find and elminate the Soviet mutant divers and their hide-out. Ridiculous but fun.