Picking up where they left off in Flight of the Intruder (1986), Coonts and his inimitable Navy flyboy, Lt. Jake Grafton, coast on autopilot in this turgid novel of stick-and-rudder derring-do. Long on jargon, acronyms, and technical descriptions but short on actual storytelling, the saga begins in the days following the 1973 US pullback from Vietnam. On leave, Jake pays a visit to best gal Callie McKenzie's home. Callie's pop, a station wagon liberal embittered by the crippling injuries sustained in battle by his son, Theron, has a heated debate with the usually dovish Jake, precipitating an angry flight to a local watering hole. A few glasses later, Jake overhears a drunk taunting a crippled vet and launches the loudmouth through a window. To escape legal reprisal, our hero gladly accepts his first peacetime assignment: instructing Marine pilots in the manly art of carrier-based flying aboard the USS Columbia. Here's where the eponymous A-6 Intruder attack aircraft comes in, and any semblance of plot departs. Sure, there are many new characters: Hugh Skidmore, aka The Real McCoy, a sassy Navy instructor who plays the stock market; Jake's navigator, ""Flap"" LeBeau, a wisdom-spouting Afro-American Marine; and other types running the gamut from fun-loving to psychotic. But action mainly consists of A-6 crews endlessly executing noncombat maneuvers at sea. A difficult task to be sure, but not interesting enough to hold together a novel. In fact, with the exception of a running subplot featuring a ""line-in-the-sand"" conflict with the nearby Soviet fleet and Jake and Flap's bold escape from gunrunners near the story's end, Coonts's narrative style very closely resembles a commander's log -- sans command. Those hale enough to finish this muddled flight manual cum novel in one sitting will likely possess enough knowledge about the A-6 to fly one in their sleep. A good thing, since the book certainly won't keep them awake.