The theft of a SuperAegis antiballistic-missile satellite launches this latest Jake Grafton technothriller from Coonts (Hong Kong, 2000, etc.).
The satellite, first of eight to be sent up as a worldwide shield against missiles, lifts off, swerves off-course, fails to fire its third-stage booster or destruct as ordered, and, with all tracking stations suddenly down, disappears. Then really bad stuff happens at a Connecticut sub base when Russian and German hirelings hijack the brand-new USS America, a stealth submarine of fabulous resources. (Rather improbably, the takeover takes place amid submachine gun fire inside the sub, endangering the hull as well as sending rounds ricocheting who knows where in a cramped space.) After dumping half the crew overboard and holding the rest as hostages, the hijackers try to comprehend just what they’ve hijacked. The America’s power lever is merely a computer joystick. The sub has no periscope, only a mast with light sensors that read photonic signals and a 25-gigabyte-per-second Revelation computer that processes a fantastic digital picture of the entire ocean about them: “The sea was as clear as glass. He could see hulls of other boats, buoys, the bottom of the sound, the shards of a sunken ship.” Black magic? No, but the hijackers find themselves deep into electronics that strain their resources. Meanwhile, chief investigator Marine Commandant Flap Le Beau uses Jake Grafton as his point man in trying to connect the sub hijacking with the satellite’s disappearance. Soon the America fires E-bombs that crunch nearly all electronic devices in a ten-mile radius, downing jetliners and leaving New York and Washington without power, while the Pentagon runs on emergency generators with only a few computers online. Hudson Security Services sends an assassin to do in Grafton, who learns that Zelda Hudson stole the sub to recover the satellite, which sank ten miles off Cape Barbas, so she could sell SuperAegis. But to whom?
Coonts’s action and the techno-talk are as gripping as ever.