Pieczenik (Pax Pacifica, 1995, etc.) offers a sluggish, unforgivably talky near-future tale in which four western governors with more guts than brains lock horns with a federal government whose increasingly autocratic actions have driven even law-abiding citizens into the arms of secessionists. National Guard units seize Glen Canyon Dam at the start of a July 4 weekend, and the US is on the brink of its second Civil War. In the name of states' rights, the governors of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming call for the immediate return of lands and resources expropriated by Washington for environmental or military purposes. With both the president and his veep conveniently out of the country, Secretary of State Barbara Reynolds is minding the store in the nation's capital. Aware that the breakaway jurisdictions have foreign allies (especially France) prepared to support them for commercial reasons, Reynolds responds in measured fashion, first seeking guidance from a self-consciously multicultural advisory board and then dispatching Allison Carter (her clever medical officer) to parley with the rebels at their remote command post in the Grand Tetons. Once there, he clashes with Josiah Brigham, the militant governor of Utah, and joins forces with Coloradan Cheri Black (an apparent co-conspirator who's been drummed out of the conspiracy for insufficient ardor). As US troops regain control of federal properties and as American agents fire warning shots across the bows of European ships of state, luscious Cheri and smitten Al head into the hinterland. The crafty pair eventually track Brigham to his lair in Salt Lake City. In this muddled version of future shock, good fellows and bad have world enough and time to crack wise or to debate the Constitution and its meanings with considerable eloquence and at great length. Their disinclination to stop chatting and get on with the harder jobs at hand, though, leaves both their insurrection and counterattack DOA.