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In this jarringly anti-Muslim thriller, a US stealth cruise missile veers off course during the Gulf War and lands intact in the Iranian desert, giving the government a prototype from which to develop its own cruise missiles and to take up where Saddam Hussein left off. Bakhtiar, a fundamentalist in the Iranian government, arranges to have the prime minister and his right hand man murdered. Once in power, Bakhtiar gets the Ayatollah's blessings to hit a series of oil tankers in the Gulf, making it clear that he will cut off the flow of oil to the West until Iran's economy is resuscitated. Working against him are James Duke, the pilot hero of Nightstalker (1992) and Strike of the Cobra (1993), and an ensemble cast that includes Mark Collins, a CIA agent posing as a weapons trader who is sent in to reactivate communication with ""Zenith""; a female Iranian engineer who had been sending the Agency information; U.S. Vice Admiral Nelson Zachiem III, a politically ambitious career officer eager to prove the Navy can clean up this mess with minimal help from the Air Force; and Democratic senator Paula Jenrette, whose leaks to CNN are implausibly blamed for the outbreak of the war. Rizzi is at his best describing the different airplanes, radars, and weapons and how they all work together. His understanding of Muslim fundamentalism is superficial at best, racist at worst, and although he gives lip service to his female characters' intelligence, ""Zenith"" is a damsel in distress complete with chador, and Jenrette is a soft-headed liberal with blood on her hands. Only Duke and his fellow top guns end up looking good; as everyone else fades out of the picture, they conduct a high speed chase that pits complex US military technology against the Iranians chasing Collins and ""Zenith"" across the medieval landscape. Thin plot, thinner characterizations, great techno-speak and top-gun action.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1994
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Donald Fine