USAF Major General Richard ``Duke'' James, the high-flying hero of The Phalanx Dragon (1994) and other of Rizzi's technothrillers, does earthbound battle against savage North Koreans and a vicious home-front foe in this latest test of his considerable mettle. When Han Sinchon, the aging head of North Korea's Special Forces, gets word to the US (through Communist China) that he's prepared to launch a coup that could lead to the reuniting of his partitioned country, the White House details Duke to meet with him on Langau, a barren island in the Sea of Japan. Hedging its bets, however, Beijing informs Pyongyang about the American officer's mission, and Allan Manning, the US President's coke-snorting chief of staff (a closet homosexual who's being blackmailed by his estranged wife), is bent on sabotaging it to keep James from earning the National Security Advisor's post he covets for himself. Manning betrays Duke (and his country) to arms merchant Carl Hawkens whose Pakistani associate, Ghaith Bandar, is the go-between on deals that could upgrade the nuclear capabilities of Iran as well as North Korea and permit renegade Vietnamese to export biological weapons. When Duke reaches the rocky shores of Langau, then, the enemy is waiting for him. While the resourceful emissary strives to keep himself and his elderly contact alive, Washington mounts a massive rescue effort that soon pits an AWACS-directed squadron of F-15E Eagles against the Pyongyang military regime's Russian-made interceptors in a genuinely gripping series of aerial engagements. Duke lives to fight another day, albeit at no small cost in blood and high-tech equipment. Furious state-of-the-art action on land, at sea, and (especially) in the air, plus credibly malefic skullduggery behind the lines, will speed most readers past the holes in a plot charitably characterized as serviceable.