Even as he is heavily engaged in arms negotiations and Star War technicalities, John Ryan, hero of The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, must come up with a plan to get the CIA's most important informer out of the hands of the KGB. CIA strategic wizard John Ryan (Sir John to his British chums) is as smart as anybody in Langley, but even Ryan has a little trouble following the ins and outs of the physics and engineering it takes to get a first-class Strategic Defense Initiative laser and mirror project up and running. Fortunately, the US government has a team of top-notch boffins on the job, and our lasers are starting to score hits. But the Soviets haven't been napping, and they're the first to zap a satellite on the wing, using, apparently, smoke and mirrors. It would be a strategic disaster were not details of the Soviet project arriving regularly, sent by Colonel Misha (Codename: Cardinal) Filitov, three-time Hero of the Soviet Union and aide to the Defense Minister. Misha, while loyal to the motherland, has no use for the current management. He's been getting away with spying for 30 years, but his luck has run out, and the KGB are on to him. There is, at the same time, a leak in the American ranks, and our Star Wars secrets are anything but. And, while all this technozapping and spying are going on, there's a band of Afghan rebels ready to take on the Russian army at a super-secret base near the border. Oh, and there's a coup hatching in the Politburo that might put the Politburo back in the Stone Age. Ryan's not the only one with his hands full. Less reliant on technoblather than previous Clancy works, and awash in subplots, most of them entertaining. Plenty of action; no mushy stuff.