The best-selling author of Without Remorse (1993) and the nonfiction Submarine (1993) examines the past, present, and future of America’s largest warships. Clancy offers an insider’s look at the key capital ship in the American naval forces, the aircraft carrier, and the various “systems” (that’s Clancy-speak for weapons, especially aircraft and missles) aboard them. Clancy offers an alphabet soup of military acronyms but overall manages to give a thorough look at exactly what the role of the carrier is in a navy that no longer faces a major blue-water threat, as it did when the carrier was developed to take on the Japanese and then the Soviets. Clancy focuses on the new role of the carrier as an offensive platform to launch strikes, as it did in the Gulf war and continues to do in Bosnia. Clancy, always the consumate navy booster, looks at the manner in which the hugely expensive carriers have been negelected during times of peace, only to be returned to their place of importance when international events heated up. Lumped in with the carrier is a history of the development and mission of naval aviation, which makes for far more fascinating reading than the history of their floating airfields. Clancy’s conversations with naval personal, especially the chief of naval operations, Admiral Jay Johnson, are wooden, as if they were conducted by fax rather than in person. The concluding chapter, in which Clancy casts his imagination forward 20 years to the role US carriers might play in a nuclear conflict between India and Afghanistan, is worth the price of admission; though too brief, for drama it ranks with the scenarios he creates in his novels. Clancy’s loyal followers, especially those in the military, are sure to love this rich look at our nation’s most expensive floating hardware, but they will need to cut through Clancy’s sabre-rattling along the way.