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The Day of the Cheetah


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Brown's third technothriller is based on a premise successfully developed a decade ago in Clive Thomas's Firefox : the theft of an advanced-design fighter. This time the year is 1996; the fighter is America's X-34 Dreamstar; and its secret is ANTARES: the interfacing of the pilot's nervous system and the aircraft's computer. The plane's hijack by its pilot, a KGB mole, sets the stage for a fast-moving spectrum of diplomatic and military measures to recover or destroy the prize without starting a world war. Ultimately the task falls to the Cheetah--an F-15 with its own updated avionics, but an ``older, less intelligent cousin'' of Dreamstar. Brown's action scenes are vivid; his descriptions of contemporary technology accurate; his projections into the near future of aircraft design convincing; and his characterization of the growing internal conflict in the mole has weight and substance. Among the book's flaws, however, is Brown's decision to depend heavily on characters first presented in Flight of the Old Dog , so that he frequently disrupts the narrative with references to the earlier mission. More seriously for a work of this genre, Brown seems at times almost bored with the fighter technology he is describing. Despite its drawbacks, however, this novel should be a strong contender in the summer's technothriller sweepstakes. $125,000 ad/promo; paperback rights to Berkley; BOMC featured selection; author tour. (July)

Keith James, the hottest pilot at Dreamland, a secret Air Force base in the Nevada desert, is the only man fully qualified to fly Dreamstar , a highly maneuverable fighter flown by computer software linked to the pilot's brain. But in 1996, James, a Soviet mole trained from childhood in his alter ego, steals Dreamstar . The Cheetah , an experimental F-15 fighter, must hunt it down and destroy it. The hero is ace B-52 navigator Pat McLanahan from Brown's first novel, The Flight of the Old Dog, assisted by the Old Dog's crew. Aviation buffs will delight in the breathtaking dogfights and air strikes. One must overlook improbable details, e.g., a computer tracking every synaptic impulse in the nervous system, bomber types leading a fighter research effort. Those willing to fly in Brown's imaginative skies can enjoy an exhilarating high-tech adventure. BOMC featured selection.)-- Elsa Pendleton, Computer Sciences Corp., Ridgecrest, Cal.

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