cover image Coyote Bird

Coyote Bird

James DeFelice, Author St. Martin's Press $18.95 (282p) ISBN 978-0-312-06939-1

In the near future of this techno-thriller, the latest top-secret U.S. strategic reconnaissance aircraft, the Minerva, is about to be succeeded by the Coyote Bird, a plane that flies so fast and so high that it seems invulnerable. Its sophisticated system of computers makes the pilot a virtual passenger. But Japanese nationalists have secretly built a computer-controlled aircraft armed with a Russian-designed particle-beam weapon, and they plan to use their technological triumph as a lever to remilitarize their country. Crack pilot Lt. Col. Tom Wright and computer scientist Jennifer Fitzgerald take center stage in America's effort to foil the plot. First novelist DeFelice refreshes the genre by regarding flying as more important than killing, and his Coyote Bird, among the more credible future aircraft in recent fiction, is not merely a means to a violent end. Instead the Japanese conspiracy becomes the justification for an old-fashioned airplane story. DeFelice's presentations of high-altitude, high-performance flight, with its positive interfacing of man and computer, offer a lyrical answer to the vexing question of pilot obsolescence. (Mar.)