Stephen Coonts, Author . St. Martin's $14.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-28998-0

A flight of fancy and a departure from Coonts's bestselling techno-thrillers (Flight of the Intruder, etc.) pits an eager young grad student against seasoned military, government and corporate raider types for control of an ancient flying saucer dug out of a sandstone outcrop in the Sahara. Rip Cantrell is acting as gofer for a seismic survey when a glint of metal in the sand catches his eye. Aided by archeologists from a nearby dig, he unearths the ship, but the U.S. Air Force UFO team shows up followed shortly by armed thugs sent by Australian mogul Roger Hedrick. When the Libyan army appears on the scene as well, Rip and test pilot Capt. Charlotte (Charley) Pine manage to hijack the controls of the saucer, evading all their pursuers and flying to the Missouri farm of Rip's Uncle Egg, "inventor, wizard, mechanic extraordinaire." Egg cues Charley and Rip to the saucer's advanced flight capabilities, and they make decoy runs to mask their real location. But Hedrick tracks them down, and Charley is forced by a Hedrick operative to fly the saucer to the mogul's Australian ranch. Rip heads Down Under with rescue in mind when the UFO team (previously in Libyan captivity) are set free and tell all on TV, forcing Hedrick to change plans. He puts the saucer up for sale to one lucky nation, but has a sinister plan that Charley vows to disrupt. The moves get more deadly as the bidding begins, and Rip comes on the scene for a predictably spectacular ending. More Cussler than Clancy, this cartoonish slice of escapism is also more hokey than suspenseful ("But saucers do exist. There one is!"); still, it's tough to put down. Major ad/promo. (Mar. 12)

Reviewed on: 01/28/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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