Joe Weber, Author . Presidio $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-89141-764-4

Heavy on high-tech thrills but light on almost everything else, Weber's seventh novel zeroes in on that villain of the moment, China, and the ill-conceived fight it decides to pick with the United States. Using jingoistic language that at times harks back to fears of the "yellow peril," Weber (DEFCON One) portrays a nation hungry for power and territory fighting on three fronts—Taiwan, the Panama Canal and the skies above the Pacific Rim. The key to China's military might is a new, top-secret laser gun that destroys U.S. aircraft. As the fierce fighting rages, Washington dispatches private intelligence specialists and former pilots Scott Dalton and Jackie Sullivan to China to kidnap the scientist who built the laser. Quickly learning that its secret has been uncovered and it's now overmatched, China falls back on its last resort: launching nuclear weapons at Hawaii and Alaska. Dalton and Sullivan, who were introduced in 1999's Primary Target, may be very brave, but they're also flavorless and stiff. As lovers whose relationship feels as dull as their personalities, they often appear to compete over who can utter the most banalities. (Sullivan: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Dalton: "Yeah, it's going to be a hot time in Beijing tonight.") Weber's initially promising plot nosedives after the first few chapters, hampered by hokey dialogue, exposition-heavy battle scenes and flagging suspense. (Apr.)

Forecast:Weber is no stranger to bestseller lists and Presidio's planned $75,000 promo campaign will guarantee visibility, but don't expect strong reviews.

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
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