cover image Sky Masters

Sky Masters

Dale Brown. Putnam, $21.95 (510pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13705-1

Brown's expertise in depicting modern sea-air combat makes his latest techno-thriller a heavy contender for a hot summer read. In 1994, confrontation between China and the Philippines over the oil-rich Spratly Islands flares into a shooting war. A nuclear strike on the Philippine navy brings America into the game, and an anxious president commits the First Air Battle Wing, whose core is a force of B-52s, B-1s and B-2 Stealth bombers crewed by the elite of the Strategic Air Command, to smash a Chinese invasion fleet heading for Mindanao. Brown's presentation of the Sino-Philippine dispute is unconvincing, and his two-dimensional characters, including Air Force Col.Mac MacClanahan (from Flight of the Old Dog , do little more than advance the plot. Moreover, his conviction that aircraft can ultimately overwhelm seaborne defense systems and his insistence on the continued importance of manned strategic bombers are not likely to be universally conceded. These shortcomings, however, are far outweighed by Brown's ability to convey the technological tactics of modern warfare, especially the decisive role of electronics in cockpits and on ship's bridges, and to integrate these details into an exciting war story. Author tour. (July)