cover image Day of the Cheetah

Day of the Cheetah

Dale Brown. Dutton Books, $18.95 (504pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-121-1

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)