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Black Star
By Robert Gandt

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Black Star
By Robert Gandt
Thorndike Press: Large Print, (2004)
ISBN: 0-7862-6212-5
Genre: Techno-Thriller, Suspense

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - June 14, 2004

Shortly after declaring Taiwan a sovereign country, the Taiwanese President Li Hou-sheng is killed when his plane explodes, somewhere over the China Sea. Everyone's first reaction is that he was killed by the Chinese, but neither the experts on the ground, nor the navy piolets that had been escorting the jetliner could contribute the explosion to any hostile activity. Could his death have been caused by something as benign as mechanical failure, or was there a more sinister cause behind the destruction of the plane, codenamed, Dynasty One, and all aboard her?

For Brick Maxwell, who saw an odd shimmer of light just before the jetliner was exploded, the answer is soon obvious. The president's jetliner had to have been shot down, and the only thing that could have done it was a stealth fighter. He just has to figure out how to prove his theory. Of all the men and women on the U.S.S Reagan, Maxwell is the only one to have any knowledge of the new, secret, stealth fighter named the Black Star that is currently under development at a secret location near Las Vegas. He is also one of the few people in the world to have ever flown the craft. Now, he fears that the Chinese were given, or stole, the plans for the craft and had built their own version of the deadly flying machine. To complicate matters, the death of the Taiwanese president is rapidly precipitating an all-out war between Taiwan and the Mainland China. If the Chinese do indeed have their own version of the Black Star, they will have the edge over Taiwan during the war, and the only way that the tiny Island nation could prevail against such an enemy is if the United States joined the fight. Doing so, however, could easily start world war three.

Maxwell is an intriguing character. He tries to put on a tough-man image, but it's obvious that he has a tender side. His first name is really Sam, but everyone calls him by his nickname, Brick. He's an ace pilot, Naval commander, and he's an ex-test pilot and astronaut. His wife was also an astronaut, but she was killed some time ago in a Shuttle accident. Maxwell is well respected by his fellow office, both for being an outstanding fighter pilot and for being an honorable man. Once Maxwell proves that the Chinese have the Black Star. It falls upon him to go in and get it back! Backed by a group of no-nonsense Taiwanese commandos, a black-sheep Air force pilot, and Mai-ling, a beautiful Chinese defector, he embarks upon a suicidal mission to find the Chinese Dong-jin, and steal it back. To make his task just a little more difficult, he doesn't know which side Mai-ling is really on, the leader of the Taiwanese commandos doesn't like having to work with the Americans nor with Mai-ling, and best of all, if he is captured by the Chinese, the U.S. will deny that they ever heard of him, or his mission.

Black Star is a fast paced, techno-thriller by Robert Gandt. A former Navy fighter pilot, commercial pilot, crop duster, flight instructor, and air show pilot, Gandt knows his planes inside and out! Information about various military aircraft, flight operations, and aviation tidbits are seamlessly interwoven throughout the story. Best of all, Gandt explains what all 'those' military acronyms and radio codes really mean - without you even being aware that an explanation is being offered. In addition to being a swash-bucking aviation / military thriller, this is also a spy story. Someone either gave or stole the plans for the super-secret Black Star to China, and before the end of the story, you find out just who the traitor is and why he did what he did.

This is a fast paced story, with a lot of shooting, explosions, naval warfare, and seat of your pants action. When Gandt writes a fighting scene, you feel as if you should duck. The characters are not as well wrought as the planes, but when you're reading this story, you won't care. Granted, the planes are by far the stars of this story, yet without Maxwell and the other human characters, the dialog would get a little bland. *grin* I can't wait to read more about Brick Maxwell's adventures! Black Star is highly recommended for anyone seeking some literary excitment.

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