SHADOW FLIGHT.Joe Weber.Presidio Press.368 pages...

BOOK BRIEFS

April 07, 1991|By GARY ROEN NEW CHICAGO STORIES. Edited by Fred L. Gardaphe. City Stoop Press. 192 pages. $8.95.

SHADOW FLIGHT.

Joe Weber.

Presidio Press.

368 pages. $19.95.

Sometime in the near future the B-2 bomber, on its maideflight near the Canadian border, disappears from radar screens across the country without a trace. At first it is suspected that the plane crashed. It is later learned that it has been hijacked and flown to Cuba. The president orders the military to get the weapon back at all costs. The Kremlin disavows any knowledge and informs the president that it has its own problems to worry about.

But the craft was taken by a faction of Soviets that, in spite of glasnost and the growing friendship between the two nations, still feels they are mortal enemies. Complicating matters further is Fidel Castro, who does not want to return the U.S. property in spite of a buildup of U.S. military presence.

In his introduction, Mr. Weber gives a brief overview of what has been happening in the Soviet Union. From his prologue onward, he projects a situation -- what if a certain coalition of dissidents that refuses to go along with the government somehow is allowed to carry out its devious plan? The author, who was a fighter pilot, brings that experience to the novel with realistic descriptions of what it is like to fly the Stealth bomber. "Shadow Flight" moves along briskly to its smashing climax with believable characters and events.

This is a collage of 12 multicultural narratives, all of which take place in contemporary Chicago. Mr. Gardaphe succeeded in gathering themes that together reflect upon the major ethnic groups living there, but, because of the book's urban universality, could easily have been written with Baltimore as the focal point. The tales are an intriguing blend -- perhaps assimilation is the better word -- of ethnic/cultural folkways; the major characters include Americans of African, Italian, Russian, Polish and Hispanic extraction.

The effects of pollution, racism, homophobia, disintegration of family life and the abortion issue are skillfully woven into the stories. "Conversations With an Absent Lover on a Beachless Afternoon," by Ana Castillo, stands out above the others for its excellent treatment of a woman's inner thoughts. This book is delightful and easy reading.

ANGELO C. GILLI SR.

THE TRUE CONFESSIONS

OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE.

Avi.

Orchard Books.

215 pages. $14.95; ages 11

and up.

A suspenseful and exciting adventure from the dramatic froncover to the surprising conclusion, this is an unusual tale of the proper Charlotte Doyle in the 1830s. The young lady is bound for home and family, to be housed in first-class cabins with other children and their parents. It doesn't happen that way. She finds herself the only passenger and her quarters are cramped, with a shelf for a bed, no porthole and crawly animals as roommates. The name Capt. Jaggery means nothing to her, but she gets the first idea of how others regard him when the porter drops her trunk upon hearing "Jaggery."

The crew seems to be one man short, but nothing is exactly as it seems aboard the brig Seahawk. Constance's idea of how she should behave as a member of her class does not prepare her adequately for her experiences on this journey. A friendly crewman slips her a knife "for her protection." She is befriended by the captain, who uses her as a spy, as she feels it her duty to report what she knows of the crew. The reader shares her confusion about what is the truth and who is to be trusted. Constance is drawn into mutiny and murder, and eventually is accused of murder, and the crime of being "unnatural" -- of wanting to be a man.

Does safety await her at home? Hardly. Avi has written a melodramatic tale that the American Library Association awarded a 1991 Newbery Honor Medal.

JUDITH B. ROSENFELD

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