Stephen Coonts immediately thrusts the reader into an exciting adventure with the reported disappearance of SuperAegis, a satellite forming the foundation of a new American-European-Russian antimissile defense system. Rear Admiral Jake Grafton, who has appeared in several other novels by Coonts, is summoned to find the missing satellite. However, before Grafton makes much progress, the U.S.S. America, a nuclear submarine with extremely advanced technology, is hijacked by terrorists while making its maiden voyage into the North Atlantic. Grafton spearheads the investigation to solve both mysteries and determine their possible interconnection.
From America, the hijackers launch Tomahawk cruise missiles containing electromagnetic pulse warheads onto Washington D.C., New York City, and other key locations, frying all the unprotected electronic circuits within a ten-mile radius of each hit and totally devastating these major cities. Chaos reigns along the east coast of the United States, as communications falter, jet-liners are brought down, and the dollar plunges. With the help of a convicted felon, a Marine commander, and his aide, Toad Tarkington, Grafton works quickly and feverishly to link the satellite and submarine cases together and track down the hijackers, including the German financier who is at the bottom of the entire plot.
Taking several unexpected twists and turns, America is loaded with intrigue, adventure, and vast amounts of interesting technical information. The submarine America is lavishly described by Coonts, but the reader is left wanting similar descriptions of the human characters, particularly Grafton. The climax is also rather disappointing. It is quite a stretch to believe that the United States government would use the described tactics to save the nation. Even so, America is a superb technological thriller that serves to remind its readers of the real threat and accompanying devastation posed by terrorist activities.