Pandora's Clock

Pandora's Clock

by John J. Nance

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The biowarfare people call the bug a Level 4 pathogen. That means no cure. No hope. No survivors.

Now it's loose on Quantum Flight 66. One passenger is already dead. The experts say in 48 hours the rest may follow.

James Holland, former U.S. fighter pilot, now flying this commercial Boeing 747, isn't ready to die. They say he can't land his plane. They say he's

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The biowarfare people call the bug a Level 4 pathogen. That means no cure. No hope. No survivors.

Now it's loose on Quantum Flight 66. One passenger is already dead. The experts say in 48 hours the rest may follow.

James Holland, former U.S. fighter pilot, now flying this commercial Boeing 747, isn't ready to die. They say he can't land his plane. They say he's a threat to the whole world. They're ready to blast him out of the sky.

Captain Holland may be on a collision course with doom-but they're going to have to catch him first. He's determined to take whatever risks he must to outfly them. Outsmart them. And beat...Pandora's Clock.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A combination of The Hot Zone and Speed." —USA Today

"Expect the time of your life." —Chicago Tribune

"Gripping." —Wall Street Journal

"A first-class ride." —People

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A motley assemblage of travelers stranded-on plane, train or ship-by natural forces or man-made threat often provides fodder for gripping novels or movies. Nance (Blind Trust), well aware of this formula's potential, has concocted a doozy of a plot for his latest thriller. Shortly after Quantum Airlines Flight 66 departs Frankfurt, Germany, for New York, one of the passengers succumbs to an apparent heart attack. It may be, however, that Professor Ernest Helms was exposed to a doomsday virus just before boarding his flight; if so, more than 200 passengers and crew members could be dead within a matter of hours. Word of this imminent disaster leaks to governments and media organizations around the world, of course, and the jumbo jet is refused landing clearance everywhere. And when the CIA gets involved, its ambitious director schemes to have the plane destroyed by an infamous terrorist group. As the genre goes, so far, so good. But the suspense seldom mounts here, hindered by a surfeit of hyperbole (``What Erickson must be feeling is unfathomable!''), clunky writing and clichs. Though the author manages a few pulse-pounding sequences, his cardboard characters (most of the passengers are little more than props) and lame repartee keep this thriller on mundane terra firma. Still, Nance leaves the runway clear for a sequel, and fans hooked by Flight 66's dilemma can await the takeoff of #67. First serial to D magazine; major ad/promo; author tour. One-day (Sat.) giveaway at ABA. (Sept.)
Mary Frances Wilkens
Imagine that a man carrying the deadly Ebola virus is aboard an international aircraft that is headed for New York and full of people eager to be home for Christmas. Nance, accomplished pilot, author, and currently aviation consultant for "Good Morning America," brings such a nightmare to life in this unforgettable thriller. Captain James Holland has his hands full trying to get his packed airplane safely home yet he also has to deal with a cocky young copilot and demanding passengers (including a jabbering TV evangelist and an important U.S. ambassador). These obstacles are nothing, however, compared to the pressure he faces when he's forced to make an emergency landing after a passenger dies of a heart attack, and he discovers that every country, including the U.S., is refusing him entry. It seems that the man who died had been exposed to a rare virus strain crafted by the Soviets--an omega strain with a mortality rate of 100 percent. Captain Holland is a sympathetic character; the reader detects his primal fear yet respects his commanding demeanor. A uniquely suspenseful and terrifying story; expect demand due to the book's timely topic and heavy promotion.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.78(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

Aboard Flight 66 - Friday, December 22 - 5:10 P.M. (161oZ.)

As the English coastline passed beneath the nose of Quantum's westbound flight 66, the flight attendant call chime began ringing in the cockpit -- not once, but five times in rapid succession.

There was no procedure for such a signal.

James Holland toggled the interphone as he glanced at Dick Robb, who seemed equally alarmed.

"Flight deck," Holland said.

A tense, feminine voice flooded his ear.

"Captain, this is Linda at door 2B. I think we've got a heart attack here!"

"Okay, how bad is it?"

"He's an older man. Brenda's started CPR," she continued. "He got sick right after liftoff, but suddenly he keeled over in his seat. We gave him oxygen, but he's almost stopped breathing."

"Have you checked to see if there's a doctor aboard?" Holland asked.

"We did, yes. A Swiss doctor responded, and he said we've got to get this man to a hospital fast or we'll lose him."

"Okay, Linda. Keep us informed."

Dick Robb had nodded and was already calling the air traffic controller, anticipating Holland's decision.

"London Center, Quantum sixty-six. We have a medical emergency aboard and need immediate vectors for an emergency landing at..." Robb glanced at Holland and raised an eyebrow, aware he'd jumped the gun -- and equally aware Holland wouldn't protest. What choice did they have?

"Let's go to London Heathrow," Holland shot back. "Ask for priority handling, and we need paramedics to meet us."

"Robb repeated the request and took the new clearance as the captain dialed in the course direct to London and began an autopilotdescent out of thirty-three thousand feet. Holland reached forward at the same time to type "LON" into the flight management computer and hit the execute button. The big Boeing immediately began a turn to the left to follow the new course as Dick Robb folded his arms and sat back with a look of forced disgust.

"You're going to do this solo, then?" Robb asked. Holland glanced at him, not comprehending. "What?"

"The book says that the pilot-not-flying programs the computer. You're the pilot flying on this trip. I'm the pilot not flying."

Holland studied Robb's face. He was serious, and there wasn't time for a confrontation, even if he'd wanted one.

"Sorry, Dick," Holland said. "You were busy working the radios, and we've got an emergency here." He gestured toward the flight management computer, trying not to look disgusted. "Please give me direct London, and let's plan the ILS approach."

"That's more like it," was Robb's singular response.

* * *

One story below the cockpit, in the neutral zone between coach class and business class, a small group of flight attendants and several concerned passengers huddled around the figure of a small man lying prone on the floor. Brenda Hopkins, the redheaded flight attendant with supermodel features who had helped Earnest Helms to his seat, knelt by his head alternately trying to breathe life into his mouth between impassioned attempts to pump his chest and circulate enough blood to his brain. Her hair had gone wild and her uniform was stained, but she was oblivious to anything but the battle to save her passenger.

Breathe into his mouth five times, listen, pump his chest fifteen times. Short, hard, downward strokes. Remember the training!

Over and over again.

She had been at it for ten minutes, but despite a routine of running and daily workouts, she was tiring.

The Swiss physician hovered over her, monitoring the rhythm of her efforts but making no attempt to take over until she was ready for relief. His frustration at having no medical tools to hello the man was driving him to think frantically of other alternatives.

Another flight attendant had produced the airplane's emergency medical kit, but it was impossibly crude, and there was no defibrillator -- which was the one instrument he really needed.

As they felt the aircraft turning and descending, there was a spark of a response, a gasp of sorts, and the patient seemed to arch his back slightly as if taking a breath on his own. The doctor put his ear to the man's chest, verifying a weak, unstable heartbeat -- which immediately faltered.

"We almost had him," he told Brenda.

She took a deep breath, wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, and started again -- her mouth closing around the patients' as she held his bald head and tried not to think about the fact that he was sick -- with what, she had no idea. She was terrified of AIDS, and bad cases of the flu, and any other terrible malady she might get from direct contact.

But she had always wanted to be a doctor, and wasn't this where it began? Her passenger was desperate. She couldn't worry about the consequences.

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What People are saying about this

Stephen Coonts
Combines exquisite suspense and cardiac arrest action.

Meet the Author

John J. Nance, aviation analyst for ABC News and a familiar face on Good Morning America, is the author of several bestselling novels including Fire Flight, Skyhook, Turbulence, and Orbit. Two of his novels, Pandora’s Clock and Medusa’s Child, have been made into highly successful television miniseries. A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Nance is a decorated pilot veteran of Vietnam and Operations Desert Storm/Desert Shield. He lives in Washington State.

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