In the September 15 Prepub Alert column LJ asked, ``Does an astronaut have the write stuff for a technothriller?'' The answer is a qualified ``yes.'' One of the orig inal seven U.S. astronauts, Carpenter was also a fighter pilot and a participant in the Navy's underwater SEALAB pro gram. The technology here is both authentic-sounding and startling: an under water ``glider'' plane; human beings medically altered to breathe fluid through their necks. The plot is rather standard fare, however. While testing the Steel Albatross, a prototype underwater glider, Rick Tallman, hotshot son of a naval astronaut (surprise), stumbles on a top-secret Soviet installation off the coast of California. It seems that right-wing extremists in the USSR plan to knock out the U.S. defense system and precipitate war between the USSR and the United States. Carpenter's book has the elements of a thriller, but it lacks the edge-of-the-seat tension of books like The Hunt for Red October . Publicity and the author's name will bring demand.-- Francine Fialkoff, ``Library Journal''