If the novel co-written by Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, were made into a movie depicting the book's images exactly as written, it might be rated R.

Minireviews might read, ` "Night Launch,' a science fiction thriller about the first hijacking in space. Rated R: sex, nudity, violence, mild profanity." That's not to mention a decapitation and globules of vomit and blood floating in space.And that's the "cleaned-up" final version.

Garn said he fought hard to cleanse earlier drafts that were really full of steamy sex and extreme profanity. He wanted a book that would soar with descriptions of the beauty and danger of space flight. "Night Launch" often does and is truly exciting to read - but it still makes low runs through the gutter.

It will be interesting to see how Utahns react to a senator with a squeaky clean reputation who now writes a book with passages they might not want their children to see.

What's happening to the reputation of Utah's senators anyway? Ultra-clean Garn is now writing sometimes steamy novels. And Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the one-time darling of conservatives is now - as reported earlier this week - seen by the far right as a liberal (and traitor) for his support of child-care legislation.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

What may be even stranger than Garn's helping to write a semi-steamy novel were some of the comments he made about it in a recent Deseret News interview.

He said when he read the first draft and found his co-author, suspense-novelist Stephen Paul Cohen, had filled it with sex and profanity, "I told them that if that's the way the book will be, then the project ends right now. I told them all that had to come out.

"It wasn't just that I am a Mormon senator from Utah and may be prudish. It just was not accurate. Astronauts do not talk that way. They are good people and professionals, not guttersnipes."

He added, "It still has one affair in it, but nothing explicit. The most explicit thing is two French kisses, but that's nothing compared to what's on soap operas every day."

Call me more prudish than Garn, but I found some passages while reading his book that appear much more explicit than the run-of-the-mill soap opera.

In language acceptable for a family newspaper, here is a description of some of those passages.

One on Page 69 describes a woman without clothes sitting on a bed while drunk, and how she looks "so good it was obscene." She and a friend decide on some repeated physical activity.

On Page 25, the book tells in slang terms how a cosmonaut is viewed as extremely anxious to engage in those same kinds of physical activities.

Pages 17 and 18 describe one of the book's French kisses. It also suggests in slang terms that the woman involved also was extremely anxious to engage in other physical activities.

And Page 95 describes how police discover that a woman lost her head - literally - over the plot to hijack the space shuttle.

In Garn's defense, his co-author surely wrote those passages. Cohen was even quoted in "Roll Call," a Washington weekly, saying he really wanted to include descriptions of sex in zero gravity, but will have to wait for another book now because of Garn's objections. Also the affair in the book was fairly crucial to explain some key plot twists and turns. And most of the book is indeed exciting and has some wonderful descriptions of space and the space program.

Those passages would probably not raise any eyebrows in today's world except that Garn - a self-described LDS senator who may be prudish - has top billing on the book.

When the book is released April 24 and Utahns read it themselves, it could throw some interesting plot twists and turns in Garn's political future - just as sure, at least, as Orrin Hatch is a right-wing conservative.