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Perigee Paperback – February 16, 2012
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About the Author
Patrick Chiles has been fascinated by airplanes, rockets, and spaceflight ever since he was a little kid growing up in South Carolina. Fascination morphed into obsession when he witnessed the final Apollo/Saturn launches in person. How he ended up as an English major in college is still a mystery, though he managed to overcome this self-inflicted handicap to pursue a career in aviation. He is a graduate of The Citadel, a Marine Corps veteran, and is licensed as a private pilot and airline dispatcher. In addition to his novels, he has written for aviation magazines including Smithsonian's Air & Space. He resides in Ohio as an expatriate Southerner with his wife and sons, two lethargic dachshunds, and a bovine cat.
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I bought it simply because I liked the cover and the title. That sort of airplane that I later found out to be a spaceplane (a plane that works both in the atmosphere and in space), lost in orbit, which seemed to be in trouble, made me immediately portend an interesting story. And I was not disappointed.
The plot of this techno-thriller is intriguing. It is set in a future when spaceplanes are used to travel between two antipodal points on Earth. These aircrafts, called clippers, have a drive that can almost bring them to orbit, drawing a parabolic trajectory, and then down to the final destination, which is reached in a few hours. During the journey, a very expensive one, the passengers feel the sensation of weightlessness for a short period of time, in which the clipper is in free fall.
The author, Patrick Chiles, is a pilot, has made several works in the field of aviation and has written numerous articles in magazines which deal with space flight. In short, he is an expert, both for the technical and the human part concerning flight and space. Reading his book, all this appears obvious. The pace of the story is compelling, the dialogue is well-orchestrated and you are given the impression to find yourselves there on the clipper or in the mission control or on the space station. New emotions are always around the corner, making the reading fun as well as instructive. It is actually characterized by a good balance between the technical part and fiction, which ensures credibility. It is a pity that such books do not arrive to the Italian market, because there would really be the need for them. This book is one of many examples of good value products written by independent authors.
If I had to define it with a word, it would be thrilling, under all points of view. Read it.
Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, author of Red Desert - Point of No Return
I'm a space buff and wasn't expecting much story, either something realistic and technical and a bit cardboard like "The Rocket Company," or on the other side, something Sci Fi with a human story line but wildly improbable.
To my suprise, it was a plain great story and great read. I didn't put it down until I finished it. It's barely sci-fi because it's not only plausible but realistic about what is achieveable. The story revolves around a Skylon-type suborbital transport that has a throttle problem and ends up stuck in orbit with no way back down to earth.
But the characters involved are like real people with real concerns and human frailties. And as a fomer Navy submariner who has worked closely with two military astronauts, I gotta say he has military astronaut-personality types to a 'T'. (Although he paints submariners as a bit more like Marines than they actually are. Figures for a Jarhead.)
This is the first scifi book I've read in a while that presented heros that don't fall into the standard scifi/AynRand polar tropes of either repressive Christianist morons or Superman Engineer Libertairan heros. I enjoyed it.
Kudos for a great first book and I hope he keeps writing.
It should appeal to hard sci-fi fans, though it may be a bit slow paced for the action/adventure readers. I would have liked to see more character development, more sense of individualism and a little more expansion of the sabotage/espionage plot angle but those things are, again, a personal preference.
Overall, a well written and an enjoyable entry in the hard sci-fi genre and an interesting look at the possible issues that could be involved in commercial 'space travel'.