A Sino-American Battle in Space

 

The time is the near-future, perhaps 50 years from today. Commercial space is a major industry. Human presence in space is continuous and widespread. The United States even has a manned and armed spaceship in cislunar: space the Borman. Not a warship, it is a space-faring Coast Guard cutter, an orbital beat cop.

“Frontier,” a science-fiction novel by Patrick Chiles opens in this setting. Marshall Hunter, a new graduate of the Space Force Academy, wants a piece of that action. He wants to explore space.

Hunter’s dream is an assignment aboard the nuclear-powered Borman. He busted his final check flight on the first go-around. Although he passed it the second time around, he believes he is bound for a dead-end assignment due to the screw-up. His worst fears seem realized when he is given a headquarters posting.

Others are exploring and exploiting space. The Jiangs are on their way to an asteroid in a first-ever attempt to capture one for mining.  They are a billionaire husband-and-wife team, naturalized US citizens; refugees from Communist China. Nicholas Lesko is headed towards geostationary orbit as part of a different sort of mining expedition, one sponsored by organized crime. And Communist China has a mysterious manned fueling depot at L2.

Against expectations Hunter finds himself assigned to Borman. It is routine space travel between Earth and the Moon. While not the deep space assignment Hunter dreams of, it is space. Routine soon changes when things start popping in space.

A massive solar flare creates an orbital emergency, zapping orbing satellites and sending Borman on a rescue mission at geostationary orbit. Next, Earth loses contact with the Jiangs soon after they reach their asteroid. Something deflects their spacecraft to a Mars-collision course. BormanI, sent to rescue them gets mysteriously disabled. The Chinese “fueling station” proves to be a spaceship which claims it plans to “rescue” Borman. The price of rescue includes ceding Borman.

Frontier has it all: adventures in orbital and deep space, even a space battle. Chiles gets the science right. Better still he gets it right without getting in the way of an exciting story. He posits a future where humans venture into space for rational purposes, not just because it is there. Fans of Jerry Pournelle’s or Robert Heinlein’s science fiction will want to read Chiles. He brings the golden age of science fiction into the present – updating it better than ever.

“Frontier,” by Patrick Chiles, Baen Books, 384 pages, $16.00 (trade paperback), $8.99 (ebook)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com. This review appeared in a different form in the November 2021 American Essence magazine.

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  1. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Is Patrick still a member? @patrickchiles 

    I enjoyed his other books and will add this to my list.

     

     

    • #1
  2. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I looked up Trojan Points to see if L2 were the leading or trailing one.  Seems like it’s neither.  I didn’t realize there were Trojan Points so near the orbital body.

    • #2
  3. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Is Patrick still a member? @ patrickchiles

    I enjoyed his other books and will add this to my list.

    I don’t think he is active anymore. Regardless, I agree with you. All his stuff is worth reading. 

    • #3
  4. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I looked up Trojan Points to see if L2 were the leading or trailing one. Seems like it’s neither. I didn’t realize there were Trojan Points so near the orbital body.

    L2 is an inline one. L1 is between the primary and secondary (Earth primary, Moon secondary in this case.) L2 is on the far side of the secondary in line with the primary and secondary . L3 is on the far side of the primary. L4 and L5 form equilateral triangles with the primary and secondary. L1, L2, and L3 are unstable. You eventually drift out of them unless you do station-keeping burns. L4 and L5 are stable. Stuff collects there.

    Note that the new Webb telescope is heading for the Sun-Earth L2 point, with the Sun as the primary. The Trojan asteroids are at the Sun-Jupiter L4 and L5 points. (They are all named for mythical warriors participating in the Trojan War. One has the Greek warriors the other the Trojan warriors, but I don’t remember which is which.

    • #4
  5. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    What number does this rate on the Mohs Science Fiction Hardness Scale? 

    • #5
  6. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    TBA (View Comment):

    What number does this rate on the Mohs Science Fiction Hardness Scale?

    Between 9 and 10, getting pretty close to 10. This story is inexorably linked to orbital mechanics, all of which seems right. (I spent 20+ years as a space navigator, so I notice that stuff and notice whether it is right or wrong.) All the physics and science are real – there is no bolognium or impervium used. We could actually build the spaceships in the book within 20 years using existing technology, including the nuclear engines. (Hell, we could have them today if we had the will.)

    That said what makes the book so great is the story. Chiles is a great storyteller.

    • #6
  7. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    there is no bolognium or impervium used.

    How about unobtanium?

    • #7
  8. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    there is no bolognium or impervium used.

    How about unobtanium?

    That shelf is empty, too.

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Could be worth a look. Thanks.

    • #9
  10. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen
    @BrianClendinen

    Thanks, its hard to find decent Sci-fi nowadays that does not have a Messiah story. Aka only one person or group of people can saving humanity.  So many stories start out great and devolve into that lazy story plot.

    • #10
  11. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Brian Clendinen (View Comment):

    Thanks, its hard to find decent Sci-fi nowadays that does not have a Messiah story. Aka only one person or group of people can saving humanity. So many stories start out great and devolve into that lazy story plot.

    It’s not the lazy that is so bothersome, it’s the earnest utopianism. 

    • #11