Wednesday, April 12, 2023

"Escape Orbit"

Patrick Chiles began his writing career with the self-published novels Perigee and Farside, which were acquired by Baen Books in 2016. His subsequent novels, 2020’s Frozen Orbit, 2021’s Frontier, and 2023’s Escape Orbit, have established him as a rising talent in the realm of realistic, near-future science fiction. Having a fascination with practical space travel and a love for Cold War technothrillers, his novels feature plausible technology while leveraging his military and airline experience to create stories with engaging, relatable characters on astonishing adventures: “ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.”

Chiles applied the Page 69 Test to Escape Orbit and reported the following:
Page 69 opens with Traci, Roy and Noelle commiserating over a backyard cookout. Readers may recall them from Frozen Orbit, and here they’re developing a mission to find their lost crewmate, Jack. This may not be one of the more action-packed chapters of Escape Orbit, but it does a lot to flesh out the characters and dig into their backstories and motivations. Traci is torn in several ways; their last adventure left her with a traumatic brain injury which has kept her off the crew rotation ever since. Yet here she is, contemplating going back into deep space on an unsanctioned mission to find a man who she has unresolved feelings for, and Roy is about to take her on a flight home to say goodbye to her parents. I enjoyed writing this chapter because it takes the characters out of the high-pressure astronaut environment to show more of their humanity, in particular Traci’s misgivings and how it affects her relationship with her parents.

While still firmly hard sci-fi, Escape Orbit is more of a space opera than its predecessor. I wanted to explore the themes of exploration, the impact of artificial intelligence, and the character’s devotion to each other. It is more character-driven than Frozen Orbit, and I had a lot of fun telling the story largely from Traci’s point of view. Jack also has an interesting and unusual point of view, which I won’t spoil here, but I will say his isolation has left him inexorably dependent on his ship’s AI. Page 169 would be another great spot for readers to see where the story’s going, it’s where Jack has reached a critical milestone and has some life-changing decisions to make. He’s stumbled into an amazing discovery which is nothing like what he'd expected to find, and pressing ahead will literally take him farther than he ever imagined. The question is will anyone be able to follow?
Visit Patrick Chiles's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Patrick Chiles & Frankie and Beanie.

The Page 69 Test: Frozen Orbit.

The Page 69 Test: Frontier.

Q&A with Patrick Chiles.

--Marshal Zeringue