FRONTIER by Patrick Chiles, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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FRONTIER by Patrick Chiles, Review

Alexander Wallace joins the Space Force.
As much as we may dream about the future, science fiction is always in some way about the present. We are not beings who exist separate from the grand sweep of history, but are rather swept up in it even as we cannot feel it zooming by. That is a thought that became very clear to me when reading through Patrick Chiles’ novel Frontier, released in June 2021 from Baen Books.

Frontier concerns the careers of multiple characters in the United States Space Force. Reading through the book, it is very clear just how ripped-from-the-headlines this book really is; the men and women of the Space Force are called ‘guardians,’ as was announced by the Department of Defense in December 2020. Those of us who have paid close attention to the developing Space Force will notice that Patrick Chiles is in your number. It is something that Chiles himself admits in the afterword may date the book, but something so directly engaging with the current world has its place.

The ship that is the focus of Frontier is described multiple times as playing a role in space equivalent to the United States Coast Guard. That branch of the military is very much concerned with saving lives, and it is much the same here. There are a number of earthlings that find themselves in space, some for fairly innocuous reasons, some for glory, and some for nefarious purposes. What many of them forget is that space is every bit as hostile as it was in the Cold War, when humankind was only beginning to slip the surly bonds of Earth. That sense of danger runs through the book, and your characters are imperiled a good many times.

The geopolitics of Frontier are interesting, and will satisfy fans of near-future war fiction like P. W. Singer and August Cole’s novel Ghost Fleet. I do not want to spoil it, but you will likewise see the fingerprints of the present all over Chiles’ future. One thing that did please me was that this novel will not be dated by the ongoing war in Ukraine in the way that has happened to so much science fiction dealing with geopolitics.

The only flaw that leaps out at me is one that is probably quite subjective, and one that is an all too common sin of science fiction writing: technobabble. Throughout the book there is much loving description of the science of Chiles’ creations that, in my perception anyway, put a serious dent in the pacing. In fairness, those more technically inclined than myself may find this more enjoyable than I did; the reader’s mileage in this regard may vary substantially.

For its faults, Frontier is a perfectly enjoyable near-future science fiction thriller. It may delve a bit too much into hard science, but it makes up for that in a lightning-fast plot that feels like something that could be seen within the next hundred years. Fans of that sort of thing will love it.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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