Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Perigee - Good Read

I've been down with the creeping crud - the most irritating kind of illness where I feel fine as long as I'm sitting perfectly still, or lying down. Fine enough to get bored, and think I really ought to be at work - and then I stand up, and realize standing up was a mistake. That leaves reading.

Perigee, by Pat Chiles, is a great thriller for pilots, engineers, and people who like reading about them and the space program. The setting is a refreshing new one: given that we've gotten single-stage-to-suborbit invented, we're inevitably going to move from single-hop tourist flights up and back to the fastest trans-continental "airline" imaginable. When a record-setting flight attempt is sabotaged, pushing the flight into an unstable orbit, how do you rescue them - and catch who did it?

This author is definitely a pilot, and knows plenty of engineers, a few zoomies, and the iron law of bureaucracy. There were plenty of quips in there that I swear I've heard on the air or over the coffee pot before - and plenty that are exactly what would be said in that situation. Everything from the internal fighting at NASA to the chatter with the dispatchers rings true. The only place where the characters fell flat were the line mechanics - even there, conversations were good, but the internal reasoning fell on its face. I wouldn't even complain, except he got everything else right!

When I went and read the reviews, I was surprised to find that other people thought it was too filled with technobabble, and all the characters were too similar. Speaking as a pilot who's known a few engineers in her time and spent years following the space program - when you put a bunch of hard-charging type A achievers who swim in a sea of federal regs into a group, you're not going to get the fictional group diversity of Firefly or Star Trek. The ladies and gentlemen in this are an authentic cross-section of the industry, and written very true to themselves and the industry they're in.

As for the technobabble, from the perspective of a pilot, he did a great job of unpacking the working language of everyday life into layman's terms and cutting down the checklists and cross-checks - much further, and it wouldn't sound true anymore. That's a hard call, and I'd appreciate if one of y'all could comment from a non-pilot perspective. Would you rather read something that has technical terms and cross-checks that are true to life and important from plot perspective, or something that's less technical, but as realistic as comic book characters?

In the strange way of the world since Amazon entered ebooks, he's not published through a major publishing house, but put the book out himself - so it's a good novel for the startlingly low price of a buck. Seriously, go get this and enjoy it, and encourage the author to go write some more. (He's also at smashwords and B&N, for non-kindle-users).

I'm going to try to get some tea, wait for the world to stop spinning, and then resume the debate on trying to hold up a Larry Corriea hardback on my chest, finding something else on Kindle, or sleep.


  1. Regardless of whether you read or sleep, I hope you feel better soon.

  2. Thanks for the shout out! I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope you're feeling better.
    Yep, working on the sequel right now, hope to have it out around the end of the year.