Book Review: Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson

51z12b6hxbelIt’s hard to give Freehold a fair review, mostly because it’s completely clothed in the philosophy of its titular colony. Freehold is a colony of libertarian-minded gun-toting individualists with lack of modesty. The majority of the book is introducing the values and beliefs of Freehold (or at least Jefferson, the main city in the novel) to the reader.

The main character is Kendra, who is on the run from Earth due to a scandal in her logistics unit in the UN military. She flees to the only place she can go to escape extradition, which in this case is Freehold.

There are two other main characters, but Marta seems to take the focus after a fashion. She is an escort/prostitute (libertarian society, remember?) and makes a ton of money in the process. She and Kendra grow closer until they become lovers. The other main character is Rob, a pilot with the Freehold military, who shows Kendra the ropes.

All in all the story lulls in the first half, mostly becoming an explanation of the culture of Freehold and the differences between it and the UN. The UN is portrayed as a diplomatic bureaucracy that hurts individual rights for collective charity and “the good of the many”.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

The story picks up in the second half with the UN invading Freehold, for no real good reason. There was never an explanation as to why the invasion occurred except that the UN and Freehold were very different in their worldviews. That never made sense to me because a bureaucracy would hesitate to initiate a war due to how bad it makes them look politically.

There is also a prevalence of sexual violence in the book. Earth is portrayed as having crime problems while Freehold does not, presumably because of the abundance of firearms that nearly 70% of the population openly carries. On Earth sexual violence against women is common and something the Freehold women are not used to worrying about. When both of the female characters are captured by UN soldiers they are violated and wounded emotionally as a result. A good four to five chapters deal with them getting over their trauma.

I wouldn’t say this is a great book, but it was well-written and interesting. I like the idea of a difference in philosophy driving a war, and two cultures being so similar but very different. I would recommend it if military science fiction is your thing, since that’s what it becomes by the end.

 

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