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Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson
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3731029,015 (3.74)9

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Wide-ranging, well-paced socio-military SF with a powerful heroine. Politics are school of Heinlein, which didn't bother me much but might offend some. Williamson aims at creating a substantial (depth rather than simply length) SF novel while keeping the story very readable and quite gripping. One star is lost because the socio-economic principles which form the substance of the novel are missing their underpinnings. Ideas are presented, and Williamson uses his divine powers as author to assure their success. A more serious argument, however, would have made this very entertaining novel heavy going. RAH would have been delighted by Freehold, which is a very attractive creation. The military sequences are very well written, generally fast-paced, gritty, very violent, and quite convincing. There is a significant amount of sex, but it's neither excessive nor pornographic considering the context of the social commentary. The aftermath of war, often neglected, is here treated with decent consideration, albeit with the kind of invincible hero in Naumann that reminds me of [a:Gordon R. Dickson|38631|Gordon R. Dickson|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1230054159p2/38631.jpg]'s Dorsai. Not one for readers with liberal leanings or the politically correct, but strongly recommended as entertainment for all the rest. ( )
  DavidR1958 | Jul 4, 2017 |
Take a poorly thought out Libertarian utopia, populate it with improbably good people, add some social aspects straight from the sweaty fantasies of teenage boys, array it against the Stupid Evil Welfare State of Earth, write a lot of shoot-'em-up while indulging in what appears to be a serious man-crush on Heinlein, and there you have it: summer pulp. Even if you like military science fiction, I'd probably recommend you go elsewhere. ( )
  TadAD | Jun 9, 2017 |
Since this book has a 4.01 rating on Goodreads, I started off reading it with high hopes. Especially as it’s the beginning of a series that is highly rated. And the back cover synopsis made it sound interesting. But as I got into it, I started wondering about it. A lot of minutia, but where’s the action? Much detail, but is anything going to happen? And I started wondering about the author. I read a lot of military sci fi. Even though I’m largely a liberal and many if not most military sci fi authors are conservatives, I don’t mind it because most don’t get didactic or dogmatic in preaching their political viewpoints, ie David Weber, Chris Bunch, etc. They just write good military sci fi. But occasionally you run across screamingly conservative Tea Party/Libertarian nutjobs who preach at you and who shove their fucking politics down your throat repeatedly and that drives me nuts. John Ringo’s one of those, which is why I no longer read his work. Well, apparently Michael Z. Williamson is one of these types of authors too, and surprise, he’s collaborated with Ringo! This author has a serious Libertarian bent that he shoves and shoves and it gets really old. He makes sure we know he loves Ayn Rand. He shows evil fascist Earth as the gigantic polluted, bureaucratic, militaristic, overcrowded, welfare state, big brother state, paranoid, UN dominated, global world it has become and compares it with Utopian world Freehold, where our protagonist Kendra, has escaped to from Earth. On Freehold, there is no government. There are no taxes, although people are allowed to donate if they want. Yet, “government” services exist and run well. Somehow. Magically. I’m assuming education, healthcare, fire and police services exist and are free? Public transportation? Not sure. Everyone gets jobs. The pay is decent. Everyone gets housing of some sort, not great, but not bad. And everyone packs! EVERYONE! This is to avoid rape, although there is virtually no crime on Freehold. And as the author argues, vapidly, and more importantly, in the capital city of several million, this is to protect yourself against the scary wild animals that wander into the city of SEVERAL MILLION – animals that could get to the city parks in the center and eat you. So you need to pack heat to kill them. Yep. Kendra finds out real fast that she needs a gun.

Kendra meets a new male friend on day one who is the nicest, kindest, sweetest gentleman who ever existed and acts as the dashing hero for and to her, and she soon meets a nice, sweet, beautiful woman, who happens to be both ex-military and a female “escort,” an occupation on Freehold that is looked highly upon. The three become lovers. You see, public nudity is part of the status quo on Freehold, as is bisexuality. It’s natural, even though it’s new for Kendra.

There are a number of problems with this book. For one thing, it’s too damn long. The author could have cut it in half and still made a partially decent story out of it. In line with that, nothing happens in the first 250-300 pages. Kendra spends time playing tourist, letting her new friends spoil her and engaging in sexual interplay with them. She eventually joins the military, just in time for an invasion from Earth, for no apparent reason, but that’s halfway through the book. And of course, the book is one long preachy, didactic, dogmatic, rambling discourse on the evils of liberal viewpoints and philosophy and the wonderful aspects of the great Utopian Libertian world that Williamson would have us all envision with him. Which is overly simplistic and pure fantasy.

For the life of me, I don’t see how this book merits a 4+ rating. I guess it’s all the conservative military sci fi lovers out there. Which is a little scary. Conservative military vets? Am I just generalizing? Probably. However, I’ve seen a ton of one and two star reviews complaining of the propaganda, dogma, preaching, politics, etc., so I know that I’m not the only one by far. I’m one of many. A ton of people who read military sci fi don’t want politics of any type shoved down their throats. I’m one of them. That’s not why we read this genre. We just want to read great military sci fi. Is that too much to ask? So, one star and not recommended. Also, I have the sequel and I won’t be reading it, unfortunately, because I had been looking forward to it. Oh well. ( )
1 vote scottcholstad | Jul 11, 2016 |
Sure, there's some military sci fi in here, but it's more a coming of age story, a "soldier in the making" tale. For a first novel, it's entertaining and worth some time, even if the deeply embedded libertarian agenda isn't perfectly believable. Oh, and I got bored with the sex scenes with about the second or third one. We'll call it three stars for the excellent battle scenes. ( )
  GunnarGrey | Nov 24, 2015 |
While I am sensitive to Baen wanting to keep the legacy of Heinlein a part of their stable, the choice of Williamson to do so is wrong. You know that Williamson is trying to evoke Heinlein from the number of times Heinlein is mentioned. Heinlein however would not have written this, even when writing the Juvenils.

The book only really starts after you have read more than half and you realize that the it is a to Red Dawn, the movie that Milieus directed, but set in this pseudo Libertarian world that the first half of the book is the propaganda advertisement for but so much worse than Neil Smith ever did. And that is the fallacy that you have to buy into, that the Earth we live on would be so screwed up that they couldn't handle a future society, and that in response one world would have the perfect Libertarian world. Except the truth is that Libertarianism when practiced on a significant scale is just a fantasy that wouldn't work, else, being humans, we already would have seen it working. We are good like that which Williamson who shows his own juvenile writing style probably doesn't have enough critical thought to realize. (When writing and having one previous error in a paragraph that then uses the word fuller, instead of more fully, shows that Williamson doesn't have an adults grasp of English since fuller does not mean that something is more full and immediately stops one reading in mid stream to decipher the authors intent. That is just one of several mistakes of the use of language)

But then to show us that we have been searching for a theme amidst too much prepubescent sex fantasies that have so little to do with a story but to just provide titillation along with the push for propaganda without clear direction that is the first half of the book and giving us nothing shows that the last half of the book is where the story lays hidden. Again trying to emulate Heinlein and failing since Heinlein would have had us understand the theme from the beginning. We then see that if you watched Red Dawn, you would know the story, and the anticlimax accounts for far too much as well. Our heroine could have led us, but our writer made the villains too stupid, and the heroes too able that what conflict and drama there are is cliche and forced.

Amazon kept thinking I would like this, and my library is framed with Baen books I read and reread. This will not be one of them. ( )
  DWWilkin | Jul 8, 2015 |
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To my parents:

We disagree on so many things, but I am who I am because of you.
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Sergeant Second Class Kendra Pacelli, UNPF, was looking forward to finally finishing the admin from her deployment to Mtali.
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