Freehold is an interesting read … BUT … you have to wade through the boring parts in the beginning quarter to half of the book before it really starts to grip you and the last quarter – well that part won’t let you go!
Freehold centers around a woman named Kendra. At the beginning of the story, she’s a supply sergeant in the UN military (the year is roughly 25XX. We’re never given the specific date). When a friend warns her she’s about to be arrested for selling military equipment out the back of the supply shed during her last mission (a crime she documented, not committed), she makes a run for the Freehold of Grainne, the one place in the known galaxy where the local government won’t turn her over to the UN. A couple of times early on, I got lost in technobabble, unable to envision exactly what was going on. Occasionally I thought some of the activities could use a bit more explanation, especially when dealing with esoteric technology. The sex was a little more explicit that I would have liked, but thankfully not overly so.
Once she arrives on Grainne the story almost completely switches pace and in some ways travels back in time as it’s a complete throwback to Heinlein and his libertarian viewpoints (take a read of books like “Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and “Alongside Night” in its detailed rendering of the economic realities of life to see what I mean). On Grainne, the idea of Welfare and government charity runs contrary to the very nature of the society. Grainne also has the highest standard of living of any human planet. In short, the UN welfare state doesn’t dare allow the Grainne to go on existing because it throws a bright light on all that’s wrong with the UN’s socialist nanny state. I think to some extent this comparison by itself struck a real chord considering what’s happening in some of the countries around the world and how they are being led – however, this is not a political blog, so I’ll stop the preaching right here!
When the UN-led Earth decide that they can no longer let Grainne survive and exist, however – well that’s where things get really interesting. The book takes a decidedly more militaristic bent after Kendra is indoctrinated into the Grainne armed forces and the eventual battles with the Earth forces remind me of nothing more than Tom Kratman and his Carrera Series. Another extremely violent and sexually charged series, however one in a very similar vein in my opinion.
Of course, the idea of the failing socialist state attacking the smaller but far more successful capitalist state has been done before in science fiction. It’s one of the central themes of David Weber’s wonderful Honor Harrington series. What makes Freehold different is how the story focuses on Kendra. Weber’s Harrington novels, which have a similar political theme are high space opera. This is not. This is the story of one woman, torn from her home, exiled in a foreign land, forced to make a life there and eventually to defend her new home against her old.
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