Review: Freehold

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Posted on : 7/03/2018 04:37:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Freehold Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star review. That is a reasonable estimate of my experience with this book. I made it through 24.5% of the book before the ghost of Dorothy Parker arose and seized it from my hands.

The book purports to tell the story of our main character, Sergeant Kendra Pacelli. She finds herself accused of inappropriately transferring military property to non-authorized persons. It appears that she was working for the people performing the actual transfers, but guilt by association brought her the attention of law enforcement.

Rather than face the music in a system that apparently has little interest in justice, she runs.

She runs to the embassy of Freehold; a non-aligned planet that generally refuses extradition requests from the Earth. They help her make it to Freehold for unexplained reasons.

It is heavily implied that the Earth government knows no bounds with respect to regulation and few bounds with respect to taxation.

In contrast, Freehold operates with a minimal government where everyone chooses to get along and all problems are resolved by contractual arrangements and the courts.

The book suffers from too many "it/they wouldn't work that way" moments. As a point of comparison, Heinlein's works generally did a decent (and better) job of communicating how less government might work. The key here is that Heinlein included a few warts. He also included some sort of justification for how things operate.

In the case of Freehold, the society works because of handwavium. Mr. Williamson purchases it in bulk. Kendra is essentially walked through the world while other characters point out the differences between Freehold and Earth while never finding an issue where Freehold has had to make adjustments that were more difficult because of their live and let live attitude.

I started checking out of the story when Kendra shifts from being a driven protagonist to being an object being moved around the table at the author's convenience. Earth cultural norms in the book are generally opposed to public nudity, casual sex, prostitution. Kendra comes out of that environment, exhibits some reticence with Freehold's more relaxed perspective, and quickly transitions into a three-way experience that is followed closely by her first lesbian session. This change happens not because she affirmatively seeks the new experiences, but because the Freeholders start in and Kendra doesn't resist. That sort of unmotivated character shift represents a lower quality of writing.

The other major event was when her neighbor Rob takes her up in a military aircraft. I was expecting a check ride experience. Instead, they take someone with no flight training out on a high-intensity training mission and flip/flop them all over the sky while firing training munitions all over the place.

This was the capstone of the wish-fulfillment adventure....as far as I read. Rob is a handsome and available guy. He willingly gives advice to Kendra on how to fit in on Freehold; advice that he points out others would routinely charge a fee to provide. At one point, he leads the rescue effort after a three-car pile-up. he has a day job that doesn't involve police/fire/rescue, he does odd jobs around his apartment complex (that he eventually buys), and he's the fearless and faultless flight lead on this training mission. Might he have any flaws? None that we are presented to the reader in the first quarter of the book.

I'm a big fan of individual liberty. This book should fit right in my wheelhouse. The opening few chapters suggested a lot of promise that subsided into titillation (pun intended) interspersed with episodes of wish fulfillment. Aside from the conflict at the beginning, the story becomes more like a travelog that views the locals through definitively rose-colored glasses.


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