How Did I Forget This Book?!

24 Jun

I reread a book this weekend and two-thirds of it was pretty much like I remembered. But I forgot how it ended. In fact, the final third turned it from being 4 stars to 5. Am I just getting old? Or did I deliberately tune this plotline out?

The name of the book is Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson; solid military sci-fi. I was given a signed copy by a friend of mine and I remembered really enjoying it. But I was kinda turned off by the first third of the book because… well, I really don’t like books that are a political rant disguised as fiction. This is why I’ve never read Ayn Rand, although I’m a card-carrying Libertarian. This is same problem I had with this book. The Freehold of Grainne is best described as a “Libertarian utopia.” So the author spends the first third of the book talking about the nature of their society.

This is also why I didn’t like Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Then I realized that I read the unabridged version of the novel; I really enjoyed the story, maybe if I read the abridged version, I would have enjoyed more. A better example of Heinlein bloviating is For Us, The Living… which was only published posthumously.

However, the entire setting of the book is that the UN on Earth is a bureaucratic nightmare; Freehold is the polar opposite. They can’t co-exist without one destroying the other. So the second third is the war, and oh brother, what a war! Williamson pulls no punches, glorifies nothing, and tells a compelling and coherent story. The characters we met in the first third continue in the third. The character traits we see in peacetime get amplified in the crucible of war. It’s incredible and everything you want out of military sci-fi.

The final third is where I completely blanked out and the story became brilliant. Two of the three main characters were raped and the third is mentally damaged. Their reactions to surviving the war show you the whole veteran’s experience; survivor’s guilt, unable to return home, inability to talk with people who hadn’t lived your experience. This set in the backdrop of a world that also is recovering from their entire planet being destroyed and having to rebuild.

Although I remembered the first two thirds of this book, I didn’t remember a bit of the last third. Did I ever finish this book? I certainly didn’t remember how the war ended and… oh brother, I didn’t expect that! This went from being a good story to a great story with the willingness of the author not to leave the story at victory. The story of Freehold is very much the story of the main characters in the novel. I couldn’t put it down. Check it out!

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