Book Review: Freehold (Freehold Series Book 1)

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Freehold (Freehold Series Book 1) by Michael Z. Williamson


Sergeant Kendra Pacelli is innocent, but that doesn’t matter to the repressive government pursuing her. Mistakes might be made, but they are never acknowledged, especially when billions of embezzled dollars earned from illegal weapons sales are at stake. But where does one run when all Earth and most settled planets are under the aegis of one government? Answer: The Freehold of Grainne. There, one may seek asylum and build a new life in a society that doesn’t track its residents every move, which is just what Pacelli has done. But now things are about to go royally to hell. Because Earth’s government has found out where she is, and they want her back. Or dead.



First quarter of book is about Kendra leaving her home planet and integrating into Freehold society. We learn about it from her perspective. Mr. Williamson presents a new culture similar to Mr. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, but brought into the new millennium and made his own. It idealizes extreme individualism, which one would expect from a recent colony; weak, stupid and average need not apply to this high gravity planet. (I had a lot more to say about whether I think this society is viable long-term (it’s not however much parts of it would be wishful-thinking nice) but that is more of a book group discussion than review material.) Discovering the world through her eyes, we learn both about Kendra’s new society and her old society (Earth North America). Some very, very nice worldbuilding takes place – layers upon layers.

Worldbuilding includes dealing with a higher gravity (tiring easier), air differences (constantly needing water in the dryer situation), individualism being important, how to pay for governmental projects without taxes (some things just have to be done on such a large scale governments or corporations need to organize them), etc. Still not exactly sure how the education system works – it wasn’t important to the full-grown immigrant Kendra, so not introduced here. A lot of the cultural description reads like a treatise, but then so did Heinlein’s stuff.

Second quarter of the book focuses on Kendra joining the military while tensions between her home planet and her adopted planet escalate. About the time she finally finishes specialist training, war erupts.

Leading to the third quarter of the book. I will stop here, because anything further will have spoilers. But war and the action begins. Takes a long time to get to this point. If you like non-stop action from the very beginning, this is not the book for you.

Note the main character is in a three-way relationship with a woman and a man, and several times this gets graphic. Plus it is open, so the three-way sometimes introduces other sexual relationships though no one steps away from the emotional commitment. Some readers might find this uncomfortable. (Like the culture, the sexual attitudes are very similar to Heinlein.)

Trigger Alert: There is a gang-rape in the second half of the book.