Saturday, November 26, 2016

Aiding Liberty

Review: Angeleyes by Michael Z. Williamson


Williamson's work can be described as mil-scifi with more than a slight libertarian twist. As such, it belongs in the same genre as Heinlein's Starship Troopers, or L. Neil Smith's Probability Broach series. 

Angeleyes, the latest in Williamson's outstanding Freehold series, looks at an unusual Freeholder. "Angie" Kaneshiro is a rolling stone, a spacer with multiple skills whose primary lifestyle is "moving on." After Earth's crackdown on its former colony of Grainne, Angie lists her origin as "Caledonia," because as Earth ships and uniforms become increasingly prevalent, new regulations tighten down on travel for all, but especially Freeholders.

Blessed by her parents with an opaquely-spelled name (Aonghaelaice) and the right to return to her real homeworld of Grainne, Angie prefers to camp with a series of friends, or kip in the odd spaces of habitats and stations until she can find a berth on a ship going somewhere—almost anywhere—else. She has a talent for spotting those unused, unmonitored spots in the interstices of her stop-over worlds. These are places she can live free, if with little comfort, until it is time to move on. She's made a life out of living briefly in such places before she ships out again.

When war actually begins, Angie realizes that her knowledge is vital to her homeworld. She contacts a Freehold Special Ops base, and volunteers her expertise. The rest of the story is a delicious sequence of sneaky maneuvers, sabotage, and mayhem centered around Angie's teammates, with Angie supplying the hideouts and cultural data to prevent their discovery by the Earth forces arraigned against them.

The most intense part of the story, which like Freehold, is definitely not suitable for young readers, is when Angie is seized as a spy, and tortured by her captors. Readers of the earlier books in this series will recognise Williamson's unwillingness to "prettify" warfare. We know Angie doesn't die, but there are no guarantees about any other character in the novel. 

This is fiction at its closest approximation to real life. You could believe this action and these people taking life in any setting of current day or history, anywhere on Earth. That it is set in space simply leaves us free to notice how well the reasonable libertarian society functions despite its philosophical enemies.

It is not for the squeamish, nor the statist.