Once more, I’m visiting the Time Waster’s category, providing a new review with my personal stamp on ways you can fill up that excess personal time you have from using the Nifty Tech reviewed on these pages.
Free Will (and other compulsions) is the second book in J. Daniel Sawyer’s Antithesis Progression series, which manages to combine science fiction and noir elements into a fascinating future setting. The first book in the series is Predestination (and other games of chance). If you’ve read Predestination and enjoyed it, you’re sure to want to pick up Free Will, and no doubt look forward to the next time J. Daniel Sawyer publishes a book with a short title (and a long and contradictory subtitle). At the time of this writing, Free Will is only available in electronic formats, but is available for Kindle, Nook, and a variety of other formats via Smashwords.
In Predestination, we met Joss Kyle, a one-time National Security Advisor who is now on the run. After being branded as a traitor, Joss has fled the Earth for Space Station Sidon in order to build a new life for himself, and to figure out who was the real traitor who set him up to take the fall. But Joss hasn’t gotten away clean. He’s still pursued by those who would like to use his knowledge, or silence him forever.
Now, in Free Will, events have continued apace. The Lunar Colonies are agitating for open rebellion, despite the power plays and back-biting that are threatening to tear the movement apart. The Persians have become increasingly confrontational, and now have mobilized their fleet and are threatening to take over the outer colonies. The American military is starting to mobilize in answer, and it is becoming harder and harder to see a path that doesn’t lead to open warfare. Senator Bill Shelley, the very man who branded Joss as a traitor, is moving closer to taking over the White House. As much as Joss would like to lay low, a new series of terrorist bombings on Luna and the space stations have been laid at his feet. Now Joss finds that he has one last chance to try to clear his name, and possibly avert an interplanetary war. In the midst of all this chaos, it is time for Joss Kyle to take a stand. All he has to do is manage to go home without being caught.
This is a novel of dirty deals, secret meetings, conspiracy, betrayal, and intrigue. If these kinds of stories don’t appeal to you, you’re not going to like Free Will. Of course, if you do like this kind of story, you’re in for a good read.
And a long one. This is a big book, full of twists and turns, betrayals, reversals, confessions, reveals, and desperate struggles for survival. Sawyer paints events on a big stage, but manages to convey the human details without bogging the story down in endless descriptions. His characters are complex, confused, and real. While some of the lifestyles portrayed in Free Will aren’t exactly mainstream by today’s standards, the characters are human and their choices and reactions ring true. The story is intricate and carefully plotted and draws the reader along to find out how anyone can avoid the disaster looming, and if any of the characters can survive.
While it took me a long time to get through Free Will, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. While this is not the end of the Antithesis Progression, Free Will stands alone as a story, and doesn’t suffer from the weak endings that tend to characterize middle books in a trilogy. The book feels like it comes to a proper ending, and it is only afterwards that one realizes that there are still loose threads to be dealt with. I’m looking forward to the next installment of the Antithesis Progression and seeing what new developments Sawyer can come up with. This is an excellent book for fans of criminal underworlds and high stakes politics.