Free Will on Goodreads

J. Daniel Sawyer’s “Free Will” is a smart, sexy cyberpunk novel worthy to be placed on the shelves next to Gibson, Varley, and Heinlein.  It has a very unique voice, a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, and plenty of thrills, but it isn’t without its flaws.
Free Will and Other Compulsions is the second novel in the “Antithesis Progression.”  The story follows geopolitical events and personal stories as the American space colony Luna City prepares to start a revolt against its earthbound controllers.  While this isn’t exactly unbroken ground, Sawyer establishes a very rich history for the different space colonies.   Not all of them are working towards the same goal.  Luna City, while full of clever hat tips to the Masters of Science Fiction, is established as a haven for groups outcast on Earth for their beliefs, politics, or sexual identity.  Parts of it read like “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” with big gay dock workers, which is awesome.
The rest of the story follows scheming Senator Bill Shelly, who is manipulating the situation to his own ends, and the personal and political fallout as all the people he’s burned over the years, including poker playing anti-hero and former national security advisor Joss Kyle, and even his own daughter, come back to haunt him.
There are a few flaws, however.  This is the second book in the series, and Sawyer assumes that readers are familiar with all of the details from the first book, Predestination and Other Games of Chance.  The world is very detailed, and it is well researched, especially where the author extrapolates technology out another century, but there are so many factions, characters, places and technologies, that a glossary would have been helpful.  He also assumes the reader has a good grasp of science, politics, and theology, rarely holding the readers hand.  This is a challenging thrill ride that isn’t afraid to take chances.  Like it’s characters, “Free Will” lays its cards on the table and bets that the reader will be able to keep up.  It doesn’t always pay off, but when it does, it works beautifully.
The novel follows a huge cast and sweeps them into a vast tumble of world events.  We follow these characters in chapters that follow dramatically, but don’t quite sync up chronologically, and the results can be disorienting, but Sawyer manages the human element well enough that even if the events get lost, the characters shine through, and keep us invested.  Plot threads weave sinuously and cleverly together, and reinforce one another in surprising ways.  These diverse plot threads come together so well that by the end it becomes difficult to find the seams between them.  In the end, it is difficult to say what the main plot of the novel is.
“Predestination” is a novel about running from, and ultimately facing, difficult decisions.  “Free Will” is a novel about facing consequences.  The “Progression” is still under construction, with at least three more novels in the works.  I think fans of the first book will still be on board after “Free Will.”  Personally, I can’t wait to see where the Lunar Revolution goes next.
Note:  This article is based on an earlier draft of the novel.  Some differences likely exist between the reviewed copy and the final release, including edits of grammar and spelling.

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