I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by ECW Press on April 12th 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, New Adult, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
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“A non-stop, furiously paced story.” — Robert Charles Wilson, award-winning author
A nuanced story about artificial intelligence and digital immortality, Freenet plunges readers into the far future, when humans have closed distances in time and space through wormhole tunnels between interplanetary colonies. Consciousness has been digitized and cybersouls uploaded to a near-omniscient data matrix in a world where information is currency and the truth belongs to whoever has the greatest bandwidth.
When Simara Ying crash-lands on the desert planet Bali, she finds herself trapped in a cave-dwelling culture with no social network for support. Her rescuer, Zen Valda, is yanked into a new universe of complications he can scarcely grasp and into an infinite network of data he never knew existed. When brash V-net anchorman Roni Hendrik starts investigating how Simara became the subject of an interplanetary manhunt, he finds a dangerous emergence in the network that threatens all human life.
Freenet is an exciting new novel about the power of information, as well as the strength of love, in a post-digital age.
Simara has spent her entire life in space living with a sexually abusive stepfather. Before the death of her mother Simara only experienced her stepfather’s abuse from afar, but now without her mother she becomes the primary target of his wrath. One day the abuse becomes too much and the naive girl who has ever lived in space flees to the Dark Zone; a planet where no digital signal can penetrate to the planet’s surface. There she meets Zen and uncovers a plot against special children like her who have a special connection to the virtual world’s AI “Mother”.
Zen, a strong, damaged and weary boy is on a routine salvage run when he finds an unconscious girl in one of the space ships that fall from the sky. He brings her home and nurses her back to health in hopes that perhaps this one will live – he will not have to bury another stranger. Samara isn’t what he expects and after saving her life a second time he is forced to leave his home planet, the only place he has ever known, and travel into the wide abyss of space with Simara as his guide. Unfortunately, it appears the authorities have been waiting for Simara’s return and Zen’s new found loyalty to the little star child will be pushed to its limits before the young couple can finally be free of Simara’s dark past.
I struggled with writing a review for Freenet. On the one hand Freenet had an interesting plot, fantastic twists and interesting cultures. What if our society was in space, deprived of all of Earth’s sense inspiring beauty and the only out was a virtual world called the ‘Freenet”? Could a virtual net of digital information become sentient? How corrupt could humanity get? Simara’s story is one of greed, corruption, sadness and human triumph over environmental circumstances. Freenet had all the workings of an amazing story, a fantastic science fiction novel that could take your breath away at it’s implications..but it missed the mark.
This novel was a mixed bag of genius and frustrating character inconsistency and as a result, my opinion is a complete mixed bag as well!
I didn’t particularly like any of the characters. There was a lot of “tell not show” kind of writing and a feeling of remoteness from the events unfolding. The language used just didn’t engage me in the way I wanted for a young adult science fiction novel because it felt more like a classical science fiction novel. I am totally fine with the classical tones of sci-fi, but in this instance I felt like the novel was unable to decide which genre it wanted to be. It was unusual – not terrible, but a bit jarring whenever I’d take a break and come back.
On top of that the summary doesn’t do the true story any justice with a promise of a wide scoping novel of awe inspiring societal upheaval when really this is a tale about a girl and a boy who fall for one another, save one another and a deep secret in Simara’s beloved Freenet. I expected something entirely different from what I got, thanks to the summary, but Im not complaining because I liked Simara and Zen’s story more than what the summary promised.
Finally, I hated Simara. I get shes a naive and weak space walker who has been largely sheltered from the realities of life. She takes her life in her own hands, and having been in that kind of situation, it takes a special kind of courage to go against someone who controls you so ultimately. So, when Simara consistently forced Zen to save her, her “uncontrollable” anger issues and the fact that she happily told everyone about how her stepfather abused and raped her..well her character fell apart for me. She literally tells Zen in her second line she’d been raped. She just met this boy, she has no idea what kind of person he is, and she reveals her biggest secret and weakness to him. I don’t know. She repeatedly does things that give people power over her, becomes abusive like her stepfather and makes herself into the victim far too often to make her character likable.
I’m not putting down victims of abuse; I just really wanted Simara to be as bad ass as the girl from the beginning of the novel.
In short, I liked Freenet for its plot twists, the ending and the interesting cultures Stanton created on Zen’s planet. I definitely enjoyed seeing how Stanton tackled the issues of low-stimulation in long term space flight and the long term segregation of generations of people in the Dead Zone. It delivered on the science fiction front in a way that I found highly satisfying, but on the young adult spectrum I couldn’t relate. The character of Simara was frustrating and Zen’s lack of sexual loyalty to his ‘wife’ bothered me on so many levels.
This book will appeal to readers who enjoy staunch science fiction, novels about virtual reality and are comfortable with issues such as rape and cheating. I definitely don’t suggest this novel to young adult fans since this novel is lacking some of the fundamental emotional elements and the novel deals with some adult issues. I would probably suggest this book to lovers of NA.