Home > Book Reviews > Review: Live Free or Die by John Ringo

Review: Live Free or Die by John Ringo

I picked up Live Free or Die by John Ringo on a whim, partially because of the ancient Greek references in the name of the Series (Troy Rising) and the final book, The Hot Gate, (a reference, I presume, to the Battle of Thermopylae).

This first book introduces first contact by an alien culture who essentially parks a wormhole-type gate in the Sol system, stating that other alien races can now visit Earth with impunity, however and whenever they want.  Humans must carve out their place among the other races (1) whose technology is much in advance of our own and (2) who see limited value in the resources that Earth can supply.  With limited to no trade goods, Earth may be condemned to remain a technological backwater and subject to extortion and tyrrany.

Typically, the Earth’s governments have difficulty dealing with the new normal, so it is up to a down-on-his-luck IT analyst and science fiction web cartoonist, Tyler Vernon, to find a way out of the mess.  Vernon plays the trade economics game better than others:  he uses his intergalactic fame with one alien trader to identify an unlikely trade good, negotiates good terms and organizes Terran corporations to parlay his new wealth into a viable enterprise, and develops a multi-year strategy to throw off the yoke of alien extortionist so that humankind can be the authors of their own destiny, in spite of ourselves.

Vernon is smart, creative, and visionary, and has the guts to back up his work.  He doesn’t suffer bureaucracy lightly, whether that be a government agency, the president of the United States, or corporate big-wigs.  The one issue I had is that Vernon is almost too competent.  Ringo explains some of Vernon’s vision and quick-reading ofa situation through his work on his comic book work, where he had to work out how alien races might trade among themselves.  But it’s difficult to buy that he’s instantly an expert economist, merchant, entrepreneur, asteroid miner, hard scientist, etc.  Regardless, it’s pleasurable to read.

I found the first half or so of the book extremely readable, out-trading the professional traders, ignoring or using the government, and playing one powerful alien race against the other.  The last portion of the book was much more hard science, however, so some of the techno-babble and acronyms began to bog down the plot and characterization.

Another facet that many may find difficult to stomach is Vernon’s political bent; while he has no love of corporate nonsense, he espouses a very conservative political attitude.  I found the several “lectures” fascinating, especially as a reaction to the requirements of the time — for example, when the world is under immediate threat of destruction, should environmental regulations be loosened?  Many readers will be turned off.

I’m very interested to find out what happens next.  The second book is Citadel.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars (finished June 9, 2011)

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