Freeman’s Stand, by Sarah A. Hoyt, brings the theme of Rocket’s Red Glare back to the forefront with a vengeance. Molly is a teenaged girl who is literally a rebellious teenager. She has joined a loose organization dedicated to overthrowing a vaguely defined despotic regime with the goal of implementing an equally vaguely defined New America. The action takes place on what might be an alien planet and what might be a far future version of earth, and features just the sorts of high speed chases, shoot-outs, betrayals, and heroic rescues one expects from an espionage tale. The result is an engaging story that draws the reader in, provided the reader doesn’t think too hard about the backdrop of the story or the goals of Molly’s organization, which are the platitudinous values of freedom and equality under the law. Throw in a name like “Sons of Liberty” and a few references to former American presidents and you’ve got yourself a tale of red, white, and blue resistance.
If you don’t think about it too hard.
Hoyt’s rebellion isn’t grounded in anything more than a few slogans. Instead of coming off like Americans fighting to restore their nation, the Sons of Liberty come off like cultists serving a narrative. They might carry scraps of Old Glory in their pockets, but the resistance here feels like people trying to claim America as their own rather than trying to reclaim it following its loss. Their goals seems to the sort of lofty American touchstones that get paraded about to ensure everyone that America is for everyone and that it means anything you want it to. This doors-wide-open vision of America stands in sharp contrast to the pugnacious attitude and pioneering spirit of America as a polity shown in the first two stories in Rocket’s Red Glare.
he contrast is jarring and confusing. I didn’t recognize the tonally inconsistent version of America presented. Perhaps the good old USA had fallen so long ago that the Sons of Liberty had cobbled together an approximation through scraps of history and lost lore. If so, this was never presented, and so instead of enjoying the action, I found myself wondering where this weird America came from.
Normally, I’d be loathe to resort to the petty tactic of mentioning the “About The Author” section of a collection, but in this case it provides an important clue towards understanding why Freeman’s Stand feels like such an alien version of America. The very first thing mentioned in Hoyt’s bio is that she was born and raised in Portugal. That’s the lead-off. It’s important that you know Hoyt is Portuguese before all else. And it’s only now, after the story is concluded, that the pieces fall into place. This is a story of “Nation of Immigrants” America written by an author with a very different perspective of America than one held by a reader born and bred within her borders. That is the source of the disconnect, and I found myself wishing that I’d known from the outset that Molly’s story was that an American outsider fighting for an outsider’s vision of America. It would have resolved a number of discordant passages within the tale.
That really is a shame because Molly is a great character. She comes off as a believable and sympathetic nineteen year old girl – something that very few authors do well these days. Most would make Molly sassy and wise and fiercely independent. Although Molly is no slouch, Hoyt allows Molly the vulnerability necessary to accept the help of a man, not because Molly is weak, but because she is smart enough to know when two heads are better than one. That’s a nice change of pace from characters like Kali, the young female lead in Performance Bonus, a character that could have been written specifically for Michelle Rodriguez.
From here, we transition into a space western in the tradition of Outland or Firefly, complete with U. S. Marshalls, bar fights, and six shooters. David Hardy’s, A Man They Didn’t Know, takes place out among the outer planets of Earth’s solar system, and features a bounty hunting mission gone wrong. As a “catch the bad guy” tale, it is a lot of fun. This story’s major tie-in to the Rocket’s Red Glare consists mainly of its thematically borrowing from the American Western Tale, although the setting’s built-in assumption that the bulk of the solar system has been explored and settled by the latest generation of American frontiersmen certainly plays a role as well.
Unlike many space western’s, A Man They Didn’t Know, could not be dropped into the desert southwest without any changes. This is a science fiction tale through and through. The background of Hardy’s setting features a Cyborg War and computer dependent plot-points, without which the story would lose most of what gives it weight and drama. As a short piece of action, with a solid American depth to it, this one hits the spot.