Monday, December 27, 2004

Autonomy - Freedom of Thought

Jean-Michael Smith

Freedom of Thought, the first in Jean-Michael Smith's Autonomy series, is the first novel-length work of fiction I have read that was released under a Creative Commons license. When I first found it, almost a year ago, I believe, I was immediately entranced, which is not something that happens to me often when I am just beginning to read a book. Normally, a book is recommended to me or is by an author I already know I like, and so I allow a good number of pages before I can be hooked. But Jean-Michael is a very skillful writer, and knows how to allow a story to unfold at just the right pace.

Freedom of Thought is a science-fiction novel, set in the near future and located in the Physical and the Virtual. We are told two interwoven stories, that of Kyle Tate, Dr. Nolen, and Marguerite, and the virtual community that they establish, wherein subjective time is longer than in the Physical, and that of an FBI agent, Katy, who stumbles upon them and tries to destroy them before trying to understand them.

Throughout the story, the author uses suspense very well, letting us know just enough about what is happening to make us worry, without enough to be quite sure why. One can never know for certain what's around the next bend, but I, at least, was pulled through the story to the end, though a move and change of computers caused me to lose the URL for the book for some time.

Unlike Le Guin's The Dispossessed, however, this virtual Utopia is not ambiguous. The author has a clearly marked agenda with this story: it is an effort to warn against too much power being given to copyright and patent holders, and the dangers involved therein, as well as what can happen in an autonomous society, both good and bad, though the emphasis is clearly on the good.

All in all, a very compelling story, with plenty of things to think about, both in terms of technology and in terms of society. I recommend it highly, and since you can read it for free on the internet, as well as download it, print it, copy it, etc. due to the Creative Commons license, it's a pocketbook-friendly diversion.
Post a Comment