A Review of Live Free Or Die

Live Free or DieLive Free or Die by John Ringo
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

John Ringo is an interesting author, an interesting person. And apparently, not a very nice one. I first came across him when I picked up some collaborations he did with one of my favorite sci fi writers, David Weber, and they were pretty good, so I looked up some John Ringo books and got this. The premise sounded interesting. I should have read some of the reviews more thoroughly. I had no idea he was so controversial.

When I started reading him, I found out that he lived in the city I currently reside in, Chattanooga, and got excited. There aren’t too many prominent authors here, so I thought that was cool. I wondered why, and still do, why he was here. Now I think I know.

The book itself, Live Free Or Die, is pretty funny, at first, and heavy on the hard sci fi, which makes for an interesting mixture. An alien race comes to Earth, wants to trade with us, finds little of value, and is about to leave when another comes, nukes three of our cities and settles in our skies to become our “protectors,” which is a neat way of saying we’re their prisoners. And there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. One guy, a normal dude named Tyler, decides to try something. He tries to trade something, anything, with the first alien race, the Glatun, and discovers Glatun crack – maple syrup. They go wild for it and it really gets them messed up. He sells them a zillion barrels for many, many billions of dollars and becomes the richest man on earth. He buys up all the rights for all available plots of land that produce maple syrup in North America and so it begins. He starts trying to obtain equipment and technology from the Glatun so he can eventually build his own super ship and weapons to defeat the Horvath and free Earth. Sounds okay so far, right?

Well…. Tyler is the only one in the book who pretty much does anything. The governments of the world don’t do anything, don’t lift a hand to help him, don’t subsidize his costs. The other alien races don’t rush to help him. Indeed, the Glatun are a welfare-based race that is dying out. It becomes apparent at some point that Ringo is somewhat of a hard conservative and, thankfully, after I stopped reading, he launched into a preaching tirade of right wing, gun loving, war mongering, goose stepping, uber libertarian, pseudo-fascist, genocide-writing authoring for the remainder of the book which turns the stomach of most of the readers. Thank God I missed out on that. See, I’m a red state Democrat. I’ve lived all over North America and while I’ve lived in Chattanooga nine years, I detest the politics and culture here and would like to move elsewhere but due to certain circumstances, can’t at the moment. But Ringo. It now makes sense. Chattanooga is a Bible Belt, Bible thumping, gun loving, red state, uber conservative, Tea Party, largely politically psychotic city and region with the majority of its citizens frightening the hell out we few “liberals” they want to string up and lynch. Indeed, we had a day of “unity” for the city several months ago to help the people of the city “heal” after a terrorist attack killed five men in the military here this summer and they brought Samuel L. Jackson, Harry Connick Jr., and the guest speaker of honor, some asshole retired admiral who screamed about how the anti-American devil Obama was at fault for these terrorist murders, etc. It was f***ing appalling and we few Democrats in the city were horrified and contacted the city leaders who claimed they knew nothing about it and told us to contact the organizers, who also claimed to know nothing about it, before then admitting they did after all invite this insane, drooling, senile idiot. And Ringo fits in here perfectly. So it all makes sense. And you can be sure I’m never buying a John Ringo book again. But I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’ve read so many interesting and informative reviews, especially about parts of the book I didn’t read since I quit halfway through, that I’m going to quote some of them from different people, giving them credit, but without permission, hoping it’ll be okay with them if they ever see it. I’m certainly not trying to steal their thunder. It’s their words and ideas. I’m just repeating it in my own review because I think it’s relevant. So here they are. The book? Interesting premise, but very poorly handled. One star. Definitely not recommended.

May 17, 2014 Jonathan rated it 1 of 5 stars · review of another edition

This would have been a fun if utterly mindless little jaunt about aliens invading and humans fighting them off if the author could have not spent every other page stuffing his straight up fascist opinion in with the subtly of a sledge hammer.

I don’t use the word fascist lightly. I love Heinlein and find the politics in his books more or less unoffensive. Heinlein certainly writes about brutal militaristic governments, but it is an exploration of those societies and shows both the good and bad. When Heinlein shoves his political opinion in, it is done with a little bit of finesse. You don’t have to agree, but it is at least an interesting perspective. The author of this atrocity, John Ringo, should take a lesson from Heinlein.

In Ringo’s world, anyone who isn’t actively rooting for poor brown people to die is an idiot. I am not exaggerating. There is a point in the book where all the poor brown people die, and the red neck hero of the book declares it is a real shame, but applauds how much this is going to improve the economy. It would be one thing if this was written from the perspective of a red neck fascist, but it is pretty clearly a fantasy world where every even vaguely lefty decision results in doom, and every fascist decision in a win.

My favorite part is when, after all the poor brown people are killed, a virus makes it so that blond women (and only blond women) go into heat and it makes them desperate to breed and more fertile, thus ensuring that the future of the human race will be blond hair blue eyed white people. I didn’t even make that up.

Throw on top of this pile of horrors the fact that there is not a single female character with more than a couple of lines (other than one brief villain), and it is pretty hard to not walk away utterly convinced that the author is just a straight right wing fascist nut. And when I say fascist, I mean it in the that he literally want all brown people to die, women to be slaves, and the world to be made up of blond hair and blue eyed people.

If you want to read some decent militaristic sci-fi with a conservative voice, read some Heinlein. This book is on the KKK reading list and I so I really can’t recommend this crap to anyone who would feel uncomfortable at a KKK rally.

Feb 27, 2013 Christopher Smith rated it 1 of 5 stars · review of another edition

It’s the near-future. Astronomers detect what appears to be a ring-shaped asteroid entering the solar system. But then the object decelerates. Okay, so it’s not an asteroid; the astronomers freak out. Suddenly, the leaders of the world’s major nations get a phone call. It’s an automated message from an alien species called the Glatun, informing the hapless earthlings that the object is a hyperspace gate, and any alien race that wants to can now send ships to Earth. You are not allowed to block or destroy the gate. Welcome to the universe, and good luck.

This book had such a promising beginning. The first hundred pages had good writing, a fascinating premise, and plenty of light-hearted comic relief. Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn’t deliver. The middle third gets extremely bogged down in technical detail. Worse, the main character, whose entrepreneurial spirit is initially endearing, turns out to be kind of an unsympathetic, egotistical jerk.

Even that would be bearable, however, if it weren’t for the fact that halfway through the book Ringo ambushes his readers with a sudden barrage of conservative politics. Somehow Ringo manages to incorporate pretty much every right-wing caricature of liberals, government, and the mainstream media, all while patting himself on the back for “at least trying to understand” these groups, something they allegedly make no effort to do in return.

The dealbreaker for me was the tacit endorsement of eugenics. In one segment, some aliens attack the earth with a biological weapon basically designed to kill all the stupid people, the elderly, Islamic fundamentalists, and those with pre-existing medical conditions. The main character then treats us to a lecture about how this will balance the budget and stimulate the economy. He at least has the decency to feel bad for saying so, but not bad enough. Readers are not shown any of the horror of hundreds of millions of people suddenly dying; it’s treated almost entirely as a financial and strategic calculation. Ayn Rand and Adolf Hitler would be proud.

Mar 21, 2011 Brad rated it 2 of 5 stars · review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction, genre-fiction-ghetto, political, technology-porn

2) Obvious Conservative/Libertarian Bias. I don’t NECESSARILY mind the “one hero who plays by his own rules saves the world” bit– I am arguably a historian in the Whiggish tradition– but Ringo steps beyond that to hit a number of horned-in talking points. Government in general is seen as inept and bureaucratic; Terrestrial liberals are depicted as limp-wristed and view surrender as the first and only option; the Terrans’ Patron Race, the Glatun, are described as a society doomed to collapse in the near future due to their disrespect of military tradition and the decadence of their welfare state. There is something to be said re: writing what you believe in, but in a number of places the allegorical rhetoric steps over the line to outright propaganda. (Particularly in the places where he intimates that America is, as usual, at the forefront of the struggle for freedom and the rest of the world consists of cheese-eating surrender monkeys.) I don’t think THIS level of political was necessary, and it really marred my enjoyment of the book.

Mar 04, 2012 Christal rated it 2 of 5 stars · review of another edition

So this was my first ever John Ringo. All I can say is… this was a completely and utter train wreck and I kinda loved it! LOL Oh I don’t think I will be taking on Mr Ringo as a new favorite author, but I think I will see this trilogy out eventually.

So I had heard about the whole ‘Oh John Ringo NO!’ and read the article. Laughed myself silly, and while there were parts ALMOST as bad as the example that blogger was using, it wasn’t quite up to par just yet. However this is what I have learned from this book:

5) John Ringo hates peace loving hippies but doesn’t have the balls to admit he might be a warmonger. So instead his character ‘pretends’ to only admit war is on the horizon because ‘that’s just how those aliens are and we must come to that realization before it’s too late.’ Sorry Ringo, not buying the whole I’m really a peaceful guy who just likes capitalism but I’m smart enough to know when we might have to fight’ routine. Everything your guy built was with war in mind, and even when your guy went into a ‘rant’ when they built the Starfire he was creaming his pants to be the first one in that cockpit to fight the Horvath.

6) Military high mucky mucks are really just big teddy bears once they see that your ‘top secret hush hush’ deathstar is really for them to defend the planet. What? you built a giant weapon unbeknownst to us and want us to buy it for 3 trillion dollars of the governments money? Oh and tax free? Wellllll since it kinda works I guess I’m sorry for screaming that one time, and hey, let’s go get malts together… K, call me!

7) John Ringo doesn’t do smooth information giving or description/setting details. John Ringo basically does info dumps every other paragraph, like he’s just read some new wikipedia page and had to vomit the information or die. And he HAS to tell a story through characters talking, THAT’S THE ONLY WAY. So our protagonist winds up being a very Chatty Cathy indeed.

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