Maldoror_Chant’s 2017 Freeport is a fanfic set in the world of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.
The grand conflict in MSGW is over. The heroic terrorist protagonists of MSGW now must find new roles for themselves, preferably roles that do not leave a swath of death and property destruction in their wake.
Chang Wufei’s solution is to become a cop. He is dispatched to problem spot after problem spot, by a federation government striving endlessly to keep discord from boiling over into open chaos. Intrepid, uninhibited by petty bureaucratic rules, Wufei lives on a knife edge: he must be useful enough that he will not be cashiered for his frequent use of excessive force.
Assigned to bring a hitman known only as Carver to justice, Wufei recruits his old ally Duo. Duo has become a borderline criminal who operates out of the colony of Freeport — which is Carver’s last known destination. Wufei hopes that Duo’s connections will allow Wufei to nab Carver.
Freeport began life as a prison colony. War made it too expensive to maintain. The powers-that-be abandoned it, calculating that its eventual collapse (and death of all within it) would not attract any attention. The prisoners inconsiderately declined to die. Somehow they survived. The former prison is (rather like Wufei) just useful enough that its odder characteristics can be forgiven by the authorities. It is a hive of scum and villainy, but an occasionally convenient one.
Wufei is somewhat surprised to discover that rather than being captured by an oligarchy of savage gangs, Freeport is a hive of anarchists. While the inhabitants may disagree as the details, enough of them do agree that governments are untrustworthy that no conventional government can seize power. Their current system functions well enough to keep most of the inhabitants alive . Well, except for the murder victims.
Freeport has no interest in accommodating statist police. Thus it is Wufei who has to adapt to Freeport culture. He poses as Duo’s bodyguard. He doesn’t like the pretense, but he feels that it is more than just his job to catch Carver; it’s the right thing to do. Carver is committing massacre after massacre in multiple Solar System habitats. There are hints that someone is paying him to do this. Carver and his backer must be caught.
Straightforward job for the duo, yes? It gets complicated when Wufei and Duo fall for each other.
I did do some background research before reading this. My takeaway: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing isn’t my thing (giant robot stories generally are not) and Heero (important in the anime but present in this novel only as an influential off-stage character) spent more time threatening to kill other protagonists than he did actually killing them. In fact, the ratio of protagonists killed by Heero to protagonists he threatened to kill was approximately zero. Possibly lower.
My research turned out to be unnecessary. The important information — that the protagonist was a former child soldier and that he’s had trouble adjusting to the post-war world — is all the reader needs to know. The part where the child soldiers did their thing in ten-story-tall robots is an interesting factoid, but not required to comprehend what’s going on in this novel.
This is also a gay erotica novel. Like the Gundam Wing setting, this is not exactly my field of expertise but the LGBT aspect seemed to work for this cis-het reviewer. Certainly the characters involved appeared to enjoy themselves … when they were not having relationship drama.
I have read a lot of SF novels set in glorious anarchies. Freeport is a somewhat unusual example of the beast, in that unlike, oh, L. Neil Smith’s version, the anarchists are not marching in ideological lock-step (the occasional villain aside). While the Freeporters agree in broad strokes, they disagree quite a bit on the details. Further, the person whose views hew most closely to ideological purity is in fact not heroic; he’s a dangerous extremist who fails to convince his political allies that his actions are justified. “The anarchists who argued incessantly with each other” seems like kind of a no-brainer plot-wise, but it is an oddly uncommon detail for this sub-genre.
Lacking any familiarity with the author or the property for which this is fanfic, I had no expectations going in. Still, even if I had had expectations, I think this would have exceeded them. The author took what I would have thought to be uninteresting material and turned it into something pleasant.
1: We have no idea, of course, how many newly started anarchistic space colonies immediately collapsed into civil war and a surfeit of unwashed dishes. Wufei isn’t going to visit any colony that’s an airless, lifeless shell, so of course he has to be sent to a functioning (sorta kinda) habitat. This does not mean that Freeport will continue to work; the unwashed dishes may reach a tipping point and everything could fall apart in dramatic fashion.