Monday, February 28, 2011

Homefront: the Voice of Freedom Book Review

Now, I’m no book worm, but Homefront: The Voice of Freedom is fun little read. Despite its production was solely to further spread the word and hype of the upcoming video game of the same name, its authors allow themselves enough room to elaborate on a fascinatingly grim vision of America.

Author John Milius needs little to no introduction as the infamous screenwriter of epics like Apocalypse Now and Conan the Barbarian and director of pulp favorites like Red Dawn and Dillinger. But co-author Raymond Benson-who likely carried the lions share of work-could use a little background. He’s an experienced video game novel writer with credits including a couple Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell stories as well as six original 007 stories.

Like most who will pick up this book, I was immediately drawn by the games strong political sensibilities. Few games actually express any real opinion particularly on real world matters like the currently escalating aggression of North Korea and our own difficulties with fuel management. The book provides a in depth look into the years preceding the games setting of middle America 2027.

Our story follows Ben Walker a journalist making a living writing for a webzine called, no joke, “Celebrity Trash”. Living in L.A. he staggers through his days in a miserable economic climate that see’s gas at $20 a gallon, food shortages, and most imported goods coming from a wealthy North Korean technological industry. Oh, and then the Koreans attack.

As hyped by the games own marketing, a EMP wipes out virtually all of the U.S electronics including cars and communications. This is not Fallout people, this is actually much more depressing. Instead of exploring a world long dead, Walker is our vessel in a mostly familiar America that’s slowly, slowly crumbling down. It’s stark, unnerving, and gripping from start to finish. To imagine ourselves living as the 3rd world does is a sad way to reflect on our materialism and ignorance of the rest of the world.

I feel I should address the right wing rhetoric. Milius is synonymous with the anti-government and god bless America crowd. As a far left winger myself, the book’s indulgences are tedious, but never a deal breaker. The worst of it are a couple of obvious deus ex machina’s where just when our heroes can’t go on without fuel, water, or shelter good old fashioned American brotherhood rides over the horizon to the rescue. There are also times when the writing really spells everything out for you as if I doubted the impending danger of gunfire.

The best of the book is its episodic nature as Walkers travels across America evading the Pacific coast invasion and unsavory fellow Americans alike. Every encounter is balanced with anxiety, intrigue, and excitement. There are, however, some needlessly descriptive moments of the weapons the resistance carries which again appeals toward the Milius following. But this is made up for with brisk scenes of exposition and the difficulties of survival. Good use is made of the characters willingness to take chances and forge equipment from wreckage and detail and then execute plans against their occupiers.

In all this is a spine breaker of a good quick read. It took me maybe five sittings to blast through its 300 pages which in all honestly shouldn’t have exceeded half that with a smaller font. At $10 this isn’t a bad deal and a great prep for the game. Call me a sucker for hype, but I’m sold and hungry for more. And isn’t that the mark of a good story teller?

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