The Departure Rothdas book review RSS
2.0 Stars

A well written, bloody, sci-fi action novel that is badly flawed by its wing-nut techno-libertarian world-building. It's kind of like _Atlas Shrugged_ crossed with a _A Deepness in the Sky_ crossed with a well-written Halo novel (Do those exist? We will assume they exist.)

So, first the world building. Trigger Warning: if you are a wing-nut libertarian, maybe you shouldn't read the next part. The novel is set ~100 years in the future, where political correctness has run amok. Led by the socialist bureaucrats of the European Union, a repressive World Government has taken over and state power has greatly expanded. As we all know, governments are immensely wasteful, the more so the larger they become. So the world government has ruined everything with its wastefulness, regulations, and mis-allocation of resources. Cash is almost non-existent, and most people subsist on a meager state welfare. The people are forced to use universal healthcare, which is of course a synonym for death panels and suicide booths. Only in a few places outside of the state's cameras can free trade flourish, and in these spots people wise enough to squirrel away gold can purchase the best of the black market. In general, the world is terrible and running out of resources. This is driven in large part by over population, with a world population of 18 billion. (Side note: it turns out that it if you give people half way decent lives and control of their reproductive health, they are happy to limit themselves to ~1.9 children per couple. It's a pattern that has repeated in nearly all of the developed countries. I wish the author could have taken some sustainability courses before using the idiotic word "manswarm" so often.)

Global warming doesn't seem to be a problem at least. Hmm, what else. There are also elements of a sort of reactionary misogyny, tech-CEO worship, and a general dislike of democracy, though those issues are somewhat less in your face than the above.

Whew. So, there is all of that. On the positive side, The Departure is a very competently written action sci-fi. I've read reviews comparing it to a sci-fi Bourne Identity, and that sounds about right. The action is very bloody and the story is rather dark, and the number of people killed rises exponentially as the story goes along. (As I understand it, this continues on in the sequel, until the 18 billion people run out.) But if you are ok with that, the action of the book is all very fine. It's a bit like _A Deepness in the Sky_, in that it pits tech people/programmers against managers, and has lots of fights on space stations and moon bases, fights that hinge on things like who has access to the reactor or hydroponics section or the armory, or who has root access to the kill-bots. So if you could somehow strain out the ideological irritants in the story, you would just have a good old fashioned tale of righteous programmers liquidating useless and heartless administrators. In that case I'd be perfectly fine in recommending the book. And in a general sense I am sympathetic to the concerns that the author raises. It's not hard to see how the displacement of labor by automation, militarized drones, ubiquitous surveillance, and enormous levels of inequality within society could combine into some very bad things. It's just that I see the people doing the very bad things as those who are currently in power, e.g. the Kochs and the security services, rather than the Tumblr crowd or people interested in reducing inequality. Or to put it another way, the Libertarian hero/Owner of the story seems more likely than anyone to be the cause of the dystopia that the author portrays.

Anyway. Overall this is a flawed and annoying book that made me worry about the safety of the people around the author.