‘Rise of the Liberators: Terrafide - Volume 1’ - Book Review

In his previous book, Stay Younger Longer, author Ryan Hyatt conjured up a world not so far from our own, where eco-politics carried more weight than they should, the search for the next party was everyone’s greatest quest, and California set the standard of living for the nation.

Now, with Rise of the Liberators (Volume 1 of his new series, Terrafide), he takes a step back in his story to a less prosperous and secure time.  Told in three interlocking tales, and set in the early 2020s, it follows the story of Ray Salvatore, a former military man whose greatest wish is to get the implants needed to allow his visually impaired daughter to see the world in color.

But in an energy-starved America, Ray can’t even keep the air conditioning on in his Phoenix home, while his wife scrimps, saves, and mourns their post-consumer life style.  At this point, cortical implants are on par with winning the lottery.

But Ray gets an unexpected break when an officer makes him an offer that could set him for life:  sign-on for a top-secret mission involving new technology and make the world a safer place for his daughter.

Ray’s task is to command the first of a series of Liberators - giant, towering robots with enough firepower to level a city and the ability to adapt shapes to fit their mission. 

And their mission?  To invade an oil-rich Iraq and take over the country, securing the reserves for a waning United States.

But against this black-and-white set-up, Ray’s growing paranoia of his situation butts up hard against his sense of duty, turning what could have just been a big-robot-big-guns Pacific Rim pastiche into something deeper: an examination of the nature of duty and heroism, an anti-war war story that asks whether men can be trusted with their own machines of war, especially as Ray begins to wonder where the grossly advanced technology used to create the Liberators might actually have come from.

In reviewing his last book, I noted that the best science fiction is often that which is only slightly removed from the experiences we know.  In that aspect, Hyatt excels with his tale, showing us a world that could be days away in our own headlines. Filled with consumer greed, desperation, and a fervent nationalism that rivals anything on the nightly news, he sets Ray an unenviable task in leading his neophyte team into a conflict he is warned will be a no-win situation.

Hyatt also manages to keep his characters distinct against the technological and sociological backdrop he weaves so effortlessly.  A seemingly unrelated (at first) middle section proves a withering study of consumerism as a failing children’s book author sets out to become the biggest salesman of all time and plays wickedly on the willingness of the individual to become part of the show at any cost, even when their goal is an altruistic one.  And the resolution proves oddly touching against such a commercial setting.

As the first phase in a larger tale, Rise of the Liberators is a strong setup.  Think Transformers with less gratuitous violence and more Cable News Interludes.  It’s a mature story, deserving of an initial read, especially when the true scope of this work reveals itself.  Hopefully, we won’t have to wait long for Volume 2 and the revelations behind the Liberators creation... 


VERDICT:    FOUR Daddy’s Girl Artillery Barrages out of FIVE

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