Book Review: Welcome to the Free World
Reviewed by Chika Anene
Embark on a whirlwind of feverish exhilaration in this post-apocalyptic page-turner.
Will Robin is part of a group called “Scalpels,” and they are in opposition of the creators of the AI technology dominating the society he lives in. Scalpels work tirelessly to remove microchips embedded in the brains of individuals in society.
As a part of Scalpels, Will’s job is to help individuals escape a totalitarian government that wishes to survey and control society through a metaverse where the “utopia” is in their heads.
Of course, there are higher-ups who are not very pleased with the nature of Will’s job. Soon he finds himself on the run from assassins, the authorities, and everyone else who is against the work he is doing.
Will is a strong-willed character dedicated to his mission—just the type of protagonist we need in a story like this. He wants nothing to do with the disruptive illusions the Aurora chip creates and tries his hardest to oppose the government’s attempts to impose control over his mind.
Will’s day-to-day is filled with run-ins with assassins hellbent on ending him and the Scalpels. That, along with his unwillingness to comply with the authorities even though the odds are stacked cleanly against him, makes the book constantly exciting.
Despite telling himself that he will not connect with his “Aurora Friend,” Will’s strength is tested when he opens himself up to Aja, who eventually becomes intent on torturing him. Readers are given a glimpse of Will’s struggles as a Black man in his society in addition to his strife with the higher-ups. Author Lloyd Raleigh does a great job with this. I particularly appreciate how the book refrains from directly using slurs even when hinting at them.
Readers are also introduced to some strong side characters along the way. There is Martin, an assassin with a burn scar on his face who falls in love with a stripper and who gets caught up in a struggle with civilians over water supplies. Harriet and Jack flee their hometown in hopes of escaping the drought looming over it and face a few marital issues along the way. While their stories aren’t as significant as Will’s, they help build even more depth into this world, providing an insight to society we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
The world is so intricately woven together that readers are going to be sucked in from the moment they begin. Everything from the details of how the Aurora technology works to the state of the society has been so cleverly crafted that we always feel a part of the story and world. Settle in to the comfort of your chairs for this story that grabs you by the throat.
Genre: Science Fiction / Dystopia
Print Length: 363 pages
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