Liberation Game, by Kris Schnee – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Liberation Game, by Kris Schnee.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, May 2018, trade paperback, $8.99 (307 pages). Kindle $3.99.

This is both a sequel to Thousand Tales: How We Won the Game, 2040: Reconnection, The Digital Coyote, Thousand Tales: Learning to Fly, and all the other stories in this series, and an independent summation of all of them. It covers the years 2036 to 2040, from when the Artificial Intelligence Ludo was just starting to set up the Thousand Tales/Talespace gameworld, to when it – maybe – becomes a legally recognized independent country. It features new characters, although some previous characters appear in it. (Nocturne, identified in the first novel as a black-feathered griffin-girl, is described more fully; she’s not an eagle-lioness combination but a raven-lioness.)

Liberation Game features three main characters: Ludo, in “her” beautiful human woman form; Robin MacAdam, a young American, a member of the Latter Day Saints/Mormons helping to build a community in the Central American nation of Cibola; and Lumina, a centauroid deer robot (very shiny but metallic; not very “furry”).

As Liberation Game begins in 2036, Ludo has just begun her mission to help humans “have fun”. Lumina is one of the first independent AIs that Ludo has created. She was intended to become the android companion of a German doctor who Ludo hoped to encourage to become a supporter of Thousand Tales and one of its first uploaded residents, but he is killed almost immediately, leaving Lumina at loose ends. She drifts over to Robin’s project.

Robin, the assistant of Edward Apery, are the two Mormons/Americans helping the local natives of Cibola to construct a modern village, Golden Goose. The name is intended as both a symbol of what they hope to accomplish, and as a subtle hint to Cibola’s corrupt government that it can get more over the long run by letting the experimental village succeed than by taking all its assets as “taxes” immediately.

“The village of Golden Goose existed by a strange partnership. The Latter-Day Saints (or Mormons) had pumped money into Cibola in the hopes of winning over some of the local Catholics. The government had eagerly deeded them some land to start economic reconstruction. Robin himself had initially cared more about travel and adventure and damn good local coffee.

The village’s other partner wasn’t human: Ludo the gamemaster AI.” (p. 5)

At this point, Ludo is mostly a silent partner, helping to subsidize Golden Goose’s development for the long-range goal of building one of her centers of Thousand Tales and uploading human minds into Talespace. Edward/administrator and Robin/engineer are the tutors of the local natives, and their representatives to Governor Leopold, their Cibolan government official.

When “General Mosquito”, a warlord fighting the government’s incompetent army and killing everyone his army encounters, decides to conquer Golden Goose and loot all its assets, Edward flees, leaving Robin in charge. Ludo supports him in planning a defense – and more:

“‘I don’t run Golden Goose. I’m just the engineer. Edward will come back once the threat is gone.’

‘Unlikely. Will you look to the long term with me, and be ready to defend this area even against Leopold as the nominally lawful ruler?’

Robin backed away from the racks of computers. ‘Did you just ask me to start a revolution?’

‘The rule of law is a rare thing, and there’s little of it here. I predict that if your people do well, you can be recognized as a mostly autonomous zone that pays taxes and bribes but is mostly left alone to do big things.’

‘Things for you, you mean. What is this immortality miracle, really?’

‘Digital recreation of human minds. Brain uploading. That’s not the important thing here. It’s going to be controversial and I need places where people have the freedom to sign up for it.’” (p. 74)

Robin’s victory over Mosquito, and his fighting alongside the villagers of Golden Goose after Edward fled, wins him the villagers’ support. He continues to build the village, and Ludo begins to develop her center beneath it. One of her first “assistants” is Lumina. Robin is dismissive of the flashy metallic deer-centauroid android at first, but they grow on each other.

Lumina is the only major “furry” character at first, if you consider a metallic android to be furry, but there are many supporting characters such as Delphine, a dolphin-woman:

“The turret detected portals opening in the blazing desert. Lumina disabled it and unlocked the outer door to let the guests trickle in. First was a dwarf, then a living suit of armor and Nocturne the griffin. There was a humanoid otter with a cutlass [Typhoon’s Eye; he becomes important later on], several unicorns and pegasi, and more. There were one hundred and nine people in total.

Nocturne said, ‘Welcome to TalesCon ’36!’, greeting one of the last guests, a French-accented centaur lady with a vest full of cooking tools.” (p. 48)

“‘Thank y’all!’ said a rabbit in shining armor, grinning widely. He turned to the avatars of a kindly Texan woman and her wheelchair-bound friend, who were doing voice acting for some of the characters. The bunny added, ‘Miss Abby, when are you free next? Been wantin’ to show you my mansion.’” (p. 188)

The story gradually becomes more furry, but it doesn’t become really furry until about page 200. It’s an easy read until then because all of Schnee’s Thousand Tales novels are excellent s-f stories, both thought-provoking and dramatic:

“‘This is a dangerous game, Ludo. Last time you encouraged md to fight, it was to protect my people against an incoming threat of violence. You said you wouldn’t suggest it unless there were going to be a fight anyway.’ Robin paced, then looked back at her. ‘Is that what you’re telling me again?’

She nodded. ‘We know that someone is using violence as a provocation already. You should begin to game out several ways that the next few rounds of this dance could go horribly wrong and what you’ll do.’” (p. 280)

Liberation Game (cover by NextMars) is another winner in Schnee’s Thousand Tales series. Don’t miss it.

Fred Patten

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