“The Free People’s Village” Review

The cover is dark pink with the title written sideways on the top right corner. On the left corner there is a drawing of an individual swinging a bat at machine dog at the bottom of the book cover. The author's name is on the bottom of the book. Written by Sim Kern
Published by Levine Querido, September 2023
388 pages
Completed December 18, 2023

In an alternate 2020 timeline, Al Gore won the 2000 election and declared a War on Climate Change rather than a War on Terror. For twenty years, Democrats have controlled all three branches of government, enacting carbon-cutting schemes that never made it to a vote in our world. Green infrastructure projects have transformed U.S. cities into lush paradises (for the wealthy, white neighborhoods, at least), and the Bureau of Carbon Regulation levies carbon taxes on every financial transaction.

English teacher by day, Maddie Ryan spends her nights and weekends as the rhythm guitarist of Bunny Bloodlust, a queer punk band living in a warehouse-turned-venue called “The Lab” in Houston’s Eighth Ward. When Maddie learns that the Eighth Ward is to be sacrificed for a new electromagnetic hyperway out to the wealthy, white suburbs, she joins “Save the Eighth,” a Black-led organizing movement fighting for the neighborhood. At first, she’s only focused on keeping her band together and getting closer to Red, their reckless and enigmatic lead guitarist. But working with Save the Eighth forces Maddie to reckon with the harm she has already done to the neighborhood—both as a resident of the gentrifying Lab and as a white teacher in a predominantly Black school.

When police respond to Save the Eighth protests with violence, the Lab becomes the epicenter of “The Free People’s Village”—an occupation that promises to be the birthplace of an anti-capitalist revolution. As the movement spreads across the U.S., Maddie dreams of a queer, liberated future with Red. But the Village is beset on all sides—by infighting, police brutality, corporate-owned media, and rising ecofascism. Maddie’s found family is increasingly at risk from state violence, and she must decide if she’s willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of justice.

This was such a great and important book to read. It really does a good job of showing how bad things can still be under different political situations. Democrats aren’t always any better than Republicans when it comes to how minorities are treated. In the book only the rich are able to live in paradise under the rules created in the war against climate change which isn’t all that differen than our current reality. I really liked the story of the main character realizing her own privileges and the ways she had caused harm. There are many different types of people in the book and they are all well written and developed characters. I really enjoyed the entire story and while the ending isn’t a happy one the fight goes on for a better future.