Hello readers! So last night, I finished up episode seven of Fireteam Freelance, titled Missing Persons.
Those of you that are following along with each episode as it goes live may note that the last episode you read was number five, Catch Your Breath. That’s correct: I’ve managed to get a little ahead of the uploads by having the interviews interspaced with each episode.
Which means that yes, this Saturday will see the uploading of episode six, Mandatory Takeout, in which the team is asked to make … a supply raid on a UNSEC logistical center?
Bits and pieces coming together, folks. Bits and pieces.
So, seeing as you’re about to get the halfway mark of the season, and I’m starting episode eight today (Last One Out), I figured now would be a good time to talk about my thoughts on the series so far, as well as invite you readers a space to make your own responses (or just comments in general on the series so far).
Hit the jump to see what I’ve made of my creation so far. Then leave your thoughts.
All right, so where to begin? Well, How about with what I feel Fireteam Freelance is doing well. And first and foremost, Freelance is delivering what a subset of readers has been clamoring over for two books now: Life on Earth.
Colony started out on Earth but very quickly left for Pisces, while Jungle pulled the rug out from everyone by about facing and casting our characters off into deep-space once more. And while both were well-received, there was a growing rumble of readers who really wanted to know more about what Earth was like during this period.
Granted, we’re seeing through the lens of a select group of elite mercenaries who are wealthy enough to not be in some of the worse places on Earth (thought their living location clearly paints a picture of a place that isn’t the best), but with each episode I’ve made sure that we’ve gone to an array of different places around to world to show how this future has developed and give readers glimpses of that future Earth they wanted to see so badly.
Granted, it’s been “in passing” as the story moves along to the action setpiece of each episode (more on that in a bit) but it’s there.
The second thing I feel Freelance has delivered on, and arguably what is its best strength, is some absolutely fantastic action sequences.
Again, these are the core focus of each chapter, and have been a good way for me to test new ideas and techniques as well as challenge myself with some new, crazy sets I haven’t had a chance to test elsewhere. If nothing else were worthy of praise with Freelance, I’d believe that the action still is solid, well-written, and gripping.
Again, this is something that a subset of readers have been requesting for a while now: Something that is mostly given over to action. Freelance was a good place to give them what they wanted. With both it and the team’s views of Earth, I hope these fans are happy that they’ve been given something they’ve requested so often, and that they’re enjoying it! Is is what they asked for, after all.
Lastly (and this is a smaller one, but seeing as I’m two episodes ahead, I can say this … I’m pretty pleased with how all the puzzle pieces are coming together. Over these next few weeks I imagine a number of readers are going to pause, say “Oh” aloud, and then open a new tab with a prior episode to skim through and then exclaim “Oh so that’s what that was about!” Keeping this running theme going while being more episodic has been a bit of a challenge as it’s more nebulous than normal, but I think while not being on the level of Colony or Jungle it should be satisfying to those who like lining up the threads.
In addition, yes those threads absolutely lead back to Colony and Jungle, to the degree that if you haven’t read those, some of those threads are going to be lost. Not much I can do about that.
So, if that’s what I think Freelance has done all right so far, what about the other side of the coin? Because yes, I do think that there are some weaknesses with it.
For starters, the episodic format. In fairness, I chose to make Freelance this way as an experiment to see what sort of restrictions and advantages I would be laboring under. But I will admit that it does come with some weaknesses. The most glaring one to me (and this may differ from what you readers find) would be character.
Don’t get me wrong, the four protagonists are alright. They’re certainly well-developed enough to be satisfactory. But … I usually don’t do satisfactory. I like to let the characters run with themselves and be fully fleshed out. And to do that, they need space. Space which, locked in an episodic format where an action setpiece is promised in each episode, I don’t have.
Basically, this is an end-sum product of restrictions. Each “episode” can only be so long. Where a chapter in Jungle or Colony can spend its entire length on a scene between two characters discussing how something in the prior chapter has affected them, I’m not given that luxury with Fireteam Freelance. I can open with it, but it has to be kept succinct. To the point. Because anyone needs to be able to come in at any point, grasp that the four characters are mercenaries, and then get to the shooty-shooty-boom-boom part that is the true focus.
It’s not … bad, per say. There are plenty of well-loved books out there that deliver little else. But it is a bit … unfulfilling, personally. Not to an alarming degree. But it’s a lesson learned from this experiment about the level of which something episodic like this needs to be committed to its core promise and what must be sacrificed to make that happen.
This goes hand in claw with another concession of the episodic format: The fact that despite all this action, it’s fairly clear that the team is going to make it out all right, if a little battered.
In other words, while there’s a lot of action, some of it feels less impactful to me compared to say, something like Jungle, where all this tension has built up to a breaking point and when it pops you don’t know who is going to come out of it alive or how close to the end they might come.
With the action in Freelance, it’s fun, but at the same time, being episodic, you know that the characters are going to be back up and out for the next entry. That tension element is lost.
Which I have tried to mitigate a bit by adding cool setpieces and fun action. This team definitely has some neat toys (Owl’s “painter” drones on some missions, for example). I’ve tried to deliver a lot of different places around Earth so that the fighting is always happening somewhere new or in a new scenario (this Saturday’s episode, as well as next, definitely up the ante).
Again, this is also a learning experience, and part of why I wanted to try something episodic. I’m flexing some new writing skills, using others in new ways, and even learning some new things.
Those are the benefits, sure. But there are some limits with Freelance‘s action that come from the simple nature of “there will be action every chapter!”
Okay, so ultimately, where does that put me? Or you, the readers?
Well, first and foremost I hope you’re still enjoying Fireteam Freelance despite the differences brought about by format. I also hope those of you that really wanted to see Earth and what was going on between Jungle and Colony have enjoyed what glimpses there have been, and there are more on the way!
Personally, while I don’t find Fireteam Freelance to be up to the quality of Colony or Jungle, I do realize that it’s not entirely a fair comparison. Freelance is episodic, and that brings with it differences and challenges.
But just because I may not find it the equal of my other works doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
So then, with that I turn to you, readers. What have you made of Fireteam Freelance so far? Do you like what it’s offered? Or has it left you feeling that it could/should have been something else? How have you found the characters? The setting? The action? Are you looking forward to it? Or are you waiting for it to be done so you can read it in one big push?
Please, leave a comment and let me know! Good and bad! Freelance is an experiment, a journey! And I’ll need feedback if I’m going to know where what I’m trying is or isn’t working.
So as we near the halfway point (episode six dropping Friday), I’d love to hear what you’ve made of this journey so far, versus what may be me being my own worst critic (not that this is a bad thing at all). What’s working, what isn’t, what you love, and what you don’t.
So hit that comment box, please! As for me, I’ve got an new episode to start …