Junger makes an effort to frame their project—'a 300-mile conversation about war' and why it’s so hard to come home—which is more or less what happens in the film. That’s not what happens in the book. Here, we pass through countryside, nearly all of it in south-central Pennsylvania, and don’t hear a word from anyone till the second half. Freedom has a different purpose, a frame far less explicit ... virtually nothing happens outside the author’s head ... But the cleansing march disappears entirely for most of this short book. Junger takes us on long detours through history, anthropology, primatology, boxing, poker. It’s not easy to follow the thread ... Freedom has an authority problem. That is, its own authority is undercut by breathtaking generalizations and improbable mind-readings ... These contentions read like wild guesses or sentimental projections, and they reflect the book’s structure, which feels both aimless and overdetermined. An afterword of sources and references lists a great many books and interviews, but it comes too late to solve the authority problem.
... an odd, rambling book that doesn't really arrive at a conclusion, and at times seems unsure what questions it's asking in the first place ... The juxtaposition of memoir and Junger's peregrinations is meant, it seems, to provide a framework by which we might understand the concept of freedom better. The results aren't great ... filled with jarring transitions, culminating in a bizarre hypothetical question. It's difficult to follow Junger's train of thought; the effect is like listening to a lecturer who has forgotten his notes to a TED Talk and is clearly just winging it ... The rest of the book plays out much the same way, with Junger discussing a variety of subjects at variable length, cutting back to the story of his walk with his acquaintances (whom Junger never names or describes much at all), then back to more random topics, most of which are hypermasculine in nature ... Much of Freedom is inflected with a kind of tough-guy bravado ... Junger does make some solid observations along the way...But many of his assertions are, to put it mildly, bizarre ... an inexplicable book until the last page, when Junger discloses a personal circumstance—his first really human moment of the book—that illuminates, obliquely, why he set off on his voyage in the first place. It's disarming, and it only lasts an instant, but it suggests what this book could have been had he approached it with even a slight sense of vulnerability ... But that's not the book he wrote. What Junger has given us is unfocused, half-baked, a non-answer in search of a non-question.
Each part is engaging, entertaining, and enlightening. But the whole doesn’t offer a coherent experience: It’s more like three disconnected rambles than a single trip to a fixed destination ... Junger is best known for his multi-year New York Times bestseller, The Perfect Storm, which was turned into a blockbuster movie of the same name. Critics likened him to Ernest Hemingway after that early triumph, and the comparison is warranted. His prose offers the same nervous constraint, the same explosive calm ... As with Hemingway’s style, Junger’s distinctive voice might, in the mischievous mind, inspire parody alongside admiration ... The saga ends enigmatically, with an anticlimactic failure to achieve a desired goal. But that failure perhaps provides a further insight into the nature of freedom — and an argument for the book’s disjointed structure. Acceptance of the random nature of our existence may be what truly sets us free.