Book Review: The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith (1980)

I bought this book for six bucks, new, during my recent Springfield binge. Its cover announced that it’s the quintessential libertarian science fiction adventure. Hey, I’m a libertarian sort of fellow!

I fully expected this to be an Ayn Rand novel with some sci-fi verve, and that’s what it was. Basically, a cop from the dystopian future of 1987 (this book was originally published in 1980, so it’s an extrapolation of Jimmy Carter’s America) breaks on through to the other side–where the other side is a Libertarian paradise where George Washington didn’t put down the Whiskey Rebellion under his statist jackboot and the Hamiltonians were run out of the country. Unfortunately, the cop’s statist pursuers, well, pursue him and join up with the Hamiltonians in America and bring gasp! nuclear weapons.

So we don’t have the bounty of Galt’s speech with its pages of long paragraphs, but we do get a lot of shorter lectures from the enlightened libertarians. At the beginning of the book, it’s okay because the action isn’t overwhelmed, but at the end, when the book should be reaching climax, it cuts right to the talking. So, ultimately the book drags, but it’s another interesting dystopian future piece written twenty years ago (much like A Death of Honor).

Still, it was an enjoyable and easy read, fortunately for me; I also bought the sequel, The American Zone and would really hate to let it slip into the pile of books I’ve owned, but haven’t read, for over a decade. Unfortunately, that segment of my library is growing every year. Honest, Dr. Block, one day I will read that textbook I was required for my Literary Criticism class.

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