Hall of Fame finalist review: Terry Pratchett’s The Truth offers hilarious but serious comedy about the rise of newspapers and the value of a free press

By Michael Grossberg

The truth shall make you fret.

Er, that’s not quite right. I meant: “The truth shall make you free.”

And The Truth shall make you laugh, too, while sparking insights about freedom – especially freedom of the press.

Often, while recently rereading Terry Pratchett’s satirical Discworld novel, I laughed out loud. (What a pleasure in troubled times, especially for journalists like me coping with declining newspapers.)

THE POWER OF THE PRESS

The Truth, a 2024 Prometheus Hall of Fame finalist, tells a smart, sly and ultimately inspirational tale of underdogs seeking the truth against formidable opposition.

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Hall of Fame finalist review: Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise offers masterful social-scientific world-building in clash of cultures (including a libertarian society)

By William H. Stoddard

One of the things Poul Anderson was known for throughout his literary career was world-building. Much of this was planetary design, based on the natural sciences, in which he started out with stellar type, planetary mass, orbital radius, and elemental abundances and worked out the geology, meteorology, and biology of a world.

Anderson was certainly one of the masters of this, up there with Hal Clement and Vernor Vinge. But he put equal effort into social scientific worldbuilding, creating economies, polities, and cultures, and developing plots for his stories from the conflicts they gave rise to.

Orion Shall Rise, a 2024 Prometheus Hall of Fame finalist for Best Classic Fiction, is a nearly pure example of social scientific world-building, set not in a distant solar system but on a future Earth.

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Hall of Fame finalist review: Harry Turtledove’s fantasy Between the Rivers imagines Bronze Age beginnings of a freer society

By William H. Stoddard

Over the years, most nominees for the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus awards have been science fiction, and set in the present or the near or far future. Harry Turtledove’s Between the Rivers is an exception: A work of fantasy, and set in an invented world that parallels the Bronze Age of 3000 years ago or more.

As its title suggests, its setting is based on Mesopotamia. It’s a realm of contending city-states, and seems to be the first place in its larger world to develop them; at any rate, there’s no indication of comparably civilized realms elsewhere.

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Best Novel finalist review: Gordon Hanka’s provocative God’s Girlfriend explores coercion, consent, masculinity, femininity and basic instincts

By Eric S. Raymond and Michael Grossberg

Subversive and satirical, God’s Girlfriend challenges some of the deepest assumptions of today’s politics and culture.

One of five 2024 Prometheus Best Novel finalists, Gordon Hanka’s provocative sci-fi novel raises thorny questions about ethics, religion, coercion and consent, the nature of masculinity and femininity and the use of weapons of mass destruction.

The 540-page novel offers a taboo-shattering mixture of unorthodox libertarian provocations and Christian eschatology amid a life-or-death clash of two cultures: Earth humans and Wyrms, human refugees from another planet.

Subtitled “Sci-Fi that should not be published,” the novel blends SF and fantasy tropes from spaceships and advanced weaponry to the apparently supernatural, including Jesus’ Second Coming.

The story revolves around the rising tensions, conflicts and increasing likelihood of nuclear war between Earth governments, desperate to preserve their power, and the Wyrms, genetically modified to resist disease and political-psychological control.

As the failing nation-states of Earth threaten nuclear apocalypse to wipe out the Outback-style beachhead of the Wyrms in Australia, all hell breaks loose. So does heaven, with the Second Coming of God in the unexpectedly modern form of Joshua, who has his own notions of good and evil and shifting ideas about which side should survive.

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Best Novel finalist review: Karl K. Gallagher’s Swim Among the People dramatizes heroic planetary resistance to an insidious totalitarian interstellar empire

By William H. Stoddard

Swim among the People, a 2024 Prometheus Best Novel finalist, is the fifth of six (so far) volumes in Karl K. Gallagher’s science fiction series The Fall of the Censorate.

The series as a whole begins when a merchant starship from a long isolated cluster of solar systems discovers a new route through hyperspace that leads to a much larger interstellar human civilization.

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Comedy, coming of age and forging freedom high above a gas-giant: An Appreciation of Dave Freer’s Cloud-Castles, the 2023 Prometheus Best Novel winner

By Michael Grossberg

Few Prometheus Award winners are as much fun to read as Cloud-Castles.

The 2023 Prometheus Awards plaque and gold coin


Zestful and often funny but also imaginative and insightful in its visions of freedom, Dave Freer’s often satirical coming-of-age novel deservedly won the 2023 Best Novel award for its entertaining blend of adventure, comedy, sci-fi,  likable characters and nifty world-building.

The novel’s settings, distinctive and ingenious, offer ripe possibilities for varied, cross-cultural exploration of different human and alien environments. And Freer delivers.

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Best Novel finalist review: Devon Eriksen’s Theft of Fire blends hard SF, romance, suspense and comedy in story of conflict and cooperation

By Eric S. Raymond and Michael Grossberg

For a first novel, Theft of Fire is impressive.

Devon Eriksen is one hell of an SF writer. His prose is tight and energetic, his action scenes work and his world-building is more than competent.

Billed as the first novel in Eriksen’s Orbital Space series and nominated for the next Prometheus Award for Best Novel, this hard-sf space opera portrays a free-frontier space culture where big risks can lead to big rewards.

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Best Novel finalist review: Daniel Suarez’s Critical Mass offers persuasive, realistic SF thriller about private space industrialization

 

By Charlie Morrison and Michael Grossberg

A courageous band of astronaut-entrepreneurs strive to address Earth-based problems through commercial space-industrialization projects in Critical Mass, nominated for the next Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

Adding to the suspenseful drama, set mostly off the Earth and around the solar system, the resourceful heroes of this fast-paced sci-fi thriller must achieve their ambitious and unprecedented goals amid Cold War tensions, shifting global political alliances and the shortsighted opposition of Earth governments.

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Best Novel finalist review: Howard Andrew Jones’ Lord of a Shattered Land offers epic sword-and-sorcery saga with anti-slavery, anti-tyranny, pro-liberty themes

“Howard Andrew Jones is the leading Sword & Sorcery author of the 21st century… His Lord of a Shattered Land is his best work yet… It’s a magnificent achievement, destined to become a modern classic.”
— John O’Neill, World Fantasy Award-winning publisher of Black Gate

By Michael Grossberg

I admit I generally don’t enjoy fantasy as much as science fiction, but I loved Lord of a Shattered Land, one of the best sword-and-sorcery sagas I’ve read.

Howard Andrew Jones’s epic fantasy, published by Baen Books and one of 17 nominees for the next Prometheus Award for Best Novel, tells a gripping tale that powerfully and emotionally evokes the evils of slavery and tyranny and the passionate, unquenchable desire of people to be free.

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Review: Queen Wallis an inventive, suspenseful sequel to the dystopian alternate history of Carey’s Widowland

By Michael Grossberg

Sequels can be tricky and often disappointing, falling short of the originals in potentially all sorts of ways.

So it’s nice to report that C.J. Carey’s Queen Wallis (published by Sourcebooks in the U.S. and Quercus in the U.K.) is a worthy sequel that in several ways improves on Widowlandher 2023 Prometheus Best Novel finalist.

Overall, this feminist dystopian novel is one of the most enjoyable works of alternate history I’ve read in years.

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