Volume 013, Number 3, Summer, 1995

Hall of Fame Review: Four Oldies but Goodies

Each of these novels have been nominated for the Hall of Fame, and, win or lose, each deserves a look from libertarian sf fans. Some are out of print and will require a search of used book stores or libraries, but the end result will be well worth it!

My Name is Legion

By Roger Zelazny

Reviewed by WILLIAM R.N. HOWELL
July 1995

Although these stories in this book are not explicitly libertarian, their premise is very much so. Zelazny postulates a future where all personal information is maintained in a central data bank, which makes most of any individual’s life an open book. Enter the hero—whose true name we never learn—a scientist who worked on the data bank project. Doubtful of the wisdom of creating such a system, he chooses to destroy his file before it is input. He now exists totally outside the system, an individual with no identity. His expertise with the central system makes it possible for him to create false identities for himself when required. He works freelance for a private investigator, meeting with him at various bars around the world on certain holidays, seemingly by chance, existing totally underground from the regular economy. The stories deal with three of his cases: an attempt to sabotage an island-creation project, a dolphin accused of murder, and a space exploration robot come home to destroy its creators. Fun stories, somewhat in the hard-boiled private eye style, but presented through the eyes of an individual without an identity, a denizen of the underground economy.

Hardwired

By Walter Jon Williams

Reviewed by WILLIAM R.N. HOWELL
July 1995

One of the best of the cyberpunk novels and very libertarian, Hardwired is another dystopian view of tomorrow, complete with domineering orbital corporations and brave resistance fighters. Its two protagonists are Cowboy, a smuggler with computer enhanced reflexes and a strong belief in the ideals of the American West, and Sarah, a mercenary with a deadly cybersnake called Weasel implanted in her throat. Their lives intersect in a future balkanized US writhing under the heel of orbital corporations, and they end up playing leading roles in a plot to bring down one giant orbital corporation. The action is fast and furious, with outstanding descriptions of interactions in cyberspace and aerospace. The libertarian viewpoint is frequently put forward by Cowboy, who sees himself as “one of the last free Americans,” as an outlaw who risks death to get people what the need and want. His plane is named The Pony Express, and he starts his personal war with the corporations because he realizes he has been a pawn of the Orbitals and wants to even the score. While Cowboy’s victories are smaller than in the other novels (the world is still a very screwed up place at the end of the story), they seem all the more powerful because they are on a more human scale. A super read, definitely not to be missed by anyone interested in cyberpunk or libertarian sf.

The Star Fox

By Poul Anderson

Reviewed by WILLIAM R.N. HOWELL
July 1995

Set a couple of centuries hence, this classic story details the efforts of one individual to defend humanity from alien aggression. The hero, Gunnar Heim, is an ex-naval officer turned successful entrepreneur, who struggles to convince the government of the Earth Federation to act to rescue human colonists on a planet occupied by an alien race. When his efforts to mobilize political support fail, he decides to take individual action: he obtains a letter of marque from the government of France (which was the home of most of the colonists) and secretly outfits a privateer spaceship. The novel recounts his adventures in escaping Earth just ahead of the forces sent to stop him, overcoming a plot to scuttle his expedition while he is obtaining arms on an alien planet, and his exploits as a privateer intercepting the alien shipping to the occupied world of New France. In the end, his actions cause the Federation to take action, but by then he has freed the colonists who declare their independence of Earth. The novel is vintage Anderson, with the positive view of the future and the role of the individual which is his trademark. The jaundiced view of a world government is also very libertarian. To quote Gunnar Heim: “The universe is too big for any one pattern. No man can understand or control it, let alone a government…If man is going to live throughout the galaxy, he’s got to be free to take his own roads, the ones his direct experience shows him are the best for his circumstances.” The Star Fox is a rousing space opera and a great story, worthy of a second (or first!) look by any libertarian.

Gather, Darkness

By Fritz Leiber

Reviewed by WILLIAM R.N. HOWELL
July 1995

Written over half a century ago, this work by one of the great masters of science fiction reads wonderfully well, even today. Set in 2305, it describes a world ruled by a corrupt theocracy which uses technological “miracles” to keep a superstitious populace in its place. The novel details the struggles of an underground resistance movement to overthrow the tyrannical priesthood. The delightfully clever twist is that the underground uses the priesthood’s own weapons against it by pretending to be devil-worshipers and witches! The stage is then set for battles of white and black “magic,” both supplied by techno-wizardry, for the hearts and minds of the unsuspecting commoners. While not openly presenting any libertarian ideas (it was written in 1943!), Gather, Darkness! does a wonderful job of showing the power of superstition and irrationality to enslave the mind of man.

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