Volume 18, Number 4, December, 2000


By Will Shetterly

Tor, 2000
Reviewed by William H. Stoddard
December, 2000

Will Shetterly's latest novel has been nominated for next year's Prometheus Award. It's not immediately obvious why it qualifies. This isn't a matter of Shetterly's own political views being nonlibertarian, though they are. The Prometheus Award is based on the content of the novel, not the views of the author; if George Orwell and Ursula Le Guin can be eligible, Will Shetterly can be too. But the content of Chimera doesn't seem to be consistent with libertarian views.

In fact, though Shetterly portrays a future where libertarians have the political influence today's Libertarian party only dreams of, none of the core libertarian values seems to be included in the package. Shetterly imagines a world where genetic engineering has created new intelligent races from a variety of animal species, including monkeys, dogs, and cats; but though it's perfectly legal to create them, they have few or no rights under the law. Every libertarian I have encountered bases legal rights, in one way or another, on the ability to reason and choose, and thus considers them applicable to any being capable of doing so, whether human, alien, computer, or reshaped animal. Shetterly seems to view libertarianism as a rationale for cutting taxes and little more.

It's also evident that he disagrees with libertarian views as to the effects of even such purely economic policies. His future society has a dystopian, mildly cyberpunk flavor in which the poor qualities of "public services" is a key element, directly attributed to low government budgets on one hand and monopoly capitalism on the other. There's no particular evidence that he thinks markets are ever efficient.

This isn't to say Chimera is badly written. It's an interesting combination of hard-boiled detective fiction, cyberpunk, and anthropomorphics—though in the last genre I found its human private eye less satisfying than the moreau and frank protagonists of S. Andrew Swann's Forests of the Night and its sequels

. And Shetterly's sympathetic view of the rights of the created species will appeal to libertarian readers just as did Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free. But it's disturbing, and sad, that Shetterly seem not to realize that libertarian readers woud share his view of this question.

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