THE AMERICAN ZONE

L. Neil Smith, Author . Tor $26.95 (350p) ISBN 978-0-312-87369-1

Sermon battles for space with story (and often wins) in Smith's sequel to The Probability Broach (1980), which continues the adventures of cross-time private detective Win Bear in the North American Confederacy, an alternate world that's supposed to be a libertarian, even anarchist Utopia. The serpent in this Eden is a statist plot to generate so much fear of terrorism by cross-temporal immigrants that people will demand a (gasp!) government. Of course, Win and his stout-hearted companions, Militia Captain Will Sanders and centenarian grande dame Lucy Kropotkin, do a splendid job of beating off the clutching tentacles of government. Along the way, there's much effective satire (the statist plotters include a Bennett and Buckley Williams), absorbing if not always plausible world-building and some lighthearted development of the concept of sapience among anthropoids and cetaceans. However, readers will also find the book laboring under a ponderous weight of libertarian philosophizing. Moreover, the plot opens with the evil statists committing two terrorist acts with four-figure death tolls, while throwaway lines like "An armed playground is a polite playground" may put off those who don't share Smith's views. This preachy book sends a message that rings hollow in the world post–September 11. (Feb. 6)

FYI:Smith has won two Prometheus Awards for Best Libertarian Fiction.

Reviewed on: 12/10/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-87526-8
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4299-8080-7
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