cover image The Silicon Dagger

The Silicon Dagger

Jack Williamson. Tor Books, $23.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86540-5

A divided America provides the setting for Williamson's (The Black Sun) unfortunate latest, an ill-considered scenario in which one small Kentucky county threatens the U.S. government with an ultimate weapon. When his journalist brother is slain for investigating possible terrorist activity in McAdam County, Clay Barstow, who had been working as his brother's research assistant, is recruited by the FBI to pose as a graduate student and investigate. Despite his lack of expertise in espionage, Barstow agrees. He soon meets the members of the Kentucky Rifles, a local militia bent on defending themselves against ""the liberal crazies in Washington and the international bankers."" The editor of the local newspaper explains the pervasive mistrust in the county of big government by describing information technology as ""the silicon dagger... a weapon of stealth"" that enslaves much of the populace to ""the elite classes."" Barstow's link with the FBI is soon compromised; he runs afoul of the militia and the locals realize he's that nosy journalist's brother. The militia seizes power and declares the county's independence. Although the president refuses to back down, the county's silicon shield--a force field--stops any missiles or planes from breaking through, forcing a negotiation for the county's nationhood. Burdened by excessive discourse on individual rights and a contrived narrative, this novel reads more like a thesis against the Internet and its intrusiveness than the work of a renowned SF veteran. (Apr.)