Billionaire blogger Bill Gates gives a thumbs up to a 2022 Best Novel finalist

By Michael Grossberg

Billionaire blogger Bill Gates is highlighting a Prometheus Best Novel finalist  among his favorite books of the year.

On the book page of Gates’ blog, he’s currently recommending Klara and the Sun, by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.

Almost all the books Gates recommends on his blog are non-fiction, but occasionally a novel pops up – such as Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow or David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (an epic sf/fantasy perhaps best known for the ambitious film version of its multi-era reincarnation saga.)

To my mind, that makes Gates’ rare thumb ups for works of fiction – especially when they fall into the genre of science fiction – even more notable and worth mentioning.
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Rich Man’s Sky: Wil McCarthy’s Best Novel finalist imagines billionaire-led quest for private solar-system development

Introduction: This is the final review in a series that the Prometheus blog has been publishing this spring and summer to highlight the 2022 Best Novel finalists.

This review of Wil McCarthy’s Rich Man’s Sky follows previously posted reviews of the other four finalists: Lionel Shriver’s Should We Stay Or Should We GoKazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun and Karl K. Gallagher’s Between Home and Ruin and Seize What’s Held Dear.

By Michael Grossberg

Venturing beyond the Earth to explore, colonize and industrialize our solar system has been a dream of humanity – and that dream is beginning to materialize.

Four billionaires play key roles in striving to bring such dreams to life in Rich Man’s Sky (Baen Books, 291 pages), a 2022 Best Novel finalist by Wil McCarthy.

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Seize What’s Held Dear: Karl Gallagher’s Best Novel finalist explores cultural clash of customs, battle for freedom against novel interstellar tyranny

Note: This is the latest Prometheus-blog review of our 2022 Best Novel finalists, following previously posted reviews of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun and Lionel Shriver’s Should We Stay Or Should We Go.

By William H. Stoddard

In Seize What’s Held Dear, the third volume of Karl Gallagher’s The Fall of the Censor series, the action returns to Corwynt, a planet controlled by the Censorate that the Fieran protagonists visited in the first volume. Much of the story develops in parallel tracks following the situation on the planet’s surface and the continuing struggle in space.

The primary conflict grows out of the Censorate’s basic rule that access to information is to be restricted as much as possible. In a fashion similar to China’s Qin Dynasty, access to historical works is prohibited, and their mere possession is a capital crime.

The result is a totalitarian society of a novel sort, different from those in classic dystopias. Fiera, the planet that opposes the Censorate after a hyperspatial route between them has reopened, has no such prohibition — and for that very reason the Censorate cannot tolerate its survival. Fiera doesn’t offer a model for a libertarian society, but it’s comparatively free and is struggling to preserve that freedom.

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Guess who: What world-famous billionaire reveals he’s a lifelong sf fan and counts Heinlein’s most libertarian novel among his favorites?

 

Guess what world-famous billionaire has revealed that Robert Heinlein’s libertarian sf classic The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was his favorite novel while growing up?

Hint: The billionaire praises the novel, one of the earliest and best known Prometheus Award winners, on his blog.

“When I was a kid, I was obsessed with science fiction… The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was a particular favorite,” he writes.

(Make your guess before clicking on to the next page to see the answer…)

Continue reading Guess who: What world-famous billionaire reveals he’s a lifelong sf fan and counts Heinlein’s most libertarian novel among his favorites?

Klara and the Sun: Ishiguro’s Best Novel finalist offers hauntingly ambiguous tragedy about unrecognized agency, awareness and rights

By Michael Grossberg

The sympathetic character at the center of Klara and the Sun is profoundly human in her caring, determination, curiosity, loyalty and observant intelligence.

And yet, Klara is an artificial being, an android branded and sold as an Artificial Friend in Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel, one of five 2022 Prometheus Best Novel finalists.

Set a generation or two into the future and strictly told from the highly limited point of view of Klara, the novel never fully answers the question of whether Klara has achieved full self-awareness (and thus should be treated as a person with rights.)

Yet, Ishiguro carefully drops enough clues and hints to make Klara and the Sun both a tantalizingly ambiguous mystery about the threshold of full consciousness and a haunting meta-libertarian parable about the foundations of rights and the tragedy that can occur when basic “humanity” and basic rights go unrecognized.

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Review: Lionel Shriver’s alternate-reality novel Should We Stay or Should We Go highlights how government paternalism, NHS bureaucracy, runaway inflation and other statist disasters make end-of-life decisions worse

Note: The Prometheus Blog welcomes reviews by LFS members and freedom-lovers of all Prometheus Award nominees, not to mention other novels, stories or films of interest.
Here’s a review of one of the 16 2021 novels nominated for the next Prometheus Award for Best Novel. Over the next few months, we hope to publish more reviews of the nominees and the finalists, to be announced in April.

By Michael Grossberg
Life, aging and death are difficult enough for most people to deal with, even when we strive to think and plan ahead and make the best choices we can about our senior years – including the possibilities of assisted living and even euthanasia.

Exploring those increasingly vital and common 21st-century issues in her kaleidoscopic 2021 novel Should We Stay or Should We Go, shrewd contrarian British novelist Lionel Shriver underscores how much worse the outcomes can be when oppressive laws, obtrusive welfare-state bureaucracy, socialized health care, forced medication, involuntary hospitalization, virtual imprisonment, anti-suicide laws, other bad government policies, abuses of power and even today’s dangerous trends of exploding federal debt and rising monetary inflation can damage lives further while undermining our ability to make our own decisions about end-of-life matters.

Continue reading Review: Lionel Shriver’s alternate-reality novel Should We Stay or Should We Go highlights how government paternalism, NHS bureaucracy, runaway inflation and other statist disasters make end-of-life decisions worse

Dangerous Visions anthology and Reason review highlight Heinlein and other Prometheus winners

By Michael Grossberg

Several leading sf writers whose classic works have won Prometheus Awards are examined in a new anthology about science fiction’s New Wave.

Most notably, Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Marsh Mistress and Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed are among the libertarian sf works explored, contrasted and debated in Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985.

Reason book editor Jesse Walker reviews the anthology of essays while noting its discussions of libertarian writers and libertarian-themed sf in the March 2022 issue of Reason magazine.

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Free sf books about freedom: An Arts for Liberty recommended reading list highlights Prometheus winners and other libertarian sf fiction

Freedom isn’t free.

But a surprising amount of libertarian science fiction is free.

One freedom-loving sf fan has compiled an interesting list of 26 libertarian sf novels that are free in that other sense, of being available online without charge.

While one might appreciate the ancient truth that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” freedom-lovers of all stripes certainly can also appreciate a bargain when they see it – including the pleasant discovery that the price of a surprising variety of pro-freedom science fiction is zero. Such a deal!

The list of “The 26 Best Free Libertarian Novels,” published by author J.P. Meddled on the Art for Liberty website, explicitly references the Prometheus Awards and includes several Prometheus winners.

But the list is most intriguing for its range and for how it embraces a wide variety of fiction (virtually all science fiction) that explores libertarian themes from the positive benefits of individual choice, free markets, private property and the right of self-defense to the horrors of dictatorship, authoritarian abuses of power and the perennial threats to liberty inherent in the coercive foundations of government.

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Power, empire, time travel and liberty: A review of The Collected Short Stories of Poul Anderson, Volume 1

By Anders Monsen

book cover

Between 2009 and 2014 NESFA press published seven volumes of short fiction and poetry by Poul Anderson in handsome hardcover editions for around $30 each.

These volumes were still available from the NESFA website, at least when I purchased them years ago, with volume seven released in 2017 as the final volume in the series. The stories do not appear chronologically.

Anderson, who has won several Prometheus Awards for best novel, four Hall of Fame awards, and a Lifetime Special Award, was a prolific writer who published his first science fiction story in 1947, some months before his twenty-first birthday.

He wrote fiction for more than half a century, so while these six volumes by no means collect all his short fiction, they contain a treasure trove for any fan of his fiction.

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Alternate history as a fruitful genre for re-imagining themes of Liberty versus Power: An Appreciation and Comparison of Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, co-winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for Best Novel

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society began celebrating in 2019, and to make clear what libertarian futurists saw in each of our past winners that made them deserve recognition as pro-freedom sf/fantasy, we’re presentING a series of weekly Appreciations of Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our first category for Best Novel.

Here’s the latest Appreciation – and an intriguing comparison – of Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, co-winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for Best Novel:

By William H. Stoddard

The year 2008 saw, for the first time, a tie between two Prometheus Award nominees for Best Novel: Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator (in his Crosstime Traffic series from Tor Books) and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny (in her Small Change series, also from Tor Books).

Ordinarily, each winner would merit its own entry; but there are interesting parallels between the two, which make it especially fitting that they shared the award, and illuminating to examine them together.

Turtledove has been known primarily as an author of alternate history, making his mark with early works such as A Different Flesh (1988), set on an Earth where the Americas are inhabited by surviving Homo erectus, and The Guns of the South, in which South African engineers help Robert E. Lee to victory, with surprising results. The six volumes of Crosstime Traffic are a young adult series about trade between parallel Earths.

Walton’s oeuvre has been more varied, but Small Change is definitely alternate history, set in a timeline where the United Kingdom came to terms with Germany in the 1930s.

It belongs to a subgenre that’s not usually considered science fictional: the cozy mystery, commonly set in a domain of wealthy and privileged people (not very different from the setting of the Jeeves and Wooster stories!) and keeping overt violence and the cruder sorts of crime offstage.

Walton mixes this with a different subgenre, the police procedural, making her continuing protagonist a Scotland Yard investigator. The science-fictional aspect comes from Walton’s careful exploration of the cultural divergence to be expected in her alternate timeline.
Continue reading Alternate history as a fruitful genre for re-imagining themes of Liberty versus Power: An Appreciation and Comparison of Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator and Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, co-winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for Best Novel