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Volume 17, Number 1, Spring, 1999

Revolutionary Language

By David Calderwood
(White Knight Publishing)

I first approached this novel with a skepticism reserved for works unblessed by an editor's intervention, fearing that yet another author's courage and vanity had exceeded his talent and commonsense. My earliest delight was the discovery that Revolutionary Language is well written. The author sets a brisk initial pace and manages to sustain a level of conflict and action more commonly found in an adventure thriller than in a "book of ideas."

Like all libertarians, I would prefer to live in a libertarian society. Yet we seem so mired in statism that I frequently despair: "How shall we get there from here?" Revolutionary Language illuminates one possible path toward that destination. I finished RL with renewed hope. Revolutionary Language is set in the near future, near enough to "right now" and real enough in premise that some programmer, somewhere, could be implementing the technology even as I write. Best of all, if it is not happening already, some reader of this book may be moved to make it happen!

A freelance programmer, Andy, has been working on a contract to produce customized encryption software for a private firm. Unknown to Andy, the firm intends to use his work to promote an extralegal endeavor. The Feds, unfortunately, are already involved in an attempt to make a case against the firm and they bust Andy, hoping to coerce him into writing a "back door" into his encryption software.

Eventually, Andy does some hard time, loses his girlfriend to the federal agent who caused his imprisonment, becomes embittered and disillusioned, and is released on probation with a clause forbidding him to work with computers.

Reduced to working as a janitor at a university, Andy falls in with a circle of mostly libertarian professors and begins to refine his naive individualism into a fully conscious appreciation of the dangers of the State. He then conceives of a suite of programs that, working in concert, would allow many to take all or most of their work "off the record." The Feds hear of this and begin a covert attempt to locate the author of the software and prevent its release.

Actually, I've mentioned only one of the many interweaving plots in this complex and entertaining work. Without slowing the pace, it manages to bind a considerable amount of libertarian philosophy into the heart of the various conflicts that drive the novel. I can easily pass this book to a nonlibertarian friend confident that, having read it, they will better understand why we think the way we do.

Revolutionary Language is a splendid libertarian read.

Reviewed by Gary F. York

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