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Volume 22, Number 2 (Spring-Summer 2004)

Judges Discuss and Debate the Nominees

An Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Peek into the Judging Process

Introduction by Michael Grossberg

The 10 judges who serve on the LFS Best Novel finalist judging committee have a hard but fun job to do. They usually read more than a dozen nominees--14 this past year--that vary drastically in theme, style, quality and explicit libertarian content.

The goal is to winnow down the nominees to choose the five finalists that all voting LFS members consider before choosing the winner. Thanks to the Internet era, judges in recent years have debated and discussed the nominees predominantly by email--with comments flying back and forth across the Web over four to five months as judges race to read and comment on each book before the deadline.

For the first time, here is a lightly edited sample of that behind-the-scenes debate---of interest to all LFS members as they look forward to reading the finalists before voting (and perhaps reading other nominees, just for fun).

This excerpt of the judges' discussion also should give other LFS members a better idea of part of what it means to serve the LFS as a finalist judge--and perhaps encourage more members to volunteer as a judge on one of our three awards committees.

Special thanks to the 2003-2004 Best Novel finalist judges: Jorge Codina, Steve Gaalema, Matt Gaylor, Michael Grossberg, Lynn Maners, Charlie Morrison, Bruce Sommer, Adam Starchild, Fran Van Cleave and Victoria Varga.

As chair of the LFS Best Novel finalist judging committee for several years, I'd like to add how much I've come to respect the committee members for their hard work, good judgment and helpfully frank exchange of views--especially under the typical deadline pressure that happens every year between December and early March, when the usual flurry of additional nominations adds to the burden.

Here is a representative, lightly edited sample of that December-March email debate--a behind-the-scenes portrait of our judging process and healthy debate:

GAALEMA: A book I just finished appears worthy of nomination: The Holy Land by Robert Zubrin, 2003-Polaris Books, Lakewood, Colorado. This satire on the War on Terrorism is often funny, and makes some very good points about individual freedom verses fanatical governments. The city of Kennewick, Washington is holy to and becomes the home of a formerly persecuted alien race. The US government decides that Kennewick is holy to Americans as well, beginning a conflict involving the Western, Central, and Eastern Galactic Empires. While at first it may seem a little one sided in some ways, I did not feel that way by the end. Very libertarian.

CODINA: "The Holy Land" by Robert Zubrin is a satire of today's events, in the form of a science fiction novel. I accept the author's premise that the world is really messed up, that the actions of people are irrational beyond belief and that the only way out is Reason. However the delivery leaves much to be desired ...
"Crossfire" by Nancy Kress is a novel of alien first contact.... When hostile space faring Furs arrive the humans find themselves caught in the crossfire of an interstellar war. This book has a lot of problems. First of all a lot of loose ends. Points are raised and questions are asked, but then dropped. Even those issue which are raised more than once are not resolved.
Indeed, what I feel to be the most interesting issue of the book---Is genetically modifying your enemy a valid tactic of warfare/defense? Is it better than killing them outright?--is dealt with very shallowly. This topic deserves much better treatment than it received. It seems that the book should be part of a larger work. Maybe these issues will be resolved in sequels, but the book does not stand well by itself. I was not satisfied.
Secondly, I can't find any Libertarian content in it. The word "libertarian" is mentioned once, in the context of the type of contract the settlers have, but that is it. And it is used in the sense that the contract is entered into voluntarily. Some of the provisions of that contract, such as land use regulation (by who is not specified), are not things most libertarians would agree to.
The only point that could be stretched is the non-initiation of force. However it is Quaker pacifism, not Libertarian peacefulness, that is at work here. Indeed Shipley is clearly of the opinion that it is better to die than to use force, even in defense of one's own life. None of the other humans care about this. They have their own interests. These might coincide with killing the aliens or they might not. Except for the Quakers, the guiding principle for the humans is pure pragmatism.... I don't feel this qualifies as a finalist.

VARGA: Thanks, Jorge, for the review--good job. My reply has no purpose other than to tell people why the book wasn't as good as it might have been. I believe that Ms. Kress was writing this novel right after a personal loss. It is not her best work. It raises questions and then doesn't answer them. Her language lacks the beauty and polish of her other works. No character really comes alive, although I couldn't figure out why. Considering the circumstances at the time of writing this, the lack of relative quality is understandable. Still, I enjoyed it, and I've certainly seen a lot worse writing in the nominations pile.

CODINA: While I will read it, I don't feel that "Quicksilver" belongs on this list at all. It is a historical novel. Not science fiction, not fantasy. I don't understand how it fits in with the mission of the LFS to "to recognize and promote libertarian science fiction." I personally would not have included "Ruled Britannia" either but recognize that many people group alternate history with SF.
I'm not a Sword and Sorcery fan, but "Naked Empire" has the most explicit Libertarian message and is very easy to read. So far it is the best of the year. The "Pixel Eye" belongs on the list as a warning, not for actual pro-freedom content. Much as George Orwell's "1984" would belong.
"The Anguished Dawn" has some problems but is very clear in the concept of a voluntary, non-coercive society. "Red Thunder" is mixed. It has quite a few of good points, but an awful ending. It could make the top five, but I hope we have better.
"Ruled Britannia" is well written and very enjoyable. I think I will read it again in about a year or so. But it does not have real pro-freedom content. It is anti-invader, not anti-tyrant. In fact it is pro-tyrant, as long as the tyrant is local. It does not belong in the top five.
"The Holy Land" didn't work for me. I realize others may think different, but it was way over the top. Sort of a slapstick approach to writing. While the message is good, I strongly feel the delivery was awful....
"Crossfire" has many problems. I appreciate Victoria's comments regarding Ms. Kress' unfortunate loss, but that doesn't change the result. The book is not good, and it doesn't have Libertarian content.
I agree that "Quicksilver" deserves a serious look. Just like any other nominee. I understand the broad definition of libertarian and freedom content. I am unclear that Quicksilver qualifies, but am willing to be convinced on that score. What I am clear on is that this is not Science Fiction, nor is it Fantasy. As it is neither, it does not qualify for the Prometheus award, regardless of it's other qualities.
If we were considering Ayn Rand novels, I would say that "The Fountainhead" does not qualify, whereas "Anthem" does. One is not Science Fiction, the other very well could be. Is this incorrect?

GAALEMA:There is one character in Quicksilver, Enoch Root, who just might be a time traveler...Note that Enoch also appears in Cryptonomicon (a 2000 Prometheus Award finalist). All other connected characters seem to be ancestors, with different first names). Enoch seems to have advanced knowledge (both medical and of events) that he would not ordinarily have. Maybe we will find out for sure in the next book.

CODINA: I am aware of Enoch Root. A character who might, or might not be, a time traveler is insufficient to qualify the book as science fiction. Regards.

VAN CLEAVE: I think "Sims" is a very strong candidate, & more up-front about Libertarian ideas than the Repairman Jack novel ("Gateways") (which I still think should be in the top 5). F. Paul consistently delivers both good writing & ideas about freedom, The only question I have about eligibility is whether the fact that the first third of the book was published as a novella several years ago disqualifies it.

CODINA: Gateways is a typical Repairman Jack novel and a good candidate for the Prometheus Award. It was a very enjoyable read, with good libertarian content (honor contract, do the right thing, don't rely on the state, etc). I think it belongs in the top five.
I have two minor complaints. First is the inconsistency between Jack's version of his father's career and his father's. In Jack's version his father worked for Arthur Andersen and then for Price Waterhouse. His father's is that he worked for Price Waterhouse only. Second is that Rasalom has clearly never read the Evil Over Lord web site. http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html

VARGA: Another quick comment on "Gateways." As I've said, I just love Wilson's Repairman Jack novels. But I'd really prefer Jack to stay in New York and not have to fight whatever these two malevolent spirits are. It's my old objectivist anti-fantasy, anti-horror feelings (which I've mostly rid myself of--see below) rising. I want it to be real at least in Repairman Jack novels. There is enough horror in real life to battle. But perhaps Wilson was getting bored with that.

VAN CLEAVE: There are a few things I want to bring up about Pixel Eye.
I asked Paul Levinson what he was trying to convey with the book--a point that may not be relevant to judging, but after all the criticism flying around here about the work & his intentions, I wanted to know. Paul replied that he thought he'd made it clear that Phil is his own man, & works for the Feds with his own agenda intact. I would've written the story more skeptically, but that's how he chose to write it. Perhaps this sounds like Paul was giving me a self-serving answer, but coincidentally, the night before I emailed him, he was interviewed on CBS, where he spoke out about freedom issues & ragged on Clear Channel's running scared from the FCC. Details are at http://www.sff.net/people/paullevinson

GROSSBERG: After reading the author's website and thinking more about Pixel Eye, it's become clear to me that this novel is intended as a chilling cautionary tale. Thus, it eminently qualifies as a strong contender for the Prometheus Award--and I hope it will rank among the finalists.
In some ways, it made me think of George Orwell's "1984,'' a Prometheus Hall of Fame winner, which is one of the past century's greatest cautionary tales about the threat of tyranny, interestingly, as embodied in a maximum-security surveillance state in which no one has any real privacy.
And in other intriguing ways, I found interesting similarities between Levinson's central character and Wilson's Repairman Jack. I'd actually prefer Pixel Eye to become a finalist over Gateways, for several reasons, among them that Wilson's other novel Sims seems to be a stronger contender and more deserving of being a finalist this year.

MORRISON: I have watched the discussion regarding Pixel Eye and have discussed this novel with (judge) Matthew Gaylor on several occasions. I have problems nominating this book on the basis that it is a cautionary novel.
The privacy issues are not brought up in a manner that promotes critical thought on whether they are acceptable or not. Our main character does not seem to have an opinion on this, and is simply chasing the critters around to prevent the brain bombs. When the author interjects characters into the sideline who do take issue with the privacy aspects, these characters are often shown as irrational. In the end, our hero even joins the feds in a ho hum kind of way.
While I see that the author may have put the freedom issues into the novel in a way that allows libertarian appreciation, I do not find it to be a pro-libertarian novel. A pro-libertarian cautionary novel should have something in it that actually PROMOTES libertarian ideals, not just writing about issues that we care about. Otherwise any novel that includes any restrictions on our liberties could be taken as cautionary. ... I did really enjoy the novel, just don't think it deserves to be a finalist.

GAALEMA: The Anguished Dawn, by James Hogan (Baen Books) ... was very disappointing, since I usually like Hogan's books. He even continues the interesting idea that he used in "Voyage from Yesteryear" (one of the first Prometheus winners) of a society that rewards its productive members with a very valued respect instead of money. This works in "Voyage" because the economic law of scarcity is made obsolete by robots that provide all material goods.
However in Anguished Dawn, Hogan just ignores or flouts economics (as well as physics, geology, and just about every other science). The result is a majority ruled communist society (with plenty of scarcity) that abhors free-market capitalism. While lip service is paid to the freedom of people to pursue whatever work they want, the government seems to make all of the important decisions allocating resources (elite government officials also have the best offices). ...
A much more libertarian book could have been written with the same plot, but spun from the other side's point of view. Hogan even provides brief glimpses of this point of view; I wonder if the rational libertarian in Hogan is suppressed and trying to come out...

VARGA: Could this be a dystopian novel that he produced? I guess I'll read this one next.

CODINA: I have a different opinion on Anguished Dawn. While I find the over hyping of the "alternate" science annoying, especially as it distracts from the story, if we can consider fantasy then "alternate" science should not present a problem.
The Kronian society is described as free and non-coercive. Force is used rarely and only when absolutely necessary. There is no taxation. The currency is respect. While I have trouble seeing how this could work in practice it is an interesting concept. Certainly it is no stranger than having the currency be pieces of colored paper with numbers written on them. Respect is the medium of exchange...
The "respect as currency" is a concept that raises many questions. I think it is a great pity that Hogan did not expand on this. If he had we would have more information. For example, how do you "buy" a bigger apartment, or can you "loan" your respect to someone else for "interest"? Respect is a fuzzy quantity, how do you take that fuzzy quantity and turn it into something discrete?
The fact that the hard questions are not addressed does not make it anti-libertarian. The description given is consistent with Libertarian principles. Namely voluntary and non-coercive.
I could not find the reference to Kronian government officials having the largest offices.

GAALEMA: The office of President Xen Urzin of the Kronian Congress is described on page 308 as a suite in the Hexagon on Titan "contemplating a panorama of waterfalls in a rain forest beneath a sunny sky of blue and shining white clouds" (apparently simulated, but nothing the common people have).
The office of Jon Foy ('SOE's representative on the Kronian "Consolidation Council" ', not much bureaucracy here!) is described on page 101-102 to have a miniature garden and an actual window (nothing the well respected scientists seem to have) and bookshelves (almost unheard of on Titan).

CODINA: I still have to think about Steve's comments regarding "The Anguished Dawn". I moved "The Holy Land" up after speaking with several people who have read it. None of them found the writing style "over the top". I think the content is mostly good, I just have trouble with the delivery. If most readers will not have this problem then it should be seriously considered.

SOMMER: I felt the Harry Potter novel had some very strong anti-victim disarmament aspects. I believe Sunni Maravillosa expresses the merits of this novel best in her Freedom Book of the Month review at the following URL: http://www.freemarket.net/features/bookofthemonth/harrypotter.html (Sommer shared an excerpt from Eryk Boston's review of the Harry Potter sequel, entitled "Harry Potter: The new Atlas Shrugged?" at http://www.cascadepolicy.org/cctext/2003_29.txt. Boston is an associate to Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon think tank.)
"BOSTON: There is a pure joy in seeing libertarian principles expressed by unexpected sources in a world teeming with those who love power. This is especially true when the expression is focused on the next generation. Thus, I am almost rapturous about book five in the Harry Potter series, The Order of the Phoenix. .... Millions, both children and adults, will read this book repeatedly and absorb every detail. And this is one of the best limited-government books I've read since Atlas Shrugged. I'm not the first person to point out that the Harry Potter books have a libertarian flavor. The wizarding world in the series has a private banking system and no apparent zoning laws. Wizards have the right to carry a wand--more dangerous than any firearm--at all times for the express purpose of self-defense.
"The schools are largely independent (until this book). ... With the exception of the time when the Minister of Magic knowingly put an innocent man in prison, the authorities have mostly been comic relief. In this book, they cross the line into being dangerously corrupt....By the end, the Minister's personal assistant, Dolores Umbridge, resorts to torture to retain power and reveals that she sent assassins to take out Harry Potter. ... But the joy of the story is how the students and professors respond to this tyranny.''

CODINA: Thanks for the link. I vehemently disagree with the review. "the powerful suggestion that it's personal responsibility and individual action that matter most", hardly. "Be a good boy and do as you are told", more likely.
For all the action the students (actually Hermione) took to form the Defense Association, train themselves and go after Voldemort, it is the adults that save them. In fact the "individual action" of going after Voldemort was exactly what Voldemort wanted and ends up killing Harry's godfather. The only practical use of all the DA training is to hex Harry's school rival at the end.
To fully identify my prejudices, I think school is bad, especially, but not only, state school. I view the entire model as wrong. Annie and I think that treating people as "children" is at best clueless, at worst evil, and mostly just plain stupid.
My daughter's reaction to me "having" to read this book was "that sucks". She read the first two and detested them. She only read the second one because a friend insisted it was "great". When I told her that I was enjoying the book (at about page 150), she asked if I was feeling ok (11 year old sense of humor). This was before Harry got to school. After that I found the book appalling.
However, I see why it is popular. People certainly can relate to the stories. It is a typical school environment. Mean, boring and incompetent teachers. The rest mediocre and one good one. In fact Annie, who attended an English system school (although girls only), relates much more that I can. "OWLS" are "O" levels, "NEWTS" are "A" levels. The pressure to pass is intense. She knew immediately what "prefects" are and the importance of getting into the "correct" hall.
I will reiterate, most people feel that government is incompetent, but they do not want to eliminate it or even limit it, they just want it to be better. A great example is state health services world wide. Universally people do not want do get rid of them, they just want the queues to be shorter and the corruption to go away. Hardly libertarian to want to "improve" the state. Hardly libertarian to want to work for it.
I take "Freedom Book of the Month" with a very large grain of salt. Most of the books recommended are good, some are horrible.

STARCHILD: The comments below were written by a 13 year old who read the review by Jorge Codina. Since I haven't read the Harry Potter submission yet I don't have any personal comments to add:

13-YEAR-OLD: "In the review written by one of the judges on the committee, the writer stated that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had no libertarian content. Although I don't think that J. K. Rowling meant for it to be a libertarian book, there is some libertarian content in it. I believe that in order to understand the fifth Harry Potter book properly, it is necessary to read the other four first.

CODINA: This may well be true. In which case the Ms. Rowling did not do a very good job of making the book stand alone.

13-YEAR-OLD: "The writer stated that he did not know what an Animagus was. This word was explained in the third Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. An Animagus is a wizard who can turn into an animal. Learning to do this takes a lot of time and is very dangerous. The Ministry of Magic forces people to register when they become Animagi under the excuse that becoming an Animagus is very dangerous. This is not a libertarian law, and someone who does not know too much about the Harry Potter books would think that this law counts toward Harry Potter book 5 not being a libertarian book. However, Harry's father himself violated this law; he became an Animagi without registering. Harry knows this and believes that there is nothing immoral about what his dad has done.
Hermione threatened to reveal to the Ministry that a certain reporter, Rita Skeeter, was an unregistered Animagus. Hermione knows that Harry's father was an unregistered Animagus, and she does not believe that it was immoral. Skeeter deserves to be threatened by Hermione, in book four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she did nothing but write lies about Harry, his friends, and everybody else she did not like. In the same book, Skeeter had sneaked onto Hogwarts even after Dumbledore told her that she was not allowed on the school grounds.

CODINA: "Then if you feel someone has libeled you it is ok to threaten them with coercive force? Skeeter has not used force. She has written and said things about Harry that he didn't like. This is a civil matter, to be settled by civil means.

13-YEAR-OLD: Harry finds out that he must kill Voldemort or be killed by him, and he feels that this means that he will be murderer or victim. There is only one sentence that I could find in the whole book in which he thinks this, and I am not sure whether Harry really believes this or if his mind is in a state of shock and he is not thinking clearly.

CODINA: Might be, but I don't think so. Believing that he has to become a murderer is consistent with his actions and thoughts in the rest of the book.

13-YEAR-OLD: Quite a lot of people question the right of the Ministry to interfere with Dumbledore's running of Hogwarts. In fact, almost all of the students, except for the Slytherines, object to Umbridge (the Ministry representative at Hogwarts) having anything to do with the school. And Dumbledore even turned down an offer to become the Minister of Magic; he didn't want to leave Hogwarts. You would not know this if the only Harry Potter book you've read is book 5; you learn about his refusing to be the Minister in the first book.

CODINA: I disagree, no one likes the Ministry interfering, but that is different from questioning it's right to interfere. Harry is explicitly told that Umbridge has the RIGHT to punish him because she is his teacher. There is a mention about Dumbledore turning down the job of Minister in the book. That does not make it libertarian.

13-YEAR-OLD: It's true that Harry does want to become an Auror (an elite policeman in the wizarding world) but all he wants to do while working for the Ministry is to defeat bad wizards. He does not want to interfere with anybody's life, liberty, or property.

CODINA: Most policemen don't. Many end up violating rights anyway. Especially in a society where the state has the power to do so.

13-YEAR-OLD: One libertarian aspect of the Harry Potter books is that every wizard is allowed to carry a wand. A wizard with a wand can be very dangerous; >Voldemort is an example of what bad wizards can do with wands.

CODINA: I agree that wizards being allowed to be are armed is good. However, without the context of a right to bear arms, or in this case wands, that does not make it libertarian.

13-YEAR-OLD: Umbridge's job is to make sure that the students at Hogwarts do not learn any spells that could be used against the Ministry. The students resist this by forming their own organization in which Harry teaches them the spells that the Ministry doesn't want them to know.

CODINA: Resisting an unpopular teacher is not, in and of itself, libertarian. Neither is resisting the government. Communists did it as well. Direct resistance to authority is neither necessary nor sufficient. It is a good thing, but not necessarily libertarian.

13-YEAR-OLD: I hope that all this will convince you that although Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not exactly meant to be libertarian, there is nothing anti-libertarian about it, and it has some libertarian ideas.

CODINA: I agree that with the exception of Hermione's threat it is not anti-libertarian. I do not think it contains libertarian ideas. It does contain some things that, given the proper context, could be construed as libertarian. The context is not there. The context that exists is not libertarian.

VARGA: I just want you all to remember a few things about the Harry Potter novel: in this book, the anti-government guys, i.e., the good guys, feel free to lie to the government to protect themselves and others. Martha Stewart will probably serve jail time for lying to an FBI agent. Heck, I've done that. Dumbledore, when government agents come to arrest him, does not go quietly, but vanishes. Also what is shown is a lovely passive, and then active, resistance to an occupying force which is the standing government gone corrupt (what other kind is there?). I think it deserves to be a finalist.

VAN CLEAVE: (Recommend Wilson's "Sims" as the best nominee so far.)

CODINA: I agree with Fran, it is the best so far.
I have re-read 'Anguished Dawn". I agree it has quite a few negative points. In fact my mini-review closed by saying that I didn't think it would make the top five. However, it does have one the one thing that is to me the key criteria for a libertarian society. Voluntary interaction between people. Hogan describes the Kronian society as coercion free. He does not develop it very well, and it is very possible that any attempt to develop it would break down given the society's other characteristics. However, giving him the benefit of the doubt, that item is enough for me. As a story it is a lot better than many of the other nominees.
I'm wavering on the placement of "The Pixel Eye". I think it could be viewed as a warning, but I doubt the author intended it that way. An alternate message is that working for the Feds is a good thing. Need to think about this some more, maybe re-read.

STARCHILD: I've been quieter than usual this year since my reading was way behind as the result of a trip to Ireland over the Christmas holidays. I've been catching up fast, although I'm sure it causes some comment in the office along the lines of "what, the boss is reading again while we work."
These comments are not in any particular order. I haven't reached the point of any serious ranking yet, although plenty of ranking is implicit in my comments. (I'm not ready to comment on all of my reading yet-some still needs absorption or is only part way.)
Sims: I received the book on Thursday and finished it last night-or more truthfully in the wee hours of this morning. If this was "civil liberties novel of the year" it would probably be a winner, as it presents issues well. But where is the libertarian? Yes, it has freedom principles-so does the collected speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King-but there isn't a hint of libertarian in either. The problems and the solutions are all pretty much government. It's all about legislation.
Crossfire: I followed the debate with interest before I read the book. Once I read it, I rather liked it, and I didn't feel put off by the inconclusiveness of it. Why should the author answer all the questions? Isn't it enough to pose them? As a thought provoker on libertarian principles I thought the book did a good job without being explicitly libertarian.
Anguished Dawn: As with the Hogan entry a few years ago, I seem to think more of it than the rest of the committee. I would like to have seen the alternative economics fleshed out better, especially to clarify whether it is truly voluntary and libertarian. A non-capitalist libertarian society would make an interesting presentation, as Ken MacLeod has often tried to do. I very much liked Hogan's attack on establishment science (which he has also done in both of his essay collections), but that isn't really libertarian although there is a strong analogy in thought patterns. Considering some of the comments made in reviewing the book, apparently not many here are as open-minded about reconsidering established science as they are about reconsidering established government. I'm sure Hogan expected this, since he provided so many references at the end of the book.
Naked Empire: I didn't like it, but I have a prejudice against fantasy. I'd rather see hard engineering and science and a rational future. But leaving aside that personal dislike, I felt that it has all the earmarks of a winner. It presents basic libertarian values in a way that can be clearly understood by a large and important audience. And both the audience and the publishing industry have always considered fantasy to be a sub-set of science fiction, so it does fit that criteria. If I wanted to deliver a libertarian message to the (unfortunately ever-growing) scientifically illiterate younger generation that is currently hooked on computer games and fantasy worlds, this book is it.
The Pixel Eye: Enjoyed it, but nothing really libertarian. Good on civil liberties issues, but that part of the national debate isn't automatically libertarian. If the ACLU had a contest for novel of the year, this might win. But for LFS, I doubt it.
Red Thunder: An enjoyable space opera, but I felt badly let down by the ending which seemed to be a case of "let us bring in the world's governments since we can't trust any one of them but we can trust them all as a group."
The current Repairman Jack nonsense: With such a prejudiced opening, need I say more? It's not that I don't enjoy the annual break to read the annual entry of this trash, but it isn't libertarian. He's a crook with ID problems; same as every petty criminal in the US who steals cars, breaks into houses, or whatever. He doesn't have a philosophy or any real principles of freedom. He doesn't like government; most bank robbers don't either. So he's a crook with a twist towards the good, rather blatantly modeled on The Saint. I'm puzzled every year by the comments that seem to find something libertarian in his not having a social security number.
Haven't read Harry Potter yet, despite the pleas of the 13-year-old whose comments I passed along. It will suffer from my prejudice against things in a series, especially when the series is needed to understand the current entry. I also have a prejudice against jumping on the bestseller bandwagon when there is plenty else more deserving of attention. But perhaps some of those thoughts will change once I actually read it-which is likely to be soon.

CODINA: With regard to the alternate science presented in "Anguished Dawn", I am somewhat interested in it and willing to consider it. My problem is the context, I feel Hogan was over the top in pushing it. He is pushing the alternate science instead of telling a story. While reading the book I often found myself thinking "this has nothing to do with the story, why is it here?"
I strongly disagree with the assessment of Repairman Jack. He has strong principles and sticks to them. In many of the novels the option of using the state to solve the "problem" exists, but he doesn't take that route. The fact that he breaks into an office to destroy the property of a blackmailer is consistent with delivering justice without involving the state. L. Neil Smith had the heros do a break in "The Probability Broach". That, in and of itself, should not be considered anti-libertarian. I find the character very libertarian and not just because he doesn't have an SS number.

VAN CLEAVE: I finished Spin State & thought it was terrific. I'm ranking it number 2, below Sims, because Sims deals with the issue of self-ownership in a more head-on way. I fully expect Spin State to be competing for the Hugo's Best Novel.

CODINA: I just finished Spin State a few minutes ago. I think it is the best of the lot. The libertarian content, while not a major theme, is pervasive. It is there from start to finish as a sub-text. By the time the AI Cohen states "It's freedom, Catherine. Can you imagine not sharing it?", you feel that this is the only possible course of action. It puts across a strong pro freedom message without preaching about it.
Regarding the comments on "Sims" and "The Pixel Eye" I somewhat agree. The question here is how broad is the definition of "libertarian". Civil liberties are certainly part of the concept. If we accept a fairly broad definition then these qualify. If the definition is narrow then a lot does not.
I felt the Harry Potter novel had some very strong anti-victim disarmament aspects. I believe Sunni Maravillosa expresses the merits of this novel best in her Freedom Book of the Month review at the following URL: http://www.free-market.net/features/bookofthemonth/harrypotter.html

MANERS: I read "Anguished Dawn" when it came out last year. My impression was that it was an alternative/contrarian science romp: Hogan uses it to explore many wacky types of pseudo-science (Velikovskism, catastrophism, young earth theory, etc.). Libertarian? Not very.

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