August 2012

Higher Cause by John Hunt

This review is part of a series covering each installment of the serialized novel Higher Cause, written by John Hunt and published by Laissez Faire Books. To catch up, start with the announcement, the book’s link-rich table of contents, and the first review.

Higher Cause by John Hunt

In part 7, author John Hunt gives us two chapters. The first takes us to a ship on the sea, bound for The Island. The second chapter, through one of the investors, relates some of the tale of Captain Cook in Tahiti. We finally find out something of the nature of the mystery in the Pacific, and there are all sorts of possibilities to be taken advantage of. We shall see how it plays out.

There are some strong story lines going on in the book, but we’ve hit a couple chapters recently where we are left idling a little bit. After introductions are out of the way and the plot comes into focus, I feel like, especially in a book of this nature, we should be building up some speed. Unfortunately, the first chapter in this week’s offering slows down the story. This is extra confounding because there are aspects of the book that interest me that I want to get back to. A bit of separating the wheat from the chaff might be in order.

The first chapter gave me a similar feeling to the chapter with the cross-island race in the previous installment. There was a lot of set up and description and exposition for one important plot point at the end. It was a lot of time to spend on something that could have been mentioned in the next chapter as having happened, or perhaps be related briefly in a paragraph or two.

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Wĭthûr Wē by Matthew Bruce Alexander

This month we’ve been reading and discussing Matthew Alexander’s libertarian science fiction novel Wĭthûr Wē in our book club. Over the weekend, on Sunday, we held our first Lightmonthly Read Author Chat with Matthew. The turnout wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for, but it was our first event — a successful proof of concept that we will build on. Matthew read a couple of early chapters from the new novel he’s working on, The Preferred Observer, and then we had a nice, long conversation with Mike DiBaggio and Michel Santos. Thanks, guys, for joining us.

If you missed the Google+ Hangout for whatever reason, you can watch the YouTube recording below:
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Higher Cause by John Hunt

This review is part of a series covering each installment of the serialized novel Higher Cause, written by John Hunt and published by Laissez Faire Books. To catch up, start with the announcement, the book’s link-rich table of contents, and the first review.

Higher Cause by John Hunt

The sixth week of Higher Cause starts and ends the way the fifth week did: with the Jeff Baddori story line. However, this week there is a return to Petur on the island in between. Both story lines leave us with a tease, a twist of mystery.

The Jeff Baddori story line is going full steam. We left him in dire straits last week, and we begin with his recovery this week. The opening segment takes us through his mostly unconscious state before he fully wakes, and I thought it was well done. When he finally gets back home to the United States, he reunites with Sophia, his love interest, but when he talks to her about his experiences he learns from her that something about his trip to Russia was not as he had thought it was.

It is the last thing we learn before the chapter ends, and it is a great way to leave the reader on the edge of the proverbial cliff. Publishing the novel in serial form makes this sort of thing especially beneficial, even necessary, and Hunt has pulled it off a couple times now to nice effect.

The middle chapter was more problematic. Though at the end there is a discovery that pertains to the story, the prologue of the book above all, it takes a while to get there. The rest of the chapter deals with the “Hash,” a sort of cross-island marathon with odd rules that is more for fun than competition. It is drawn out in great detail and while it is pleasant to see a culture develop on the island, it is not what the story is about. I feel the Hash should have been related to us in briefer form.

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Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett, the author of Snuff, our July Lightmonthly Read, has been diagnosed with an early form of Alzheimer’s. No longer able to type, he now reportedly dictates to a software program. This was the first time I had read a Pratchett novel, and in researching the author and his book, I came across a couple of interesting things. First, the novel was scoring significantly lower on sites like Amazon than other Pratchett novels, and second, many of the book’s detractors were bewildered by what they had read, some of them seriously proposing that someone other than Pratchett had written the work. I can have no opinion on that, but learning that his earlier works were of a markedly different style does make me more inclined to give them a try.

Snuff is a Discworld novel, the most recent in a long line of stories from that fictional world. It tells the story of Sam Vimes, a “copper” in the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork who has married into aristocracy. An incorrigible workaholic, he is practically forced into a vacation outside the city, at the manor that he has inherited. While there, he discovers a murder and, relieved to have something to do that is work-related, investigates.

There was more libertarianism in this work than in the other finalists for the Prometheus Award, save for one, and I appreciated that. The main thrust is an exploration of goblins as sentient beings and Vimes’s chafing at the society that so badly esteems them and so poorly treats them. While much of it is a mere libertarian-friendly argument against bigotry, the novel increasingly turns towards the question of law and rights. Though it never delves as rigorously into the question as one would expect from, say, Hans Hermann Hoppe, there are a number of comments and even a discussion or two that dance around the theme of natural law versus man’s execution of his laws.

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David Brin

Can I look any more smug. Can I.

David Brin
David Brin

Oops, he did it again.

David Brin, whom some think of as a libertarian science fiction author, and who styles himself as such, but who really isn’t even close to being libertarian, and who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time these days attacking real libertarians like a jilted lover, was recently interviewed on Wired.com via the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Brin has a controversial take on Star Wars. For example, he calls Yoda one of the most evil characters ever. Well, okay, Brin does have something of a point when it comes to Yoda. The Jedi as a whole are pretty much useless, meddling busybodies who are directly or indirectly responsible for the fundamental political problems in the Star Wars universe.

But Brin’s main criticism of Star Wars and George Lucas is premised largely on his fetish for state-democracy (my term for democratic institutions and processes ossified as formal mechanisms in the state apparatus). Lucas comes under fire for always protraying the republic as corrupt and nonfunctioning, which he does because he despises democracy and favors benign dictatorship.

But, of course, Brin has staked his entire nonfiction career on his Platonic ideal of radical transparency allowing perfect knowledge in a state-democracy. Only when this ideal is realized will freedom be protected and capitalism work properly, says Brin.

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Higher Cause by John Hunt

This review is part of a series covering each installment of the serialized novel Higher Cause, written by John Hunt and published by Laissez Faire Books. To catch up, start with the announcement, the book’s link-rich table of contents, and the first review.

Higher Cause by John Hunt

In week five, we return to the story line of Jeff Baddori, the DEA agent we first met in Mexico. The first of two chapters deals with Jeff’s work in Mexico, now a year in the past. We are privy to a meeting of important figures in that country, one of whom has a grand plan the specifics of which are kept from us. One of the men is a drug dealer whom Jeff had fooled into shutting down his operation. The man, Juan Marcos, is still convinced of Jeff’s loyalty, but another has information for him that may change his mind.

In the next chapter, we join Jeff, who is back to work, this time in Moscow. He is on his way to a meeting with some Mafia members, but his instincts tell him something is wrong. It is, and we wind up with some action to end the scene. As a final bit, we get yet another scene with the mysterious seven, who increasingly strike one as fulfilling some sort of Illuminati function. Their conversation hints at the previous chapter, leaving us with possibilities and wondering whether this is a red herring or not.

The first few chapters of the book seem to have been an extended prologue, of sorts, a way to set us in the time and place and give us some background. After the last installment, with our leap forward, it appears we are into the heart of the story. Already some connections between the story lines have been hinted at, and surely they will grow and evolve in future chapters.

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Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988)

Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988)

In this episode of the Libertarian Tradition podcast series, part of the Mises Institute’s online media library, Jeff Riggenbach discusses the life of Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988), author of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and many other wonderful novels and short stories, and addresses the question of whether Heinlein was a libertarian.

You can also read the transcript below:

When Robert Anson Heinlein died 22 years ago this month, in Carmel, California, at the age of 80, the wonder of it all was that he had managed to live as long as he did. Heinlein, who was born in 1907 in Butler, Missouri, a small town about 65 miles south of Kansas City, had been in poor health for most of his adult life.

His family had connections with the powerful Pendergast political machine, the outfit that later put Harry Truman in the US Senate, but Heinlein still had to spend his freshman year in a two-year Kansas City “junior college” — what today we would call a “community college” — before the Pendergast machine was finally able to wrangle him an appointment to Annapolis. After graduating from the naval academy in 1929 with a degree in mechanical engineering, Heinlein went to sea as an officer. But in his fourth year of active duty, he contracted tuberculosis and was honorably discharged — retired, really, with a small pension — after a lengthy hospitalization at Navy expense.

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