alternate history, libertarian-style

the probability broach and the american zone are a pair of libertarian science fiction books by l. neil smith. the first was released in 1980, the more recent (a sequel to the first) in 2001.

the central conceit in both books is that a device has been invented that allows movement between parallel universes whose history has diverged since the american revolution. (in the first book, it is between a more authoritarian version of the united states and a libertarian version of the same, with most of the action set in the libertarian version. in the latter, all of the action is in the libertarian version, but with more alternate worlds considered.)

the probability broach is much better than the american zone. neither book is bad, but neither book is all that great. as you might expect, the political posturing of both books is pretty ham-handed.

as science fiction with a futuristic bent (neither book is set in the far-future, but of course the libertarian version of the united states is further advanced than any of the alternatives), the book falls pretty flat. there are some clever ideas (monkeys and porpoises as characters and full citizens, a historic site layered in a plastic coating to preserve it, and the use of dirigibles for transport), but the realization of the world just feels like it has more gaps than that of something like down and out in the magic kingdom.

there are some aspects to the books that are just unforgiveably atrocious:

but i guess you'd be gratified to know that it fits the same vaguely, if not overtly, misogynistic bill as most science fiction.

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