The Probability Broach, a book review
By Francis A. Ney, Jr.
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
One word can make one hell of a difference. One word, said or
left unsaid, can change an entire universe. This is the premise
of the Prometheus Award winning novel The Probability Broach,
now back in publication for the first time in a decade in what
the author describes as its "unexpurgated form."
Mr. Smith paints a rather bleak view of an America that might
have been had Jimmy Carter hung on to the presidency. Currency
reform, a "neodollar;" possession of alcohol, tobacco, vitamins,
firearms, and precious metals are illegal. Food, housing,
gasoline and other energy is rationed. Federal retaliation
against free speech is common. Coca-Cola executives become
fugitives for having a trade secret in violation of federal law.
Disney World is confiscated for non-payment of taxes retroactive
to the 1960's. The FBI/BATF/DEA/SS et al ad nauseam have been
combined into a Federal Security Police agency that make the
gestapo look like kindergarten bullies. The FCC has armed
helicopter gunships looking for illegal CB operators. Old people
are begging in the streets, their Social Security payments "not
worth a Continental."
In this world, we find Lt. Edward W. "Win" Bear, Homicide, City
Of Denver Police. He stumbles onto an unexplained drive-by
shooting, digs a bit too deep, and ends up nearly assassinated
himself several times, the final time in an explosion that
scrambles his brains (or so he thinks).
Lt. Bear finds himself in a world where Albert Gallatin joined
the Whiskey Rebellion rather than cooled it down. George
Washington got a bullet between the eyes and the US Constitution
was repudiated in favor of a revised Articles of Confederation.
It seems to be a much better world, for all its strangeness to
Lt. Bear. Money really klinks, fusion power means the air is
really clean, tobacco is legal, and he finds a twin brother, in a
similar line of work. Unfortunately, the same people who tried
to kill him before are still after him. And he still doesn't
know who they are, why they're doing this, and how he got there!
Having read the original publication of this work, I can attest
to the fact that between three and five thousand words have been
added to the story. It includes some details that would have
been really nice to have originally, such as the passing mention
of various federal laws and actions. However, even in the
original, Mr. Smith manages to take the "Man From Mars" concept,
leaven it with a libertarian philosophy and make it work and work
well. What we have here is what should have been published in
the first place, had the original publishers not been a bunch of
"hydraulically challenged" wussies.
Oh, what was that one word that made all the difference?
Read the book.
Author: L. Neil Smith
Date: 1980, 1996
ISBM: ISBN 0-812-53875-7
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc (TOR-SF Imprint)
Title: The Probability Broach
Statement of Full Disclosure: I am not an unbiased reviewer. I
received a copy of the original novel from the author's wife,
back when I was a newbie on the internet. I am a friend of the
author and his wife and daughter (at least, I think I am)
Frank Ney is a member of the WV Libertarian Party and serves as
WV State Coordinator for the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus.
Ironically, he gets a paycheck from the IRS to keep their
computers running. He also runs a horse farm in West Virginia
along with his fiance, where he's currently learning the joys of
having a "terrible two's" foal.