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26


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 26, April 15, 1997

The Probability Broach, a book review

By Francis A. Ney, Jr.
croaker@access.digex.net

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)
         Price: $6.99
         Pages: 295
         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.



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