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The American Zone Paperback – October 4, 2002

24 customer reviews
Book 4 of 4 in the Win Bear Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sermon battles for space with story (and often wins) in Smith's sequel to The Probability Broach (1980), which continues the adventures of cross-time private detective Win Bear in the North American Confederacy, an alternate world that's supposed to be a libertarian, even anarchist Utopia. The serpent in this Eden is a statist plot to generate so much fear of terrorism by cross-temporal immigrants that people will demand a (gasp!) government. Of course, Win and his stout-hearted companions, Militia Captain Will Sanders and centenarian grande dame Lucy Kropotkin, do a splendid job of beating off the clutching tentacles of government. Along the way, there's much effective satire (the statist plotters include a Bennett and Buckley Williams), absorbing if not always plausible world-building and some lighthearted development of the concept of sapience among anthropoids and cetaceans. However, readers will also find the book laboring under a ponderous weight of libertarian philosophizing. Moreover, the plot opens with the evil statists committing two terrorist acts with four-figure death tolls, while throwaway lines like "An armed playground is a polite playground" may put off those who don't share Smith's views. This preachy book sends a message that rings hollow in the world post-September 11. (Feb. 6)Fiction.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Win Bear makes his living as a detective in the North American Confederacy, an alternate America without taxes, government, or police. When a group of dissidents, the Franklinites, launches a campaign of terror to force governmental order upon the population, Bear takes matters into his own hands and declares war on his enemy. The sequel to The Probability Broach continues the adventures of a likable and resourceful hero who stumbled upon another world and chose to make his home in it. Smith's libertarian slant may limit the book's appeal, but general readers may overlook this issue thanks to the fast-paced storytelling and sharp-tongued, folksy prose. For large sf collections.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (October 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312875266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312875268
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 10.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,474,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reed on March 2, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to enjoy Smith's work, please buy ANY other book of his before this one. Especially the new edition of "The Probability Broach," the essays in "Lever Action," or his richly told "Forge of the Elders" saga.
~ Two massive terrorist acts have the detective protagonist, Win Bear, and his circle showing very little emotional reaction to them, beyond initial revulsion and bone-weariness. This rings false. Thousands have died instantly, and in a culture that is wholly unaccustomed to it. Win's lack of feeling undercuts one basic point Smith has made: that such mutual support flourishes, rather than wilts, in an individualistic and non-political culture.
~ The "stranger in a strange land" focus is weakened by a lack of vivid hints of the statist America(s) from which those in the "Zone" have escaped. Smith's stellar "Pallas" is clearly set in an alternate universe where that fact is never brought up, and his "Broach" makes this escape into one of high contrast -- and both novels are far stronger in that respect. This one is in a mushy middle ground.
~ Too many allusions are made to current American pop culture. These wrench us back too quickly to a dreary this-world present -- and we don't see how they're transmitted, nor from which alternate America.
~ The statist villains here are caricatures, introduced too quickly and pulled off stage too abruptly. Compare this to the luxurious portrait of John Jay Madison in "Broach," where you want to know him better, even while you mentally hiss him as in an old-time melodrama.
~ Names are too often tortured concoctions and are pulled too closely from "real" figures, without the intended satiric effect. "Bennett Williams" is made into a simpleton of an ideologue.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By William Howell Jr. on December 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A new North American Confederacy novel at last. After a hiatus following THE GALLATIN DIVERGENCE, L. Neil Smith has finally returned to his most popular creation, the alternate world first visited over twenty years ago in his classic novel THE PROBABILITY BROACH. As fate would have it, THE AMERICAN ZONE deals specifically with how a truly free society would handle a spate of terrorist attacks. In the wake on 9-11, the issues LNS deals with are incredibly relevant for Americans today. All our favorite characters return, including Lucy Kropotkin and Will Sanders, plus numerous figures from our own world (or similiar realities) appear under different names. Half the fun is realizing which real-world public figure LNS is skewering under another name. As always, there's plenty of action, lots of laughs, and a fine mystery along with the libertarian philosophy. If you can stand to take your freedoms straight, with no chaser, this is the novel for you! Read and enjoy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Valdivielso on April 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In The Probability Broach we have a really good mystery set in the background of a world where libertarian ideas flourished. The book set up a foundation for future stories.
Yet in The American Zone we have a badly designed plot thrust into the background while the libertarian ideas are pushed to the foreground. What I would of enjoyed is less of Lucy jabbering, and pissing off people, and more of a real plot set in new areas of the Confederacy or other parts of the alternate world. Surely Europe and Asia have developed their own forms of libertarian governments based on their own ideas, culture and history?
I'm sorry but some of the chapters could of been removed from the book without hurting the plot at all, a sure sign of a book that was written for something else BESIDES the story.
Come on, your preaching to the chorus! Turn around and talk to the rest, deliver the ideas of freedom and liberty WITHOUT scaring the day-lights out of them.
Lets face it, Lucy is slightly forward, if not sometimes rude towards everybody and anything she does not like or believe in. I love her, but many people, even from the same political parties, sometimes don't see eye to eye, this is not the best way to present a Libertarian, even if she is a person of fiction.
I would suggest you start out with other books by L. Neil Smith.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Morris on January 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is not the best of the North American Confederacy series. The book is supposed to be a mystery about some terrorist attacks in a world with no government where the people are free, responsible, and prosperous.
What the book really is is a set of political sermons mixed in the midst of a mystery. The mystery itself is incredibly weak. The investigators (good guys) do little more than ask the usual suspects (federalists) if they had anything to do with it and if they might know who. It's not until near the end of the book that a federalist turns traitor and comes to the investigators and explains everything, including who, why, when, where, and how. Some detective work!
This being said, the political sermons are interesting and thought provoking. Some elements seem contradictory. How can someone be sued for violating your rights if there is no law being broken? Who will enforce the judgements if initiation of force is not allowed? How can someone protect their trademarks, patents, or intellectual property if there are no trademark or patent law?
Still, the author's dream of a society built on freedom, individual rights, and minimal gov't is enticing and that makes this book worthwhile reading. Do yourself a favor and read the first and superior book "The Probability Broach".
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