- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: BigHead Press (November 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0974381411
- ISBN-13: 978-0974381411
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.2 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 104 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #652,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel Paperback – November, 2004
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From the Inside Flap
For police detective Lt. Edward "Win" Bear, the adventure began with the murder of a University physicist. It got more interesting when his best friend was murdered, by parties also intent on killing Win.But it got downright strange when the detective found himself in an altogether different world, one full of technological marvels, almost no poverty, or government to speak of, and everyone carries guns! Win hardly has time to adjust to his new surroundings when he learns that the people who have been trying to kill him are here, too. And they have their own plans for this place.
About the Author
Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, Tom Paine Maru, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action.
Scott Bieser is a cartoonist and illustrator who spent more than a decade creating computer game graphics for Interplay Entertainment, then turned his efforts towards graphic novels in 2002. His first book, _A Drug War Carol_ (with Susan W. Wells) is also available from Amazon.Com.
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However, the criminals wanted to rule the alternative world, so the detective and his friends take on defeating them.
One of his friends and ally is an attractive woman. Our detective fell in love with her, but there were some complications.
Sure, The Probability Broach is a little heavy handed at times and the characters could have stepped out of a Heinlein novel. And I don't think that anarchy is the perfect solution for any civilization.
But within those boundaries, Smith has crafted a world similar to ours but with a society whose viewpoint is at right angles to ours (well, maybe 45 degrees, since I tend to agree with Smith on a lot of his points about personal rights and personal liberties.)
We all get a mindset from our parents, our friends, our religion, and, of course, our government. In the extreme that has led to atrocities like the Nazi party and the current terrorist threats. But what if these people had been brought up to learn to 1) think 2) respect others by staying out of their lives 3) depend on themselves to support and defend themselves 4) think that what they earn is theirs 5) let competition flourish?
The world might be just a wee bit different.
Not everyone will like this book. I happen to. It made me examine some of my convictions - and where I got them from. They didn't change, but I'm sure that Smith would argue that that's my right.
So, buy the book. Read it. Don't worry too much about my personal bete noire of limited characterization. This is a thinking Science Fiction book. It may make you angry or it may make you giggle with glee, but it WILL make you think.
By that criterion, this is a very good book. And don't forget that some books discussing or praising a different political or social outlook have turned out to be classics. Ever read Utopia, Gulliver's Travels, or Atlas Shrugged? If not, you should.
So, read The Probability Broach with an open mind. Agree with its philosophy or don't agree with it. At least you'll start thinking, and if your mind doesn't immediately lock up at that prospect, you'll open yourself up to looking at a different way of doing things.
Would Smith's society work? Personally, I'm doubtful. But is it nice to think and examine the possibilities in your head. And as I said, any novel that prompts you to that is worth the price of admission.
Imagine an America where President George Washington was shot as a traitor after the successful Whiskey Rebellion and Alexander Hamilton flees to Europe. An America where tax and draft are curse words. An America where westward expansion was non-violent and land was purchased from Indian tribes for gold and silver. An America where the Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth was murdered by an obscure Illinois attorney. An America that in modern times has no taxes, no military, highly advanced science and where its residents (not citizens, another curse word) live like kings.
Now imagine its opposite. A drab, dreary America, gray with pollution and despair, where so-called citizens live under a crushing tax burden, oppressed by a dictatorial government and its federal police forces. An America where just about anything pleasurable is either illegal or taxed beyond the means of ordinary people to afford. An America where both owning a firearm and self-defense is a crime. An America that in many ways looks like where the United States, circa 2001 is headed.
Both Americas have been brought to vivid life by libertarian firebrand, presidential candidate and science fiction author, L. Neil Smith, in his Prometheus Award winning novel, "The Probability Broach."
Alternate history is a popular sub genre in the world of science fiction and Smith's SF romp is filled with amusing twists and "might have beens" for the reader to ponder. While largely geographically identical, the two worlds couldn't be more different politically and socially. Using the concept of a multiverse, Smith tells the tale of Edward W. Bear, AKA `Win', a Denver homicide detective who while investigating the grisly murder of a physicist is thrown from `our' world into what can fairly be called a libertarian paradise, the North American Confederacy, via a `Probability Broach', a window from one universe into another, constructed by Confederacy scientists, one of whom is a talking dolphin.
Unfortunately, there are two serpents in this anarchocapitalist paradise, a home-grown one represented by the Hamiltonians, discredited advocates of the defunct federalist governing faction and also the minions of SecPol, an evil BATF clone from Win Bear's native America who follow him through the doorway between universes. Bear is tasked with saving the North American Confederacy from both and perhaps with injecting freedom into his own world as well.
Smith's story reads like a combination of Robert Heinlein and Dashiell Hammett, blending two distinct genres, hard-boiled detective fiction and action-packed science fiction. Not an easy job, but Smith manages to pull it off with style and humor. Better yet, Smith has delivered a book of ideas, important ideas about freedom and liberty in a book that both that teaches libertarian concepts and contrasts the differences between a truly free society and a dictatorial one. However, this is done in a whimsical fashion that never preaches or condescends to the reader. You won't find clunky political exposition interfering with the action.
First published in 1979, The Probability Broach was unfortunately out of print for several years, then republished by Tom Doherty Associates Inc. (TOR) only to recently fall out of print yet again. Luckily, TOR will be reintroducing Smith's novel in trade paperback format later this year; oddly enough it will be preceded in publication by its sequel, "The American Zone."
If you can get a copy of The Probability Broach via a used bookseller or if you're lucky enough to find one on the shelves at your local megabookmart, snatch it up. When the trade paperback is issued, buy a new copy and think about buying one for a friend or relative you want to introduce to libertarianism, as well.
If you enjoy science or detective fiction, you're sure to enjoy this fast-paced book.