Reviews: Smith, L. Neil

Working Darkness Underground

Blade of p’Na — L. Neil Smith

L. Neil Smith’s 2016’s Blade of p’Na is the next Prometheus Award finalist selected for review by my complex sorting algorithm (I threw dice).

Four hundred million years of civilization is long enough for a race like the Elders to have developed some very odd hobbies. Among the avocations the nautiloid Elders dabbled in was Appropriating doomed or interesting beings from neighbouring universes. This did not end so well for the Elders in question (who committed suicide once they noticed the inherent contradiction between their ethic of ‘freedom for all!’ and ‘kidnapping’ [1]) but it has worked out pretty well for the Appropriated and their descendants.

Take Eichra Oren, for example.

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The one with a thinly disguised Walter Cronkite as villain

The Venus Belt — L. Neil Smith
North American Confederacy, book 2

1981’s The Venus Belt came out the year after The Probability Broach. The astute reader can tell that Smith is now more comfortable thinking of himself as an author of overtly ideological fiction1. The lectures on libertarian right-thinkery are more frequent and more heavy-handed2, and the plot more perfunctory. The villains, on the other hand, are very villainous. Plausibility was never a goal but the result in this case is not all that interesting. 

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The Disco-Era Libertarian Utopian Novel

The Probability Broach — L. Neil Smith
North American Confederacy, book 1

1980’s The Probability Broach launched Smith into what turned into a twenty-one-year-long career with such major publishers as Del Rey, Baen, and Tor1. It was the second novel to win the Prometheus Award, which Smith himself founded. He was a frequent nominee for that award and pretty much only that award. Smith would go on to win the Prometheus three more times2. The Probability Broach is the book that began it all. Follow me into a land of commodity-based currency, talking gorillas, and grade-schoolers with guns as big as they are!

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