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The American Zone [Hardcover]

L. Neil Smith
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 18 2001
In the North American Confederacy . . .

People are free--really free. Free to do as they please, whether it be starting a business, running for elected office, or taking target practice in the back forty. There's not a whole lot of government, nor is there a lot of crime, because everyone who wants to carries a gun, and isn't afraid to use it.

But someone has bombed the Endicott Building, killing hundreds of people, and Win Bear, the only licensed detective in the confederacy, has to find out who did this dastardly deed, and why. Because whoever did it has already shown their willingness to commit more terrorist acts, no matter how many people are hurt.

And that can't go on, or soon the confederacy will be just as the bad old United States--and that is something they want to avoid at all costs.

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Product Description

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.

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.

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Whoooooosh...Bang! The pop-bottle rocket, fired past me from across the street, damn near singed my eyebrows. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the first book... April 7 2003
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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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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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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3.0 out of 5 stars This is not The Probability Broach Nov. 20 2002
...The Probability Broach tells the story of Win Bear, a detective from Denver, who falls through a hole between universes, meets another version of himself and other interesting people, and saves the day for the good guys. It is very reminiscent of Beyond This Horizon, and other Heinlein stories, in both tone and politics, and the plot came right out of H. Beam Piper. Naturally I loved it and immediately bought every other Smith novel that I could find.
The American Zone continues this story with Win settled in the house and business of his intercontinual doppleganger. He has married Clarissa MacDougall Olson, a woman straight out of the Lensman series and the sweetheart every red-blooded American male yearns to marry, and his only problem seems to be keeping his weight down.
The novel starts with a bang, literally, as Greater LaPorte celebrates Independence Day. Win is watching the fireworks when a couple of potential clients show up to engage his services. Someone is smuggling videos across the universes that star their dopplegangers or have other actors in their roles. Since they are the local equivalents of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, this intercontinual competition is cutting into their royalties.
As Gable and Lombard are leaving, the sound and pressure wave of a huge explosion pass through. Someone has blown up the Old Endicott Building. And this is just the first in a series of manmade diasters. Who is using terrorist tactics against the North American Confederacy?
At this point the explanations begin. Unfortunately, these backgrounders mostly involve talking heads and some extravagant claims are made for the libertarian philosophy. This pontification got in the way of the story over and over again.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great sequal!
If you are like me you find a good series but you catch a book in the middle and nothing makes sense. This is not that book. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2002 by FrankJC3rd
4.0 out of 5 stars his "citizens" are NOT sheep
The events of 9-11 hurt the sales of this book. However subsequent policy panic make this work MORE important, not less.
This is a true sequel, not a "stand alone". Read more
Published on July 26 2002 by John K. Wilson
1.0 out of 5 stars Political agenda poorly disguised as a sequel
This cannot be considered either a science fiction story, or a sequel to the superb "Probability Broach. Read more
Published on March 31 2002 by Beeyotch
4.0 out of 5 stars ok, so Publishers Weekly didn't like Smith's politics
"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. Read more
Published on March 26 2002 by JLT
4.0 out of 5 stars In Defense of Personal Responsibility
L. Neil Smith once again proves that he can entertain while illustrating society's foibles. In the best tradition of Jonathon Swift Mr. Read more
Published on March 24 2002 by Ken Warner
5.0 out of 5 stars It's been a long time coming.
El Neil has been working on this book for over six years (he read a synopsis of it to a convention audience in 1995) and the time he invested has paid off. Read more
Published on March 24 2002 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Win, Lucy & Clarissa meet September 11, Confederacy style!
Detective 'Win' Bear of _Probability Broach_ fame is back, this time tracking down terrorists who have bombed a building in Greater LaPorte, the capitol of alternate America (AKA... Read more
Published on March 22 2002 by Philofficer
5.0 out of 5 stars L. Neil Smith is back on form in the NAC-iverse
Picture an alternate world where the only law is one against initiating force or ... against another. Compared to our own law-ridden world, it would be a beautiful Utopia. Read more
Published on March 3 2002 by Eric Oppen
1.0 out of 5 stars libertarian pipe dream
I really did not like this book. I am a libertarian, but I could never under any circumstances see any thing that was written come to pass. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2002
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