Oath of Fealty Paperback – Dec 31 1981
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About the Author
Larry Niven has won the prestigious Hugo Award five times. He is known to millions as the premier modern author of rigorous, scientifically consistent hard SF, the champion of 'SF without a net'. In addition to being an acclaimed science fiction author, Jerry Pournelle holds degrees in engineering, psychology and political science.
Top Customer Reviews
In former times those who prized liberty and order but liberty above all migrated to Coventry or the American West. R.A.H sent his libertarians to the moon and beyond. In the context of this book- absent space flight, an Urban Monad makes sense. One reviewer is reminded of the apartment blocks of the Soviet Steppes or HUD housing enclaves and points up the creative contrast. Another, not meeting the criteria outlined in paragraph one (above) fails to grasp the irony and misses the underlying them of the work all together.
Political polemic takes a back seat to this creative and swashbuckling novel. It stands with the works of Heinlein and bypasses the ponderous pontifications of Ayn Rand.
Highly recommended for the flexible, thinking reader.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Niven and Pournelle put together a really good read that puts to test the idea that a free society cannot truly be free without restraint. Look, I'll be honest here - I don't drink, don't carry guns, or play amateur pharmacologist; so in many ways the Arcology crafted by the authors is a dream come true for a prude like myself. And I suspect many other boring centrists who would like to live a socially committed life without dealing with the politically correct demagogues beating their personal drums or the flame spewing radicals that seems to draw the worst from both conservatives and liberals alike. The Arcology is in many way boring - which is the point.
It's worth noting that I agree that the idea of a sustainable, self-enclosed "fort" is likely impractical in the real world. In order for Todos Santos to hold sway over the County of Los Angeles (and the US in general) the authors have proposed an intriguing, but unrealistic, means of control. Specifically a gigantic iceberg. I won't get too much into this, hopefully you'll pick-up your own copy and find out for yourself. But when you get down to it - it's impossible for the managers of Todos Santos to control what is beyond their arcology. And the iceberg is the only real "defense" that it has from the outside affecting what happens in the inside.
BTW, simplistic comparisons of the Arcology to Soviet-era society or 1960's era US public housing is clearly misguided. I could waste time on a point by point deconstruction of that kind of shoot-from-the-hip mentality. However, I choose to forgive the ignorant like I forgive the young, which is often the same group.
Finally, I would like to address the comment made by the reader in England. He correctly points out that there are already signs of the Todos Santos Arcology appearing in the real world. We've all seen the gated communities where the wealthy have set up their ideal environment. And the technology parks where industries have set up shop for themselves. Lastly look at one of today's marvels: The Mall Of America. In many ways we're seeing elements of Todos Santos being brought to life. Again, I doubt that the Arcology can actually exist as it's described in Oath Of Fealty, but it showcases insights into our evolving society that both authors foresaw nearly twenty years ago.
While it is an interesting concept, there is a problem--this is very much a one-note melody. Niven makes the point that people living in such a structure would be different from what we are used to, and he makes it, and makes it until you're tired. And while the Todos Santos people are clearly all saints, fighting the good fight, you're left wondering what would happen if they were using the many resources at their disposal in a less worthy cause . . .
Still, a good read, with interesting characters, and it leaves you thinking, which is always a Good Thing.
I read all the reviews with interest; I was particularly struck by the few that said this *wasn't* science fiction! I am a huge fan of science fiction, and by that I mean fiction that looks into the future, and tries to imagine what life would be like and how science and technology have evolved and the effect it has. Remember, this was written in 1981, and we JUST got giant TVs that can hang on the wall; we *now* have (cellular) devices that can transmit and receive data while driving at freeway speeds; we DO NOT have an artificial intelligent computer that can respond to natural language queries; we DO NOT have colonies on the moon; we *DO NOT* have computer links that go directly into your brain, and while there are machines that can bore tunnels under cities, they certainly aren't as cool as the one described in the book!
Yes, the book has a significant libertarian slant, but just because you don't like it's politics doesn't make it a bad book. Like all fiction, there has to be a certain 'suspension of disbelief' to keep it fun (Tolkien, anyone). The bad guys have to appear a little crazed, otherwise how could they justify sending the kids into the breach (and their deaths)? The good guys have to have a reason to do what they do, and high taxes, high crime rates, and self-serving politicans are a good reason to build a mile-square building!
I really liked the depiction of life in the 'city'; how someone would live, how they would defend it (alas, much harder now in the aftermath of 9/11), how they would improve it, what would you give up to live there, and how would it affect society around it.
I enjoyed the 'poetic license' the authors took in making Los Angeles fit into their story, but the one thing I can't figure out is why they deliberately mis-quoted the Sixth Amendment as the amendment protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure!
Anyway, I highly recommend this book, but like many classics you have to give some allowances for what was supposed to be state of the art technology (I'm still waiting for the atomic powered cars we were supposed to have by now!). Hopefully it will entertain you, while also causing you to think a bit about society, and what is good and bad, and would *you* want to live in a place like this?