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THE PROBABILITY BROACH Mass Market Paperback – Dec 12 1979

4.2 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (Dec 12 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034528593X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345285935
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.4 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,553,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Contained ideas I wish could be shouted to the world, ideas that come from the American heritage of freedom and which could bring still greater individual liberty, greater technical progress.” ―Vernor Vinge, author of A Deepness in the Sky

“Pick up a new copy of the book and rediscover this exciting world, and reserve me a table at Meep's Texas Barbecue.” ―Prometheus

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

L. Neil Smith is the two time winner of the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Fiction for his novels Pallas (1993) and The Probability Broach (1980). As founder and National Coordinator of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, publisher of the on-line magazine The Libertarian Enterprise, and a Life member of the National Rifle Association, Smith is renowned for his prominence in the Libertarian movement, of which he has been a part of for more than thirty-five years. Author of more than twenty books, Smith has been hailed for his ability to combine adventure, humor, and rivetingly original political concepts to create more compellingly than any other writer, novels that embody Libertarian concepts. He currently resides in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife and daughter.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Oh, the story is silly and the writing is just OK, but the portrait painted of the Libertarian ideal is pretty well done. One can read this book and almost imagine living in a world where there are *really* no laws, except for those that *individuals* collectively enforce.
Actual Libertarians tend towards two camps: Limited Government and No Government. Smith is in the latter camp.
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Format: Paperback
I read The Probability Broach in 24 hours this past weekend. It was an entertaining read, but somewhat awkward and dated. Written in the late 70's, the awful fate awaiting mankind in the next 20 years was government oppression in the name of energy conservation. Obviously this never came to pass, invalidating the author's argument as to why his alternate universe (the other side of the Probability Broach) is superior.
The alternate world is strictly libertarian. George Washington was killed in that universe for proposing taxes, and the Whiskey Rebellion succeeded. Everyone wears guns, has flying cars, and the monkeys and dolphins talk and vote. It's interesting, but not particularly convincing. There's almost a complete lack of government, and no taxation, but Smith never explains where the money to pave the streets comes from, or how the fire department is funded. I can appreciate some libertarian viewpoints, but this is just a little too absurd.
The book does pay homage to Robert A. Heinlein a great deal though, in the alternate history he's an Admiral, never having caught the tuberculosis he was stricken with here in the real world. There's a "Heinlein City" in Alaska too. The most subtle homage was in the name of the mathematician who discovers the broach. Her name is "Deejay Thorens" and is an extremely thinly veiled version of "Dejah Thoras" from Heinlein's "The Number of the Beast". Unfortunately for Smith, his work doesn't hold up well against Heinlein's, on a pure storytelling level.
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Format: Paperback
... I love it. It made me think. Not too many novels do that.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Let's get one thing out of the way: I agree with every idea that L. Neil Smith espouses in this book. I think that the ability of individuals to govern themselves is infinitely more trustworthy than the ability of strangers to govern us. I think that widespread gun ownership (and training) could make crime negligible...I even think massive insurance companies could replace the cops. I am, in other words, the target audience for this book.
That having been said, this book is irredeemably awful. Smith's imitation of Chandler's dry, hard-boiled analogies is poor and forced. His attempt to make every John Q. Public into an enlightened intellectual, capable of defending the social order on a moment's notice (a la characters in a Robert Heinlein novel) is naked propaganda. His villains are unrealistic. His heroes are cardboard. The scenes are weighted down in tortuous labyrinths of prose that make them incomprehensible (it took me until the chapter after our hero, "Win" Bear, got shot to realize that he *had* been shot).
Sure, you can try and suspend your disbelief in order to enjoy the libertarian fantasy world, but Smith's awkward narrative stops you from even getting close. How much sense does it make for an average citizen to be able to deliver a well-organized speech touting the virtues of their culture on a moment's notice? I'm sure our United States would seem like Smith's libertarian paradise to your average Sudanese - yet you wouldn't expect your next-door neighbor to reel off a list of our nation's merit (except in the wake of September 11th - and, since Smith's Libertopia never goes to war, it's a moot point...
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