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At Last, There's Hope

Carl Bussjaeger

If you've seen any email posting by L. Neil Smith over the past several months, his taglines probably clued you in to expect a new novel co-penned with Aaron Zelman: Hope. Well, it's out and it's worth reading.

First, Hope is - sorta - a sequel to Zelman/Smith's The Mitzvah. A neat trick, given that they killed off the protagonist in that one. A trick they try repeating this time, too.

No, our Jewish Monsignor doesn't return, But some of his close friends and co-conspirators do; Father Spagelli, Kitch, even Mrs. Greenwood all make appearances to help open the way to this new tale.

Like The Mitzvah, Hope is a book likely to be of interest to a seemingly limited audience (which may account for the fact that it wasn't picked up and published by a large mainstream publishing house): libertarians of most flavors and other fine folk who support individual freedom. It's too hard-core political to suit conservative, take-no-chances publishers and 'liberal' readers.

Unlike its predecessor, Hope is quite upbeat. Where The Mitzvah was dark - the hero with the guts to learn and accept uncomfortable truths is killed - Hope is almost invariably cheerful: The basic premise is that through an admittedly unlikely concatenation of events, a libertarian is elected President. A man too libertarian for the Libertarian Party, at that. A man who immediately orchestrates the dismantling of most of the federal government, along with a good many state and local functions. (Yippee!) The tale lies in how he accomplishes that end, and the tribulations he faces. I refuse to elaborate further; read the book. You'll like it.

One criticism Hope will face is that the 'unlikely events' leading to the first libertarians President of the U.S. are too contrived. LP party politics deadlock the nomination until a dark horse appears from nowhere, a U.S. Vice President (emphasis on 'vice') is busted for kiddie porn, and the Woman With One Eyebrow manages to get herself erased just before the November elections. At first, I myself found it all a little too pat.

But then I stopped and reassessed the situation. Frankly, such an unbelievable series of screw ups is about the only way a libertarian is ever going to get elected President in the United States. Smith and Zelman (mostly Neil, I believe) simply called it as they see it.

Another criticism I've heard was that a happy tale of libertarians winning the Presidency is a damned silly thing for an admitted anarchist (El Neil, that is; I don't know Mr. Zelman's position on this) to be writing. As may be; you'll forgive all when you see the 30th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (heh heh heh)

If you're a regular reader of Smith's essays (or bought his collection Lever Action), the chapter header 'quotes' from 'Alexander Hope's (the protagonist, of course) own literary effort are going to look oddly familiar. For that matter, if you're at all acquainted with Mr. Smith, Alexander Hope is going to look damned familiar, right down to that EAA Witness he carries. And, as involuntary cameos by assorted real world persons are an El Neil trademark, I leave it to the reader's knowledge of politics, news media, et cetera to identify the various and sundry thinly-and-otherwise disguised victims of Smith's and Zelman's sense of humor.

If you value freedom and a fun read, you'll like Hope. I did.

Thanks, Neil; thanks, Aaron.

(c)2002 Doing Freedom Magazine


Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith
Mazel Freedom Press
Order at: http://www.jpfo.org/hope.htm
ISBN 0-9642304-5-3


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