Review of “Essential Liberty” by Rob Olive

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Rob Olive’s debut novel, Essential Liberty, will feel familiar to anyone who’s read other examples of “Tea Party fiction” like Matthew Bracken’s Enemies Foreign and Domestic trilogy or John Ross’s Unintended Consequences.

Like those works, Essential Liberty deals with the American government’s attempts to restrict firearms rights, in this case essentially outlawing semi-automatic weapons and using gun store purchase records to set up a confiscation scheme called “Collection.” The action focuses on the Pacific northwest, mostly around Portland, Oregon, and follows the paths of the ATF team enforcing the Collection orders, and various civilians and other law enforcement they come into contact with.essential liberty book

Don Williams, the protagonist of the story, is a bog-standard, white collar everyman. His vaguely liberal views continue unexamined until the process of Collection personally affects him through his close friend and “gun nut” Michael Niculescu. After a series of mishaps, overzealous enforcement of the law by the ATF’s “HOT” (Hazardous Operations Team), and a particularly vindictive ATF field division commander, Don soon finds himself running for his life from the very government he thought was meant to protect him.

The novel is a fun story overall, and certainly falls into the realm of guilty pleasure reading for any supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Though a little slow to get started, where the story really shines are the action scenes; well-described and full of tension that pulls the reader along at a good clip. There’s very much a sense of wanting to know, “what happens next?”

All that said, the novel does suffer from many of the issues endemic to first novels. While the action is great, the long spaces between action scenes are poorly paced and slow the story down considerably. A large part of these is given over to describing, in detail, the character’s thought processes, the political background, or mundane details that don’t advance the plot; very much a case of telling rather than showing that feels stilted. Point of view hopping mid-scene also occurs frequently and can be confusing when it’s unclear just who is thinking what.

The novel is a quick read, and I found the ending and climax satisfying, though the epilogue chapter dealing with legislative changes in Washington felt unrealistic. On the whole I’d recommend this story to any fans of 2A fiction or gun rights in general. It’s a good first effort and I look forward to future works from Mr. Olive.

You can get the novel at Amazon.

Review: High Desert Barbecue by J.D. Tuccille

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There is no shortage of novels devoted to the outdoors whose stories appeal to backpackers, campers and hikers (the granola sort, we call them in Colorado). It takes only a minute’s thought to conjure up such titles as Into the Wild, Hatchet, or Hemingway’s famous short story, Big Two-Hearted River. Many of these seriously and studiously explore nature as a vast healing power, a thunderous force not to be trifled with, or a dangerous coming of age challenge.

Rare are those stories that depict nature with a lighthearted chuckle, to be respected, sure, but also to be enjoyed by people who know what they’re doing in the Great Outdoors. Rarer still is such a story written from a free market, libertarian perspective. Luckily, author J.D. Tuccille has taken it upon himself to rectify that deficit with his new novel, High Desert Barbecue.

A Review of “The Ungoverned” by Vernor Vinge

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Imagine you are Lieutenant Will Brierson of the Michigan State Police, a private security organization that provides protection to a wide swath of subscribers all throughout the anarchistic Ungoverned lands in what used to be the northern United States. Imagine you are faced with an unprecedented invasion into land owned by your subscribers from an army of “The Republic of New Mexico.”

On the one hand, the invading force has massed more men, tanks and aircraft than are available in all the ungoverned security companies combined. On the other hand, these are your subscribers being attacked and you’ve never defaulted on a contract before.

What do you do?

Review of Atlas Shrugged Part 1

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Despite its failings, Part 1 of the Atlas Shrugged movie is important for two reasons.

One, it shows it can be done and, two, it spreads Ayn Rand’s ideas to a larger swath of the population than would otherwise have been exposed to them. 

Before being brought to the screen, everyone thought adapting Rand’s epic novel about the fundamental clash between the free market and government and between individuals and the collective, would be nigh on impossible. For a while that actually seemed to be the case. The movie languished in development purgatory for 54 years with dozens of attempts to bring it to life. All of them failed.

Book Review: Noble Vision

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Written in 2005, Gen LaGreca’s debut novel, Noble Vision, is both a boldly inspiring tale, and a stark warning of what the future of medicine in the United States may hold.

The novel follows brilliant neurosurgeon David Lang who, after 7 years of heartbreaking work, finally believes he has discovered a process to regrow damaged nerve tissue. This procedure could allow paralyzed patients to walk again, blinded people to see, and might also cure hosts of other neurological diseases. Unfortunately, Dr. Lang practices medicine in the state of New York, which has just passed a landmark healthcare-reform bill called “CareFree.”

CareFree intimately resembles Massachusetts’ RomneyCare, as well as its close cousin, ObamaCare, in its socializing and centralization of medical costs and decisions. In an effort to control its already skyrocketing prices, the Bureau of Medicine, which oversees CareFree, refuses to allow Dr. Lang to continue his research, citing the low numbers of people it would help (as opposed to say, providing contact lenses to the thousands needing better vision). To add insult to injury, because of animal experimentation concerns he is forbidden even to continue the research with his own money.

But when a beautiful ballerina, whose shows David has been attending in secret for years, falls victim to a tragic accident that leaves her blind, the doctor must choose between obeying the law and saving her vision. When he chooses the latter the stage is set for the inevitable clash between him and the vast bureaucracy of the State’s healthcare system.

It is this conflict—at root a philosophical one—which gives the story of Noble Vision its life and its engaging amount of tension and drama. What, in the end, is better for human flourishing: the freedom to set one’s own prices and conditions for work, or the control of those prices and work by a large central bureaucracy? While current debates about healthcare are often couched in the language of economics (“we need to reduce healthcare costs and allow the uninsured to receive adequate medical care”) they rarely drill down to the underlying ethics involved.

This Ms. LaGreca does admirably, clearly presenting the basic moral principles at work in the minds of her protagonists and antagonists.  Such a principle is well illustrated in the following exchange between Dr. Lang and a state bureaucrat:

“If I’m not permitted to finance my own experiment, then my patient will gladly pay her own medical bills to keep the surgery out of the purview of CareFree.”

“She can’t pay! That’s against the law. If we let patients pay with their own money, then we’d be back to the old corrupt system where only those who can afford it get treatment.”

“You mean it’s corrupt to pay for the services of others but right to expect them for nothing?”

While the writing is at times clunky—for instance David’s secret-admirer letters to Nicole are wince-worthy—on the whole the story moves along at a rapid clip, losing little time in boring exposition or scenes which do not further the plot. In fact, I devoured the whole affair in two days, staying up late the second night to reach the conclusion of Ms. LaGreca’s work.

Noble Vision has been called “the Fountainhead of Medicine” and if you liked Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead there’s plenty to enjoy here. Both chronicle the vicious struggle between a principled individual who insists on living life on his own terms and a formless collective intent on denying him the freedom to do so. Both authors share the same philosophy and the same reverence for the human spirit, liberty and capitalism. At times one can see shades of Rand’s writing style in LaGreca’s (I’m thinking particularly of the rapid-fire exchanges between coldly rational David Lang and the simpering, often tyrannical bureaucrats who seek to restrain him). Even the title of LaGreca’s book is a respectful nod to a line from The Fountainhead that reads, “Whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential.”

On the whole, I would highly recommend Noble Vision to anyone interested in personal liberty, the role of the state in medicine, or just a well-plotted drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Noble Vision can be purchased at Amazon and Ms. LaGreca has promised a second liberty-themed novel is in the works, news of which (when it becomes available) can be found at Winged Victory Press.

The Westerner, a Poem by Badger Clark

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Badger Clark, sometimes known as “the cowboy poet,” was a resident of South Dakota from the 1880s to the 1950s and a “self confessed individualist, Badger…refused to become a slave to whistle, clock or bell, craving the freedom of the open skies.”  His poetry was admired by as diverse a collection of people as Calvin Coolidge and Ayn Rand (“Global Balkanization.” 1977).

His poems reflect his proud sense of the individual, of the enjoyment afforded by big skies and distant spaces, and of the possibilities open to a free man.  None do so quite as well as “The Westerner,” included in his 1922 book, “Sun and Saddle Leather” (which you can get at Amazon here).

The Westerner by Badger Clark

My fathers sleep on the sunrise plains,
And each one sleeps alone.
Their trails may dim to the grass and rains,
For I choose to make my own.
I lay proud claim to their blood and name,
But I lean on no dead kin;
My name is mine for the praise or scorn,
And the world began when I was born
And the world is mine to win.

They built high towns on their old log sills,
Where the great, slow rivers gleamed,
But with new, live rock from the savage hills
I’ll build as they only dreamed.
The smoke scarce dies where the trail camp lies,
Till rails glint down the pass;
The desert springs into fruit and wheat
And I lay the stones of a solid street
Over yesterday’s untrod grass.

I waste no thought on my neighbor’s birth
Or the way he makes his prayer.
I grant him a white man’s room on earth
If his game is only square.
While he plays it straight I’ll call him mate;
If he cheats I drop him flat.
Old class and rank are a worn-out lie,
For all clean men are as good as I,
And a king is only that.

I dream no dreams of a nursemaid State
That will spoon me out my food.
A stout heart sings in the fray with fate
And the shock and sweat are good.
From noon to noon all the earthly boon
That I ask my God to spare
Is a little daily bread in store,
With the room to fight the strong for more,
And the weak shall get their share.

The sunrise plains are a tender haze
And the sunset seas are gray,
But I stand here, where the bright skies blaze
Over me and the big today.
What good to me is a vague “maybe”
Or a mournful “might have been,”
For the sun wheels swift from morn to morn
And the world began when I was born
And the world is mine to win.

You can read more poems by Badger at the Cowboy Poetry site, and learn a little more about him at the Badger Clark Memorial Society.