Monday, July 29, 2013

Galt's Gulch In Space

I just finished Zero Point by Abraham Thornton. I made the mistake of taking the review on Amazon too seriously. This is a fun Space Opera that I thoroughly enjoyed. It reminded me a lot of the Jon and Lobo stories by Mark Van Name.

The novel starts out in deep space. The hero, Volya Fry, is minding his own business running a space salvage business when two unusual things coincide. His engineer informs him that the reactor running his decrepit 3-man salvage ship is going to blow up and everyone's going to die. And a few minutes later his navigator informs him there's a mysterious space ship within range.

So, they make for the ship and when they get there they find a mystery. The crew is gone. The logs are wiped. There's no transponder. And... horror of horrors, there's a fully stocked armory. It seems there's no 2nd Amendment in the dystopian space empire where Volya comes from. In fact, the space empire with its interlocking network of impossible to navigate rules and regulations seems to be an elaborate conspiracy to screw over the little guy.

Sort of like America after the Democrats and the Republicans get everything they want. Which is the point, really. Mr. Thornton grinds a libertarian axe when he describes the Union. He has designed a future world where the galaxy is inhabited by humans in one of two empires: Crony Capitalists, or Peoples Republic Commies. Plus a number of non-aligned worlds.

After Volya does the right thing and obeys all the regulations to the letter, he's arrested and then framed for piracy. Adventures ensue as Volya undergoes a transformation from compliant subject/sheep to a free citizen of the galaxy.

Along the way he hooks up with a beautiful bounty hunter who takes him home to her libertarian paradise. Whereas moneyed interests and governments like the status quo, the girl's planet has a different set of priorities. I like to think of it as Galt's Gulch In Space.

Freedom means different things to different people. Some people think that nobody is truly free if any one of us suffers. And others think freedom means making your own choices without coercion and that includes being free to starve to death. The former is a more collectivist notion that I can't fathom. The latter is twisted into something heartless. And that's what I took too seriously in the Amazon review. I think the he felt this heartlessness was inherent in libertarianism and the story absolutely HAD to include that. Screw that.

Free men can cooperate freely of their free will to advance their mutual interests. And they can do so more efficiently than any centralized bureaucracy can. If you don't believe that, consider why the Soviets are on the ash-heap of history. The problem is information. Free markets have the information to allocate resources more efficiently than centralized planning that can't even distribute toilet paper without long queues.

After showing us the dystopian Union in juxtapose with a libertarian utopia, our heroes goes on to find out who framed him and to settle some scores.

It's an altogether pleasing romp across space, and I give a hearty 5-stars to Zero Point. It's not perfect. Mr. Thornton has room to grow as a writer, but it was just such a fun read I can't ding him.

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