Month: February 2016

Sons of Liberty vs. National Front

Sons of Liberty

Sons of Liberty

[First published on Sarah Hoyt’s blog 3-7-2016, with excellent comments]

I’ve tried to concentrate on the next book, but events conspire to suck me into the current mess re Trump. Like a lot of observers, so long as he was a sideshow I could see his almost-daily newsmaking as colorful and perhaps useful in allowing others to speak more freely some of the things that needed to be spoken. By doing so he was expanding the Overton Window and giving a voice to sentiments held by large segments of the population that had been suppressed by the MSM, like nativism and the desire to see immigration laws enforced.

But he’s primarily a demagogue who tells the formerly voiceless what they want to hear and promises to defend them against the dangers the privileged “respectable” politicians want to cover up while they continue business as usual — managing the decline of the over-regulated economy and spending the tax money of citizens to bring in new dependent populations who will presumably vote to keep them in place. Having mined this vein of formerly-voiceless anger at the sale of their country to outsiders, Trump has used it to gain the lead in the Republican race despite having no apparent grasp of most policy issues and some frighteningly authoritarian instincts. He has been called a Jacksonian man on a horse, which has some resonance with Osama bin Laden’s remark: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” Trump’s rise has opportunistic pols and job-seekers endorsing him as a strong horse who can take charge.

The US was founded by several different groups from diverse parts of Britain, and greatly expanded by immigration from Europe. There was no control over immigration — everyone was welcome to pay their own way here, try to survive and fit in, succeed or fail as their abilities and luck allowed. Many returned to their native lands, but most worked hard and helped to settle the land, build the railroads, and grow the cities. In the mid-1800s, just before the Civil War, large numbers of Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy flooded Eastern cities and were seen as a threat. The Know-Nothing Party gained power in some Northern cities on a platform of controlling immigration of Catholics, who were thought to be culturally unsuited to freedom and likely to take commands from their corrupt and foreign Pope. Riots between Catholics and Know-Nothings erupted; 22 died in a riot in Louisville, Kentucky before a contested election.

Lincoln needed the support of the remaining Know-Nothings in the election of 1856, when Republicans began to pick up Know Nothing support to oppose the Democrats who supported slavery. But in a private letter, he said:

I am not a Know-Nothing — that is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’ When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

These nativist movements were defused by the tensions over slavery and the approaching Civil War, and the Know-Nothing Party faded after 1856. Irish took over the police forces of most Northern cities, and Democratic political machines used the Irish and Italian immigrants as a base to take over most big city governments. Over generations, these supposedly bloc-voting groups splintered, and the rough and ready disciplines of capitalist employment encouraged integration.

Immigration began to be restricted after a flood of Chinese workers to the West. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which targeted a single ethnic group by specifically limiting further Chinese immigration. In 1907, a “Gentleman’s Agreement” with the Japanese government limited visas for immigration from Japan. Restrictions on the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were imposed in 1924, and in 1932-33 immigration was nearly shut off. Local and state authorities, assisted by Hoover’s and then FDR’s Labor Department, coerced repatriation and deportation of between 500,000 and 2 million Mexican Americans, mostly citizens, in the Mexican Repatriation.

In 1965 the immigration law was rewritten, with tight quotas for Eastern and Western hemispheres. Separately, “family class” immigrants were favored outside of the quota system, so one immigrant could settle then sponsor others, who sponsored others, and so forth, allowing entire culturally foreign communities to immigrate over time to create enclaves — which slowed integration into American culture. While intended to be humane, family class preferences did not choose the immigrants that would be most likely to be valuable additions to the country and its economy.

In recent years, immigration has become a political third rail. One side views the US as “social worker to the world” — just as they see it as the duty of government to supply housing, food, and healthcare for poor people in the US, they see a moral duty to accept poor people from around the world, especially refugees from war-torn countries. The other side is partly motivated by the remaining nativist impulse — keep the special privileges of being a citizen for current citizens and deny outsiders work and social welfare spending to preserve these benefits for natives.

As a part-time economist, I support free trade generally, and would like to see a reformed immigration policy that takes advantage of the attractiveness of the US to recruit the best of the immigrant candidates. The current system blocks the immigrants most ready to contribute and tolerates illegals from Mexico and points south. The US loses many highly-beneficial immigrants to Canada and Australia and other countries that are less difficult about legal immigration for the high-skilled, and allows in large numbers who are unskilled and likely to be dependent on social welfare services for at least two generations. The H-1B visas enable employers to take advantage of highly skilled immigrants and use their low salaries to keep down the salaries of US citizen engineers and scientists. The system is rotten from top to bottom and badly needs a thorough reform.

It’s also important that those new immigrants accept the guiding principles of the Constitution and quickly integrate into the polity of free individuals and voluntary associations that allows the US to contain multiple religions and cultures to the benefit of all. There is nothing wrong with screening immigrant candidates for beliefs inconsistent with the principles of Americanism — specifically that no government will enact into law specific religious precepts. Thus devout Muslims who are Islamists (believe government must be Islamic and implement Sharia law) should be barred. It is not a violation of any citizen’s rights to ask all candidates for citizenship to pledge to uphold the Constitution and refrain from working to impose their beliefs on others. This point of view would have been seen as mainstream as little as one generation ago, but now is considered politically incorrect by our coastal ruling class.

Donald Trump’s rise is due to the backlash from the bipartisan failure to do anything about the failure of immigration policy. His promise to build a wall and deport the millions of Mexican illegals is viewed as outrageous by the same Democrats who idolize FDR — that heroic New Deal president who started Euro-style social insurance schemes, continued deportation of as many as 2 million Mexicans (some of them legal citizens), refused most Jewish refugees, and interned over 110,000 Japanese-origin US citizens during World War II. Trump’s suggested immigration and trade policies closely resemble FDR’s!

We the People - by Sarah Hoyt

We the People – by Sarah Hoyt

Trump has opened up discussion and encouraged speech from reasonable nativists, but also from formerly muzzled white supremacists and bigots of all kinds. His appeal is similar to the National Front in France: he has attracted nativists and middle and lower class people who have felt shut out by “respectable” social democratic parties. To analyze the commenters of a blog which shall go unlinked, responding to Sarah Hoyt:

[Sarah Hoyt] “Whether we were born elsewhere or here, Americans — those of us who are proud of the name — are rebels, revolutionaries, something new under the sun: a people who believe people should be equal in their right to life, the right to liberty, the right to pursue their happiness undisturbed by either inimical neighbors or oppressive “betters.””

Equality and Egalite are French Enlightenment abstractions designed to finish off the last of the Church, and to rationalize the totalitarian impulses and actions of The Mob . . . people like Sarah Hoyt.

Equality is a satanic concept and provides, in practice, the exact opposite of equity and fairness. Without ‘equality’ people like Sarah Hoyt don’t become successful, much less famous. They become instead what they merit, which isn’t much. They damn well know it, too, which is why they’re so full of vitriol — afraid of losing their vast, unearned privileges. Which they are going to lose, anyway.

Equality, like Women’s ‘liberation’, permits Sarah and her fellow traitors to crush their betters — yes, they DO have betters, and boy do they HATE HATE that — and take over nations under cover of helping the downtrodden and oppressed’. That’d Themselves and their friends, in case you’ve been asleep the past half-century.

Think you have Equality? Sistahood Sarah threatens to punch a mere male, and will not be punished if she does. Try punching Little Miss Virtue Signal and see what happens.

Liars and cowards selling their popular, self-serving lies, while patting themselves on the back for being Brave Rebels who are standing up to The Evil (non-existent) Patriarchy.

This is an interesting mix of “truthiness” and bigotry. Sarah is American by belief and choice, accused of being a “traitor” by people who think their ancestry and presence on the landmass of the US since birth make them guardians of the US nation-state. Aside from the incoherence (how can she be a traitor if she is not a member of the tribe?), the commenter attempts to other her by lumping her in with the virtue-signalling SJWs.

This commenter is sadly unAmerican in his resort to racist and sexist issue framing, completely misapplied to Sarah Hoyt. It’s unfortunate that the loud outpourings of these people, few in number but egging each other on in the fever swamps of sites like this blog-which-shall-go-unlinked, can so easily be used by progressive scribblers elsewhere to tar all dissenters from the Progressive program of thought control as racists, misogynists, and neo-Nazis (or worse!)

Which brings up a valid point these people have made: if Americanism is a bundle of individualist beliefs and attitudes, what about those with deep roots in the US, born and raised for generations there, who don’t accept those beliefs? If tolerance of difference is a watchword, then should those who don’t tolerate differences be suppressed or removed?

Our answer starts with looking at how we got to this point, where government has expanded and encroached on the private sphere of business and social organizations to the point where private action is viewed with suspicion, and a significant percentage of the population believes democracy means subjecting every action of business to the political process and regulation.

Americans were formerly known for their commitment to private charity and self-help organizations; the America of Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835 teemed with churches and private social organizations and lacked the inherited privilege and concentrations of unearned wealth and power seen in Europe. But he worried that “… a despotism under a democracy could see ‘a multitude of men’, uniformly alike, equal, ‘constantly circling for petty pleasures’, unaware of fellow citizens, and subject to the will of a powerful state which exerted an ‘immense protective power’. Tocqueville compared a potentially despotic democratic government to a protective parent who wants to keep its citizens as ‘perpetual children’, and which doesn’t break men’s wills but rather guides [them], and presides over people in the same way as a shepherd looking after a ‘flock of timid animals’. He also wrote that ‘The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.'”

He was prescient. We have arrived at that state. Half the US population believes they are victims of the “malefactors of great wealth” demonized by FDR; FDR’s experiment in Democratic Socialism was derailed by his own nominally Democratic-controlled Congress by 1938, but enough remained of his expanded regulation of business and greatly-increased size of the Federal government to send the US down the road to permanent bureaucracy and a Deep State that constantly seeks to expand its power and resources. Eisenhower warned of the “Military-Industrial Complex,” but it’s no longer just defense contractors in league with Congress to pork-barrel spend, it’s a much larger group of special interests influencing legislation and regulation to give themselves protection from competition as well as direct access to public money. As governments have increased their control of all sectors of the economy, growth has slowed, prices have risen, and young people have found themselves in debt to an education complex which graduates them with few useful skills, then forced to buy health insurance at higher-than-market prices to subsidize wealthier old people.

Americans are largely still believers in the principles of Americanism — live and let live, equality under the law, free enterprise, and a civil society that ideally doesn’t discriminate by color or sex. But several generations of public schools, originally introduced on a Prussian model and intended to mold a population to more uniformly accept direction as cogs in a military-industrial machine, have weakened their resistance to collectivist thought. The Wikipedia entry on the Prussian education system says:

Early 19th-century American educators were also fascinated by German educational trends. In 1818, John Griscom gave a favorable report of Prussian education. English translations were made of French philosopher Victor Cousin’s work, Report on the State of Public Education in Prussia. Calvin E. Stowe, Henry Barnard, Horace Mann, George Bancroft and Joseph Cogswell all had a vigorous interest in German education. The Prussian approach was used for example in the Michigan Constitution of 1835, which fully embraced the Prussian system by introducing a range of primary schools, secondary schools, and the University of Michigan itself, all administered by the state and supported with tax-based funding. However, e.g. the concepts in the Prussian reforms of primordial education, Bildung and its close interaction of education, society and nation-building are in conflict with some aspects of American state-sceptical libertarian thinking.

In 1843, Horace Mann traveled to Germany to investigate how the educational process worked. Upon his return to the United States, he lobbied heavily to have the “Prussian model” adopted. In 1852, Mann was instrumental in the decision to adopt the Prussian education system in Massachusetts. Governor Edward Everett of Massachusetts instituted a mandatory education policy based on the system.[33] Mann persuaded his fellow modernizers, especially those in the Whig Party, to legislate tax-supported elementary public education in their states. New York state soon set up the same method in 12 different schools on a trial basis. Most northern states adopted one version or another of the system he established in Massachusetts, especially the program for “normal schools” to train professional teachers.

Americans were especially impressed with the Prussian system when they set up normal schools to train teachers, because they admired the German emphasis on social cohesion. By the 20th century, however, the progressive education movement emphasized individuality and creativity more and opted for a less European-inspired curriculum and lower social cohesion and uniformity. The Progressives faced a major setback with the Sputnik crisis, which led again to more focus on quality education and selectiveness of the school system. The derogatory use of the term may contrast 19th-century pedagogy (see the poisonous pedagogy debate in Germany) with the introduction of new technology into classrooms during the Information Age. While Joel Rose appreciates Horace Mann’s commitment to a public education but is aiming at renewing how to deliver it, authors like Conservative Party of New York State activist John Taylor Gatto and further home-schooling activist Sheldon Richman claim that illiteracy rates in the USA were lower before compulsory schooling was introduced.

Those “normal schools” to train educators are a primary source of the substandard teachers of today, taken from the bottom third of college applicants and trained to promote “correct” social thinking. Big city schools, especially, are run for the benefit of union teachers and not the students. Parents get little or no choice in their children’s education, children get limited instruction, and disciplinary problems detract from study.

But even in the better districts, a uniform Progressive ideology has gradually been impressed on the students. The elementary teaching generation after World War II was still fairly high-quality, and many bright young women went into it as a caring career which would allow children and family interruptions. The advent of both expanded professional opportunities for women and social pressure to go after higher-paid professional careers removed many of the most-competent people from elementary school teaching, and the newer generations of teachers have been trained to promote social ideals over knowledge, with less time for Western classics, civics and history, science, and economics, and more time for environmentalism and “corrective” diversity training. As a result, graduating students, while more sophisticated in some areas, lack the basic knowledge of government and history needed for American citizenship. They have been trained in Progressive ideals, including the notion that passing a new law can address every social problem.

Another import from Bismarck’s Germany: State Socialism. Bismarck set up the basic social welfare state as we know it, with state health insurance, pension, and disability programs, in the 1880s. Social Security was FDR’s similar effort to defuse the tide of full socialism in the Depression; by borrowing from the future, it could provide state support for the elderly at seemingly little current cost in payroll taxes.

These efforts to protect and provide for citizens via state programs have enfeebled private efforts to save and enter mutual support agreements. Half the population now believes they are owed a good job and a living through government action. Politicians speak about “creating jobs” as if that is their proper role, interest groups unashamedly lobby for more subsidies for their particular interest from the money tree of tax receipts and government borrowing, and the common political response to high-priced and low-quality housing in the coastal cities is public housing subsidies, rent controls, and “inclusionary zoning” (the requirement to build “affordable” housing as part of every market-rate project.) All of which drive down supply and increase costs further.

Many people see what’s happened and have tried to sound the alarm. But dissent from the program has been suppressed for decades. And now we have Trump and others feeding off the anger of those who have suffered under a system which rewards the connected and wealthy at the expense of the hard-working, blue-collar citizens not enjoying privileged coastal lifestyles. Our politics has suffered from the sound of silence — the supposed racist and sexist origins of all anti-Progressive efforts, the Conventional Wisdom of the mass media which filters out anything nonmainstream, the gradual corruption of the academy by government funding and directives.

The antidote to this encroaching tribal collectivism is electing representatives willing to return focus to the core function of government — defense, justice, and enforcement of contracts. Returning power to decisionmakers closer to the decision — state and local governments and private citizens — reduces the rewards of corruption and empowers the people to take responsibility for their own and their children’s welfare. Education should be funded by parents and local associations, not mega-school districts and Federal bureaucrats. Parental desires for their children’s upbringing should be respected.

What should not be respected are the non-American “isms” — belief systems incompatible with the Constitutionally limited government that made the US the desirable place to live for productive people. Racism, sexism, classism, Communism, Socialism, etc., should never be tolerated in the action of law. Dividing up citizens by skin color and tribe and doling out affirmative action rewards to the favored may have been justified for one generation, but now create more division than they alleviate. Islamists and other religionists who believe that government should enforce their religious laws even without the consensus of other citizens should never gain a foothold in our politics.

There will always be people living in America who disagree with one or more aspects of Americanism. If they follow our laws and support themselves, the US can accommodate some number of them short of a majority. But we should seek to screen them out when they apply for immigration, and refuse to support them with welfare payments and subsidies. If they find it more comfortable to live in a country that supports their beliefs, they should move there. And we are under no obligation to associate with them, employ them, or be kind to them.

As Sam Adams said on August 1st, 1776: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Genre Reviews and Commercial Reviewers

Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

I normally just pay for one review from Indie Reader, who are the indie version of a Kirkus or Publishers Weekly-style institutional reviewer. These institutional reviews are typically paid for by the publisher, but because their reputation as unbiased reviewers is what keeps the review companies in business, they are valued as neutral reviewers, though there are hints of bias — one could speculate they shade their reviews to avoid crossing the Big 5 publishers, and so will tend to go easy on “big books” that a publisher intends to push hard. But any favoritism to heavy advertisers is light enough that you can be sure that a truly bad book won’t be recommended, and a recommended book will be at least competent.

If I’m a publisher of reviews, I have several goals that sometimes conflict. If I’m the New York Times Book Review, I know my reviews will be read for entertainment by a readership that skews high in literary education and income, so my reviews will tend to play to that audience, which is why genres like science fiction and romance have a hard time even getting reviewed there, and often starting with two strikes against the book. If I’m running a SF&F website, my audience is readers of the specific genre, and the review will assume familiarity with the conventions of the genre and compare the book with other similar works, rather than being based on how the average literary fiction reader would view them. And in narrower niches, like mil-SF or zombie fantasy, it is assumed the readers of the review start out liking this sort of story, with these sorts of characters.

So I was leery of spending my publisher’s money to get a Kirkus review done. The review was glowing, but without the coveted star that tends to get notice from other reviewers and purchasing agents. I was interested in how they had treated other genre books, so I did a quick survey.

It appears that in the past, Kirkus assigned reviewers who were less than sympathetic to the book’s genre and intended audience. This review made me laugh:

GHOST by John Ringo

Mindless, misogynistic military slaughterfest, a change of scene from the author’s usual military SF beat (When the Devil Dances, 2001, etc.).

A middle-aged ex-SEAL with creaky joints, a bad back and a wrecked marriage, Mike Harmon retired on 50% disability and opted to return to college. But when Mike—codename: Ghost—observes a young co-ed being expertly snatched off the street, he investigates, and discovers a warehouse from which Islamic terrorists are shipping kidnapped girls off to the Middle East. Mike frees two girls and kills many opponents. As another consignment of girls leaves, Mike hops into the plane’s wheel well and ends up inside a terrorist base in Syria, where the bad guys are preparing to rape, torture and kill the girls in front of a video camera on the theory that this will induce the U.S. to withdraw from the Middle East. Fortunately, Mike has a GPS phone, so he calls in. Decisive President Cliff orders a SEAL team to the rescue. But girls are already dying, so Mike goes in himself, kills bin Laden and what seems like half the Syrian army. Despite being shot full of holes, Mike hangs in until the SEALs arrive. For his bravery, he receives a monetary reward and later gets to indulge his sexual fetishes (bondage, dominance) with a couple of co-eds in Florida. In the Bahamas, he kills many terrorists, gets shot full of holes and receives much money. In Eastern Europe, he indulges his taste for rape, kills many terrorists, etc.

Disturbing and disgusting. An incentive to never read books again.

But other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? This is Ringo. His books aren’t likely to be accidentally considered for reading by people like the reviewer, so the review is useless for deciding which violent testosterone-infused male fantasy adventure book to buy for people who enjoy that sort of thing.

One of the best writers of science fiction and fantasy, Lois McMasters Bujold, never got a starred review from Kirkus. Here’s the summary of their review of middle Miles Vorkosigan in Mirror Dance: “A well-conceived series, solidly plotted and organized, though heavy going in places and, finally, lacking that spark of genuine originality that would blazon it as truly special.” Kind of missing the point, no?

I was talking to my husband about this, and he commented that he discounted all science fiction movie reviews in major media until recently because most were so biased against the genre. The situation is changing as more younger reviewers who are steeped in genre get into reviewing positions, but it’s still hard to get respect for even the finest SF&F writing unless it comes with New York-style literary credentials.

Kirkus Reviews “Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3”

Shrivers Kindle Cover

Shrivers Kindle Cover

It takes a long time to get one of the legacy review companies to review a book, so finally Kirkus has posted their review.


A third adventure in a sci-fi series follows idealistic rebels who can manipulate reality using quantum portals.

Ten years ago, college students Justin Smith, Steve Duong, and Samantha West led a revolution that invented quantum teleportation and used it to eliminate the Earth’s nuclear arsenal. Now, that same technology, which involves tapping “into the computational substrate that runs the Universe and determines how matter and energy appear to interact,” allows them to live on New Earth. This planet is just one of over 100 worlds humanity has settled throughout the galaxy. Thanks to less condensed populations, the watchful, artificially intelligent Guardians, and replicator programs that provide food, shelter, and clothing, “crime and hunger are almost unknown.” Trouble arises, however, when decimated alien civilizations begin appearing in galactic surveys. Because Justin, Steve, and their programmers can’t find any thriving alien races, they suspect that another intelligence is manipulating the substrate. When Eddie, an artificial intelligence, makes itself known to Kat, Justin and Samantha’s 10-year-old daughter, dire truths trickle in. A race called The First, which lives immortally within the substrate, decides which civilizations get to upload and join it. Determined to test humanity, The First now sends its Shrivers—an AI death squad—toward every planet that the revolutionaries helped settle. Kinnison (Nemo’s World, 2015, etc.) bursts wide the scope of his continuously rewarding series in this latest entry. As in the previous novels, he challenges his characters to evolve morally as well as technologically; when Justin and Steve appear secretive about the discoveries on an alien ship, NASA astronaut Maddy Rahama reminds them why they fought the United States when she says, “I thought you guys were going to be the most transparent government ever.” Keen sociological insights are crucial to the plot, as when Justin says, “Just because no one goes hungry, doesn’t mean people stop envying and hating.” The narrative, despite approaching war, proves riveting in the classic mold of Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein’s works, in which action never eclipses heart and intellect.

A novel about a galactic threat that offers an addictive barrage of lofty ideas infused with soul.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9961833-2-1
Page count: 360pp
Review Posted Online: Feb. 24th, 2016

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3


“Shrivers” Reviewed by Jimbo’s Awesome SFF Reviews

Shrivers Kindle Cover

Shrivers Kindle Cover

This review turned up this morning. This guy gets it!:

…Have you ever missed your stop and had to do extra walking on tired feet because you couldn’t wait to see what was next? Your latest book, Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3 had me hanging on every word. It’s hard to watch out of a window to see how close I am to my stop when my nose is stuck in an e-reader.


Seriously folks, this is a good one. Fans of the site (both of you) will remember that I have reviewed both of the first two books in the series, The Red Queen and Nemo’s World and enjoyed them both but this is easily the best of the three. Once again we see the fight against Big Government and a crackdown on the dirty little guy, this time on an existential level. It’s not even about a human government anymore. This one is all about the fight of humanity to survive against a force that is regulating the substrate. If you don’t know what the substrate is, it’s because you haven’t read the first two books and that is a mistake you need to fix quickly….

As a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of my favorite things is an epic plot and an existential threat. Kinnison got both of those into this book in spades. The Red Queen was about a renegade group of students rebelling against oppression. That’s good stuff. Nemo’s World was about setting up a government and what to do with dangerous criminals. It was a lot of fun as well. This one is not just bigger than either, it’s bigger than both put together. The impressive part about the whole thing is really about how well Kinnison humanizes it though.

The previous cast of characters is all still here and they’re all doing their thing. Some are perhaps a bit older, wiser and more mature but things tend to work that way in real life so that’s hardly surprising. What is incredibly surprising is the inclusion of a young girl on whom the fate of the entire human race depends. Whether she is up to the challenge or not… well… read the book. I don’t do spoilers. I will say that she gets put into her position because she is a unique young lady and that the decision is not made by a human being. Humans have friends among those who would try to kill them. And that’s one of the things that I really, really enjoyed about this book.

Look, I’m okay with a cardboard villain if it fits the story. Battle: Los Angeles was a good movie that pretty much went “The bad guys are here to steal water and they’re going to kill us all to get it,” and left things at that. This book is not that way. Kinnison’s villains are every bit as much motivated as they are dangerous and they have very clear motivations that MAKE SENSE. I get the fact that alien reasoning may not always be obvious to a human mind, especially given the fact the motivations of a person from another human culture can be opaque at times. Still, the enemy, known as the First because they were the first culture to discover the substrate, is looking to perpetuate their own existence against anyone they see as a threat. New species are, to them, a threat to take up the space they need to live.  The Shrivers that Kinnison named his book after are their method of doing so.  Nuclear annihilation awaits those that aren’t unique and impressive enough.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about the ability of anyone to wipe out an enemy that has access to the substrate when I first read about it. That lasted until I had read a little further. It turns out that there is a fairly simple way to mess with a computer program (a virus) and that a society who has had access to the substrate for billions of years is better at using it than we would be. Go figure. It works here though because it’s so familiar. I had missed the possibility but the reasoning was sound and it made the story easy to follow.

This tome cooks from beginning to end. It just doesn’t let up. Problems come up and are solved just in time to set up the next round of problems… The politics of the story drift a bit in the work as well. At first it was a plucky bunch of kids rebelling against an overreaching government. Then it was those kids a few years later finding a way to turn things into a government in which everyone has a say. Those were impressive. But now things are shifting a bit. Control of the substrate is control over the future of humanity and its use is restricted to just a few people who are planning to pass that control on to their children. This has potential to lead to a government even more repressive than the one they overthrew. So far they haven’t gone down that road but the possibility to do so is certainly there. If Kinnison will steer his series away from that eventuality. If he does so it will be interesting to see how he pulls it off. So I’m waiting (im)patiently for the sequel to see what comes next.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Micro Black Holes

The first book of the series (Red Queen) is on sale for $0.99 here. The second book, Nemo’s World, is here, and Shrivers (the one Jimbo is reviewing) is here.

Or you can buy all three as a Kindle bundle for $6.97 here.