-‘Boston T. Party’
There’s no way of getting around this – Molon Labe is a very poorly written book.
The first problem is very obvious right from the start. The entire book is written in present tense (apart from the faked news interviews and articles). This gets irritating very quickly. The second problem is that there are a number of pure howlers in the text and background material. The third problem is that the book suffers from what I tend to think of as overacting. You can get away with this if you’re writing satire or parody. You can't if you’re writing a thriller or political tract. The fourth is that the book jumps around a LOT. All of this is something of a shame as the book has a fairly original plot concept, which deserved much better execution.
Anyway, in an alternate 2011 (the book can be dated as the author made references to real events in his book) the Libertarian Party is launching an attempt to create a Free State within the United States. The basic concept is fairly simple – Libertarian Party members are moving to Wyoming and setting up residence there, tipping the state’s demographics to the point where they constitute a majority. This allows them to rewrite the state’s legal system to suit themselves. All of this takes place against a background of chaos, as the United States seems to have gone mad. Government agencies such as the FBI, ATF and IRS have started cracking down really hard on innocent Americans, provoking resistance and an unofficial program of political assassination. This convinces many thousands of Americans to start migrating to Wyoming, the last bastion of American freedom.
Ah, I thought; now we will see a battle when the Feds invade the Free State. No, actually; the book sort-of grinds to a half when the Free State steals a handful of nukes and uses them to deter the Feds from invading. The ending shows most of American shading into darkness, with Wyoming growing in power as companies move there to escape excessive government regulation.
Truthfully, I'm not sure where to begin.
The good first, such as it is – the author successfully touches on many important issues for contemporary America. There is an insight into the Fully Informed Juries campaign which is well worth study, although perhaps not from this book. There are insights into the mindset created by massive bureaucratic entities (hint; the amount of common sense in a bureaucracy is inversely proportional to the size of the entity) and how laws can be used and abused in the name of public safety. There is an important digression on the current state of American education and how – insanely – pro-public education people are attempting to bring every child into the system, even though the system has been falling apart for years. And yes, there are gun rights. Lots of gun rights. One of the more positive parts of the book is that it slams both main American political parties, rather than the more usual ‘Republicans Good, Democrats Dumb.’
Well, at the state of the book, the author makes a very unflattering prediction of Hilary Clinton’s future. I have no love for Hilary, but it is not only absurd, and wrong – it dates the book and probably opens the author to a lawsuit.
More seriously, there is a curious contradiction in the author’s libertarianism. Now, I am no expert on the subject, but it strikes me that libertarianism is basically ‘do what you want, provided that non-consenting people are not harmed.’ It sounds great, but the author takes a strong stance against drug and alcohol use. He also slams homosexuality as, like the two former ‘vices,’ as being bad for one’s heath. That’s a new one on me. If the author is referring to physical health, the smart homosexuals can avoid STDs with ease; if he is referring to mental health...well, it might have something to do with the fact that homosexuals do face discrimination, even by accident. Even so, it is a new one on me.
The book might have made sense if it had been focused on a more basic Unintended Consequences-style conflict. The author, however, brings in claims of a centuries-long satanic conspiracy to enslave the world, as well as the – slightly – newer ‘Evil UN’ trope. The UN has a grand plan to register all the world’s firearms. It doesn't seem to occur to the author that that task is completely impossible – how do they intend to do it in Iraq, or Somalia, or Afghanistan?
And then there’s the theory about the decline of American education, which is apparently descended from the Prussian system designed to dampen down individual thought. It would have surprised anyone from 1945 – the German army was, man for man, the most innovative in the world. I don’t blame the author for not dwelling on this much – the Germans who developed this to its greatest extent were the Nazis.
And then there’s the author’s claim that the cause of World War Two was that Britain lost its bottle in 1936. There is a certain amount of truth in this, but then the author goes on to claim that this never happened in America. It did – after the American Civil War, the North lost all enthusiasm for actually standing up for the rights of Black Americans. The result was Jim Crow and, irony of ironies, the first gun control laws, written to disarm the blacks! The author bemoans gun control laws, yet doesn't seem to recognise the irony.
The problem with political tracts is that they are often written to prove that the author’s bright idea will work in practice. I’m not particularly convinced that this idea will work, partly because of the poor execution. The overacting – many characters regularly declaim in a manner recognisable to readers of Ayn Rand – doesn’t help, nor does the absurdity. To cite one example, when the ‘evil liberals’ have the bright idea of shipping in their fellow liberals to shift the demographic balance again, the good guys have the bright idea of tax breaks for everyone who carries a gun in public. This scares the liberals out of the state – seemingly unaware that they live in a world where guns are far from the only things that kill people. And then there’s the author’s avocation of shunning to get rid of nosy federal agents – sure, shun the agents, but deliberately arranging for their kids to be bullied? The author lost whatever was left of me there – not much by then – and that doesn't include the stupidity of encouraging bullying in a country where guns are easy to obtain.
IMHO, the book tried to be too many things. It wanted to be a story of freedom and an age of libertarian harmony, but it also wanted to be the next Unintended Consequences or Enemies Foreign and Domestic.
In short, cool idea, but very poor execution.