July 14, 2008

The Black Arrow, The Third Revolution

The Black Arrow is easily the weirdest book I've ever read. Penned by libertarian author Vin Suprynowicz, it occupies a sort of twilight zone between action/adventure, harlequin romance, revenge fantasy, and incitement to domestic terrorism.

The titular character (The Black Arrow, aka Andrew Fletcher) is basically John Galt as a superhero. He's Ayn Rand's throbbing wet dream: rich, brilliant, utterly lacking in angst, and perfectly ethical, all while trapped in an increasingly unethical world. The setting is NYC in the bleak near future, where citizens are randomly searched on the street, and dissidents frequently vanish without a trace. The narration lays blame on decades of rule by both Democrats and Republicans for the near-absence of civil liberties,up to and including the right to property.

Our (extra)ordinary man, finally pushed too far, decides to fight back... by murdering corrupt politicians (i.e. pretty much all of them). He gathers followers, nails super-hot chicks, and rocks out with his band in a huge concert. If Buckaroo Banzai were 250lbs of hypertrophic beef and had a serious hardon for Freedom with a capital F, he might be within a stone's throw of how absurdly over-the-top this guy is.

In case it wasn't obvious, the writing is pure pulp (the character names will make your eyes roll... a lot). Parts of it I enjoyed so much I felt stupidly embarrassed. Other parts made me cringe. Read as escapist fiction, it's amusing and occasionally gratifying. The bad guys are really bad, the good guys are really good. It almost cannot be read seriously, but the message -- if there is one -- is that it's almost time to "shoot the bastards" as Claire Wolf puts it, and that when "we" do, it will rock. On toast.

Paulbots will likely have to read this book entirely in their bunks.

The Third Revolution by Anthony F. Lewis, is a very different book, but I read it immediately following The Black Arrow, so I always think of one when I think of the other (for good or for ill).  The premise is simultaneously much more and much less radical: a freshly elected Libertarian governor of Montana, strongly supported by his state legislature and state residents, signs legislation nullifying Montana's contract with the federal government.

The setup for that is pretty good, a particularly invasive federal education mandate which has single-digit support in Montana, so it's a lot easier to side with the Montanans in this case than it might have been with, say, South Carolina last time this happened.

There is plenty of good, episodic content from here, detailing the back-and-forth between Montana and FedGov, with decent characterization.  What really stood out to me was that there weren't any "bad" guys here.  All the elected officials have their hearts in the right place, they just have different priorities and philosophies.  Lewis does a fantastic job of painting a strong, adversarial relationship without taking the easy road of making the president or any in his camp into a soulless cretin.

Both of these books hit a lot of really good, pro-freedom themes, but there's a mile-wide gulf between them in how they articulate those themes.   I'm not sure I recommend The Black Arrow, but it's a nice antidote to the ultimately hollow V  for Vendetta.  I do recommend The Third Revolution, though I'm not sure I'll ever bother to read the sequel(s).

Posted by: leoncaruthers at 08:45 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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