Tuesday, August 02, 2005

First review: Reflex, by Steven Gould

I read a lot. I read a lot of science fiction (broadly construed). I'm also part of a mostly extropian/libertarian reading group. The reading group reads history, science, economics, biology, psychology, evolution, and more. I'm a member of the finalist commitee for the LFS Best Novel awards, so I read a lot of SF that I evaluate for libertarian viewpoints. Now that I have a blog, I'm going to start trying to write at least a short review of most of what I read.

Reflex, by Steven Gould, is a fine novel. It tells the story of Davy Rice, a natural teleport. He doesn't know why he can jump, he just can. He's been working for the NSA for years, but someone has figured out his weaknesses, and figured out how to kidnap and control him. The story follows Davy and his wife, Millie, as they work to find a way out of the trap.

The story is well-told, the characters are interesting, their struggles are convincing. Davy shows great personal strength: he is adamant about not subjecting other people to harm even when it's the only way to save himself. The morality displayed in the story is quite admirable. The bad guys we meet are venal, but completely in thrall to hidden characters who are apparently evil. The good guys have superhuman powers along with weaknesses their enemies know how to exploit. They are also extremely moral, though they are willing to threaten and kill those who have demonstrated they are their enemies.

The libertarian aspects rest mainly in that the government agencies Davy and his wife have to work with are internally divided, and can't be relied on to keep a secret, protect a source, or follow through on a commitment. It's hard to rank this book, since it's the first of next year's nominees that I've read. It's compatible with libertarianism, but not strong on teaching the weaknesses of governments or the strengths of private actions. The good guys are very moral, but they're merely defending themselves from bad guys who are trying to force them to support their evil plots.


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