Five novels of freedom
By Claire Wolfe
by Vince Flynn
Cracking the Liberty Bell
Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse
Transfer: The End of the Beginning
What freedom needs is a great novel. It's been more than 40 years since Atlas Shrugged set minds afire. Today's freedom lovers could gain more from a new inspirational novel than from all the polemics, opinion columns, non-fiction books -- and certainly all the politicians in the world, combined.
Oh, a lot of us have our favorite candidate novels. Unintended Consequences has a huge following among gun-rights advocates; its "Henry Bowman solution" has entered the mythos of the movement. But it has no power to reach beyond its limited market and capture the imaginations of people in the mainstream. Likewise with my own favorite choices, L. Neil Smith's romp, The Probability Broach, Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Victor Koman's shamefully underappreciated Kings of the High Frontier (which is available both through that Amazon.com link and in less-expensive HTML form from Pulpless.com. Wonderful books all, but niche books, however much I might wish otherwise.
A novel to move the world? Another Atlas Shrugged? That one we're still waiting for. Will someone please write that thing before it's too late for us all? In the meantime, if you're looking for stimulating reading with a freedom bent, here are five somewhat more modest choices.
Term Limits by Vince Flynn (Pocket Books, 1997): Three powerful legislators are professionally murdered. A group claims credit and warns that, unless their demands are met, they will kill again. An FBI agent and an earnest first-term congressman from Minnesota join the hunt for the killers. Mainstream thriller material, right?
This time, there's a difference. The killers are the good guys, and their demands are for limited government and honest politicians. Of course, nobody in real life advocates going out and slaughtering corrupt politicians. Fair trials first, hangings later -- that's the drill. But it's interesting that a book like this has entered the mainstream. Ten years ago no New York publisher would have touched it, and for that alone, it's worth reading. Term Limits also kept both the readers in our household up long past their bedtimes with its well-crafted (if not entirely believable) story and non-stop action.
One big quibble. The author displayed astounding naivete; some of his heroes' wishes would actually lead to the expansion of the very federal power the characters claim to oppose. Still, Flynn's heart is in the right place, and his story isn't bad, either.
Check the reader reviews of this book on Amazon.com and you'll get a more complete picture of both its strengths and weaknesses.
The Mitzvah by Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith (Mazel Freedom Press, 1999): Monsignor John Greenwood is a Catholic priest and a liberal product of the '60s. What he doesn't know is that he is also the child of a Jewish couple who managed to hide him as they were being driven to their deaths in Hitler's concentration camps.
This discovery (and the circumstances around it) throws him into confusion. Is he Jewish? Or Catholic? American or German? Is he right to remain a pacifist, or is his real heritage as an armed freedom fighter -- "Never again!"? Through much of the book, Greenwood listens, protests, studies and learns. In the end, as he makes his decisions, powerful enemies maneuver against him and the book rushes to a bloody, shocking -- but surprisingly right -- climax.
The Mitzvah is short, well written and highly readable. The intellectual drama propelled me from chapter to chapter. ("Just one more for now," I kept saying as I turned to the next section, and the next.)
Co-authors Zelman, of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, and science fiction writer and independent presidential candidate L. Neil Smith, call this a novel "for those who love freedom -- and for those who should." My only regret is that the latter part of that statement may not work out. I fear the message is too heavily dealt to persuade anti-gunners, or even many fence sitters.
Still, it's thought provoking and highly readable. You can purchase it, or read more about it via this Amazon.com link or buy it directly from the source -- $10.95 postpaid (bulk discounts available).
The next three books are written by non-professionals. I'm sometimes very critical of well-intended amateur novels -- not from any nasty inclinations, but because their technical flaws jump out at me, driving my writer-brain bonkers. All the following novels do have flaws -- which may include clunky plots, poor character development, a tendency to tell rather than show, and lack of language craftsmanship. That said, however, there's some good stuff here, especially in my personal favorite, and the best-crafted of the three:
Cracking the Liberty Bell by J.J. Johnson (published online at http://www.jj-johnson.com): One icy Sunday morning, the ATF leads a military-style raid against the Liberty Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio. The non-government-approved church is a focus of patriot activity. And though it is, in fact, gloriously multi-racial and multi-ethnic, it has been demonized as a haven of white supremacism.
What follows is non-stop action -- hair-raising, heartbreaking, sometimes shocking -- as church members defend themselves, the militia dithers, helicopters crash in flames, an enterprising spy learns dangerous secrets, and a network newswoman trapped in the church becomes part of a story she never could have imagined.
J.J. -- former leader and spokesperson for the Ohio Unorganized Militia -- avoids the chief error of most freedom-movement novels; he doesn't talk the reader to death. CTLB has a coherent, flowing, well-worked-out plot. There are scenes so vivid they scream "movie!" Characters -- though not deeply developed -- are strong. And bless you, J.J., you've created some of the best women in freedom fiction since Dagny Taggart.
Cracking the Liberty Bell is a book to read once in a rush, then read again at leisure.
Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse by James Wesley, Rawles (Huntington House Publishers, 1999): First the stock market and monetary systems crumble. Riots, then disease, stalk the cities. Tens of millions die. Survivors -- in this case, a small band of well-prepared young men and women in rural Idaho -- hang on for years, defending their redoubts against roaming looters.
Then things get really bad.
A provisional federal government shows up, bringing UN troops and national ID cards. The survivors become warriors, striking to take their country back.
That's the compelling premise of Patriots. Even more compelling is the survival-and-military-tactics manual that resides within this novel. The fictional scenes are, as often as not, the vehicle for introducing information about food storage, improvised weapons, emergency surgery, security systems, barter goods, radio communications, home birth and other aspects of real-life survival situations. Very useful, detailed stuff.
You may have seen Patriots, or part of it, before now. Since 1995, it has evolved and its name has morphed from The Gray Nineties to Triple Ought to TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know It) to its present title. It has improved a great deal since I first saw it.
You could still wish for a more coherent plot. Rawles has a habit of stopping the action just when it gets interesting -- for instance, pages from the end, as the plot seems to be rushing toward climax, the author suddenly introduces a new character whose only function is to spend a chapter lecturing on radio communications. Also, the book isn't exactly subtle; the first bad guys Our Heroes encounter are not only cannibalistic baby killers, but card-carrying Communists, to boot -- a bird more rare these days than the "white supremacist militiaman" the media stalks so devotedly. If you are a non-Christian, you might find yourself feeling distinctly out of the picture at times. Nevertheless, this book has stood the test of time and gets better as it grows.
Patriots is available via this link at Amazon.com or from Huntington House Publishers, P.O. Box 53788, Lafayette, LA 70505, 318-237-7049 ($15.99 plus shipping). For more information from the author click here, and for another review from a survivalist point of view, here.
Transfer: The End of the Beginning by Jerry Furland (Universal Publishers, 1999): Of all the books reviewed today, Transfer has the most important, and perhaps the most interesting, premise. The time is the near future; the federal government engineers a forced transition from paper money to a cashless, fully-trackable monetary system -- to take place in a mere six-months.
As the cover blurb says, "Digital currency placed the ultimate tool for social engineering solely in the government's grasp. ... America's streets are safe and the nation's economy is booking. Utopia beckons. ... Victory is at hand. Or is it?" The book follows the stories of system developers, government engineers and a few not-quite-ordinary people coping with -- or fighting against -- the draconian change.
Transfer: The End of the Beginning is the first book in a planned trilogy. Transfer: The Harvest is due in July 2000, and Transfer: Last Call in early 2001. Eventually, the three books may come in one binding. I'd like to see that, because the present book is definitely more a prologue than a standalone novel. In fact, it's got enough rough patches that I'd call it a draft of a prologue. Still, the systems Furland warns of (or something like them) are on the way, and I was glad to have this food for thought now.
NOTE: I regret to say that this will be my last FreeLife column. Thank you to the world's best readers, to contributors of great ideas, and to Joseph Farah who made it all possible. I remain a devoted supporter of WorldNetDaily. If you want to know why I'm leaving, there's an explanation on the Den page of Wolfe's Lodge. May you find all the freedom you wish and deserve.
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