Saturday 28 July 2012

Quicksilver Trilogy - Libertarian Fiction

This isn't exactly a book review blog, but the Quicksilver Trilogy (Rising, Zenith & Twilight) by Stan Nicholls (renamed the Dreamtime trilogy in the US) which I have just finished is, I think, a very libertarian set of books. They are a pretty easy read, so teens should be able to enjoy them, as would most adults. As a fantasy series, they are fairly decent without the libertarian side, so I would recommend them to fantasy readers on that basis anyway. The libertarian ethic though, I don't think can be ignored.

In the Quicksilver world, magic is hugely important, a controlled product by the dominant empires which is used as a tool of subjegation. The rival empires of Gath Tampoor (a typical seeming autocratic empire, no unifying ideology) and Rintarrah (a fascist/socialist state where everything is ordered and has its place in a supposedly egalitarian environment, but there is an enshrined upper class anyway) are both somewhat oligarchic, with a number of ruling figures at the top of departments, secret services and the like. The story watches as the main characters, through one method or another, are adopted into the resistance movements in the two empires and Bhealfa (a protectorate of Gath Tampoor) and their attempts to escape to a relatively uninhabited island and secure their liberty.

Without giving too much away, I'll try to show how this series goes through the abuses of the state, and thereby will help to give readers good libertarian insights. I'll start with a scene in the first book, where there's a confrontation between a prostitute who's friend has been killed, and a member of the upper echelons of society responsible; in the supposedly equal Rintarrah: "'Listen, slut' he snarled, 'I've got contacts. I can make things really difficult for you. I'm talking about big trouble.'" as well as the inbuilt racim of the state "'And you think the authorities would take the word of a Qalochian whore over that of a man of stature'". Bear in mind that the profession of prostitution, like everything else deemed bad by the authorities is denied to be in existence is the 'ordered' nation of Rintarrah. Throughout the books, the issues of race and legal injustice are brought up. Those at the top enjoying protection against the people, whilst the people are abused by those above.

There is a clear argument that tax is theft in the second book, where a former pirate defends his practice: "I spent three years in the business. And I use the word advisedly; it was a business as far as I was concerned'. 'That's a novel way of describing it.' 'But it's true. Piracy's a very elementary form of barter. You exchange possessions from people in exchange for letting them keep their lives. It's not dissimilar to taxes. Nobody wants to pay them but governments make you. [...] where people have to follow their laws at the ultimate expense of their lives.'"

So, the state is racist and unfair, and tax is theft, now onto book three and the abuse of language (which also appears earlier): "'[T]hey employ language as a weapon against us. Taking another's land is liberation. Suppressing the people's right to speak is freedom. Executing a patriot is an act of public order. And anybody opposing them is a terrorist.'" Even gun rights comes up in (although not directly, guns not yet existing in this universe) with magic as the equivalent; "'[T]hat's the fault of the system we live in, not the craft.' He held up the rapier he was still clutching. 'It's like this sword. It can be in the hands of a tyrant or a freedom fighter. The sword has no say in it.'"

Libertarian foreign policy is also brought to the fore through criticism of an interventionist foreign policy: "Where rival empires competed for dominance, foreign policy was often a euphemism for armed conflict. At any given time, territory was contested, rebellions were being quelled and unruly populations subdued. [...] And while the warring parties had made destruction a fine art, little attention was paid to helping its many innocent sufferers."

Show trials appear several times, including one of an ambassador: "'It amounts to treason.' 'But I'm not even a Bhealfan subject!' 'Ah, and neither is he. So you're making a further admission that like my enemy you're not a Bhealfan subject. This is all starting to sound rather damning, isn't it?' [...] 'Would you be kind enough to outline the nature of the charge?'.

This set of books evidently hasn't set the literary world on fire, and not the most brilliant pieces of fiction ever written, but they are entertaining, and I think they should be touted as the libertarian books they are, they might help open the eyes of somebody, and for that I recommend them to anyone interested in fantasy. Not as good as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and doesn't show how a libertarian world would work, but it shows the excesses of the state, which is just as important.

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