A terrorist explosion shatters a large building in Laporte, North American Confederacy (the alternate universe Neil introduced in _The Probability Broach_). Win Bear formerly of the Denver PD, and now busy on a copyright infringement investigation (The NAC version of Clark Gable hates _Gone With The Wind_ and wants distribution stopped) must solve the case before certain politically shady groups can revive the Confederacy's almost extinct government. The trail leads into the American Zone-a subculture and neighborhood of recent immigrants from our world and others like it where the inhabitants are slowly, and not always successfully, adjusting to life without government and with personal responsibility.
This report prepared by Brian R. Hughes
Tor, Dec 2001, 26.95, 350 pp.
Ever since he crossed over from his polluted dying United States to this alternate Confederacy, detective Win Bear has been quite happy about his “plight”. He never wants to go back to his birth world especially since he enjoys his work as the only detective in the area and he loves his wife.
However, terrorist activities killing thousands apparently caused by some of Win's peers, other crossers, have created a serpent in Eden. Bear knows he must stop this group before some founding fathers get together and form a government like the one he left behind that two centuries earlier destroyed his previous world.
THE AMERICAN ZONE might have played out better before 9/11, but in light of that debacle the theme looks weak because the international world is ignored as a threat. Understanding the Libertarian theory that entangling alliances causes much of the trouble including the 9/11 tragedy, most of the audience will still resent the premise that big government leads to big counter acts by terrorists. L. Neil Smith cleverly interweaves Libertarian sermons into his alternate American history tale that will be easier to follow if the audience reads THE PROBABILITY BROACH first as this story follows in sequence. This is a well-written alternate historical novel starring a wonderful hero, but then there is 9/11 to challenge the underlying axiom of Mr. Smith's basic premise.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner