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The Third Revolution, by Anthony F. Lewis

We can't force liberty and responsibility on a population who view those things as being selfish, as somehow unfair and dangerous. And we can't afford to be wiped off the earth in the process of trying -- the ideas we're fighting for are too big, are too important. We cannot fight; we must lead.

Anthony Lewis' protagonist utters these sentences fairly early in The Third Revolution, giving an indication of what the reader is in for. But all that transpires between page 31, when they're spoken, and the end of The Third Revolution packs plenty of wallops. In his first novel, Lewis has crafted what other accomplished novelists have failed to, for me anyway: a realistic near-future story involving a major Libertarian Party elected official. Not surprisingly, the novel is set in Montana; the pro-freedom governor finds himself in Helena not by improbable turns of events nor by dint of his fully rational, excruciatingly detailed speeches, but by slowly working his way there and being poised to take advantage of opportunities that arise.

Not surprisingly, given current events, the federales in Lewis' world are working hard to push some more nationalized nonsense upon the populace. While several states' governors bitch and moan about it, they cave as the prospect of losing some of their pork looms. Not only does Montana Governor Ben Kane not cave, he butts heads with the President, escalating their staredown until ... Well, I won't give away what happens, but I will say that Lewis knows how to create and sustain tension in a plot!

Now, those of you who know me, or who visit my blog, know that I'm a hardcore anarchist -- so what am I doing praising a book that focuses on electoral politics as a means of achieving greater liberty? The Third Revolution is a ripping read, for starters; and it offers some great pointers for party believers to make use of if they're serious about getting Libertarians elected. I'm also not one of those libertarians who has to have everything my way before I'll play along. The real world is messy, and complicated; some tactics work better than others in certain situations. If someone's strategy is genuinely advancing liberty then I'm all for it, even if I won't actively join in. I don't think electoral political action can make a huge difference, but if someone carries that football a good ways, I'm happy to pick it up from there and try to go for the touchdown.

Lewis keeps a tight rein on the plot throughout The Third Revolution, so there's not a lot to say without giving significant developments away. That doesn't mean, however, that the story is full of politicking. Despite the main character being a state governor, and giving speeches as the story develops, there's precious little of the eye-glazing speechifying or tedious explanations that can plague pro-freedom fiction. What is there, is done deftly, and fairly convincingly, so that nonlibertarians who don't blanch at the L-word are likely to be persuaded rather than put off by reading the novel. Lewis also succeeds in giving the story roots, focusing on the land, the buffalo, and the Native Americans in a parallel story line that more than once brought tears of homesickness to my eyes.

While the story zings along tightly, the characters aren't exactly easy to warm up to -- rather like many Westerners I know from living in Wyoming. I was able to empathize with many, including Governor Kane, but the ever-heightening drama seemed to leave little room for a lot of human warmth to shine through. However, toward the end of The Third Revolution hints of nonpolitical sparks begin to fly, somewhat unexpectedly ... and yes, Lewis is at work on a sequel. Given how reluctant I was to put down The Third Revolution, I'm avoiding the sample chapter he's offering -- I know I'll want more!

Lewis shines with his first novel; despite a few typos of the sort that slip through spell-checkers, he weaves a tight story with solid prose, on occasion rising to the level of craftsmanship of Ray Bradbury or F. Paul Wilson. Realistic heroes, smarmy villains straight from today's Washington D.C., and the lovely backdrop of the mountain West -- it's solid reading for pro-freedom individuals and a great candidate for fiction outreach. The Third Revolution is, I hope, a hint of future good things to flow from Anthony Lewis.

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