Down With Power Audiobook!

L. Neil Smith's
Number 819, April 26, 2015

The world seems to be getting better every day, a
little at a time. It may not seem like very much to
you, especially if you're young and impatient to be
free, but considering where we started it's more
progress than I had ever hoped to see.

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Blade of P'Na
An Anticipation by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

ALTERNATE VERSIONS of the planet Earth are virtually infinite in number.

On one of them, the dominant species is a variety of giant, coiled nautiloid or ammonite, resembling Volkswagen-sized squid in a bright, colorful snail shell. Half a billion years ago, they evolved sapience—the ability not only to think (which is called "sentience"), but to think about thinking—creating, along the way, a uniquely vibrant civilization.

Having experimented with every possible or imaginable form of society over their long history, in the end they have concluded, with Thomas Jefferson, that the best government is the one that governs least; and that the government that governs least is no government at all.

The nautiloids—known elsewhere as "The Elders"—have become hosts on their world to thousands of sapient beings whom they have "Appropriated" from other versions of Earth, where evolution had different results. One of these is the human p'Nan moral debt assessor and detective, Eichra Oren. P'Na is a Nautiloid ethical philosophy in which Eichra Oren has long since become a widely-admired adept.

Thus, where the warm blue waters of the Inner sea lap the shores of sagebrush-covered hills, this descendant of survivors of Atlantis lives in a house that he raised from a seed, a house that breathes all night, a house that protects itself and its occupants from intruders, a house that has been carpeted in artificially cultivated caterpillar fur.

There he plies his trade. Every interaction between sapient beings risks the creation of moral debt between them. Clients hire the p'Nan judge to anticipate such ethical complications, or to assess their current ethical status, and to even the balance if necessary, whatever it may happen to require—a fact symbolized by the razor-sharp double-edged sword he carries as rather more than a mere badge of office.

Assisted by Sam, his symbiont companion, a medium-sized white canine whose brain has been enhanced electronically to human levels of intelligence, he lives among and works with a thousand different species, including man-sized mantises, sea scorpions, outsized centipedes and spiders, flatworms, great birdlike beings—sapient descendants of dinosaurs—beings descended from elephants, skates and rays, star-nosed moles, weaseloids, each of which arose in alternative lines of evolution to dominate their own version of the Earth.

Eichra Oren is relentlessly and comically pursued by a beautiful young former client—not quite human—a mobster's daughter who has fallen madly in love with him. On the advice of his 15,000-year-old mother, who Appropritated fleeing the destruction of her native land, he finds himself employed by the sinister entrepreneur and Elder Misterthoggosh, to help make sure—despite certain rumors about it in circulation—that a very large-scale project he's planning is ethically acceptable. Creatures of many different species are afraid that he's about to recreate one of his peoples' greatest historic disasters.

Soon, however, in a life-and-death battle under a crushing three miles of water, aboard an enormous submarine owned by Misterthoggosh, they confront a genuine enemy: a race of aliens that Eichra Oren ran across during his investigation, grimly determined to make this Earth a mere province of its interworld empire. Eichra Oren has to face the moral question, how does one fight a war with nuclear weapons without any of the collateral damage strictly forbidden by the prunciples of p'Na.

The first of five or six prequels planned to Forge of the Elders, and set in the world the Elders, Blade of P'Na will be released soon on paper and electronicaly by its publisher, Phoenix Pick.

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