THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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Book review: Single Acts of Tyranny, by Stuart Fairney

Single Acts of Tyranny: Stuart Fairney: Books.

I come late to this party. Leg-iron, The Nameless Libertarian, Neil Craig, Anna Raccoon, NickM and The Englishman have already reviewed this book and left little enough for your humble blogger to add. To be honest, I put off reading it for fear I might not be able to write a positive review. The author, Stuart Fairney, is a commenter here and on other right-thinking blogs. I was reluctant to risk upsetting so worthy a soul, but it turns out I need not have worried. I picked it up yesterday, read it in one go and enjoyed it.

Stuart has no problems with the aspects of writing fiction that have always deterred me; plot and characterisation. I fear any novel of mine would be catastrophically Randian in those respects. Ayn Rand's novels were polemics in sheep's clothing. Her plots were weak and her characters at best unbelievable (and at worst obnoxious). Any one of the orations she passes off as dialogue could fill a broadsheet's opinion columns for decades. Sadly, it's possible to believe in such bores (particularly if you hang out in the political blogosphere) but not in any characters who are convinced by them.

Single Acts of Tyranny is a counterfactual novel. In this universe, the "late unpleasantness" between the states turned out the other way. Modern Confederate America (slavery long-since abandoned) is a libertarian nation. The Northern States have become a sclerotic and strangely familiar welfare state; a thinly-disguised modern Britain. It's a good idea and it works well, particularly for British readers; distancing us from the "our NHS" type sentimentality that often blinds us to other views. The plot is thrillerish and the characters (if a little too white hat/black hat) are plausible.

I have some criticisms. There is too little humour. Stuart seems overly keen to get all his political points across in one book. There are some Randian moments as the characters lengthily talk politics in complete sentences. While the videos the hero posts on the 'net are not remotely on the scale of the infamous Galt monologue, they are reminiscent in their intent.

A ruthless professional editor could have improved the book. He would have picked up the typoes, but more importantly persuaded Stuart to make a few, illustrative political points rather then drive all of them home so hard. He might have suggested that if the characters won a small victory that left hope for the future, it would be more plausible than total success. He might have steered him to make his points more in the style of the novelising luvvies of our political establishment. They present their point of view casually, as if it's obvious. To be fair, they don't face the same resistance as Stuart.

I enjoyed the polemical aspects of the book. I also enjoyed the characters and the plot. I even enjoyed Stuart's handling of the sex scenes, which are notoriously difficult - and another reason I won't write a novel any time soon. Anyone who is a regular reader here will enjoy the book but to reach a wider audience, Stuart should allow his politics quietly to inform his story-telling, rather than putting them front and centre.