Thursday, November 11, 2010

Libertarian Russia

Short Story by Michael Swanwick

Victor Pelevin thinks he is the only Libertarian in post-depopulation Russia, and he really enjoys his lifestyle. Having fled Moscow, he is driving across the country on his genetically locked, grass-and-water fueled motorcycle. Along the way, he picks up Svetlana, a prostitute who wants to set up her own practice outside the tight controls of the cities.

The plot seems like something from Bruce Sterling, and that impression holds up throughout, although I never like it quite as much as I'd like a Sterling story. The whole thing is an argument against a straw-man version of Libertarianism and is pretty anvilicious about that toward the end. Victor escapes from the gang of ex-secret police basically through hooker ex machina (or machina ex hooker?) But after having been successfully threatened and finding out that no government isn't as nice as he thought, Victor continues on his way, but decides maybe he isn't a Libertarian after all.

I guess the other problem I have is that the story could have taken place in any vague post-apocalyptic or other government free area, and there is no real reason for it to be Russia, nor any especially Russian flavor to the setting. But there is some nice writing here, and the story is short enough that it doesn't feel like the waste of time it would be at greater length. And I guess I can get over the conflation of anarchism with libertarianism since the two are often found together and some libertarians don't seem to get the distinction either.

2.5 Russians out of 5 truly understand the value of a good gesture.

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