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The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith

The Probability Broach (original 1980; edition 2001)

by L. Neil Smith (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
307762,610 (3.41)11
Denver detective Win Bear, on the trail of a murderer, discovers much more than a killer. He accidentally stumbles upon the probability broach, a portal to a myriad of worlds--some wildly different from, others disconcertingly similar to our own. Win finds himself transported to an alternate Earth where Congress is in Colorado, everyone carries a gun, there are gorillas in the Senate, and public services are controlled by private businesses.… (more)
Title:The Probability Broach
Authors:L. Neil Smith (Author)
Info:Orb Books (2001), Edition: Paperback, 324 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith (1980)

  1. 00
    The Gunslinger by Stephen King (fulner)
    fulner: The gun slignger starts an adventure where or protagonist must find where he is. The probability broach is based on a 20th century PI who accidentally stumbles into another demention after trying to find a usually murder with unusual weaponry.
  2. 00
    Redshirts by John Scalzi (fulner)
    fulner: Which reality is real? Are they all? What will this mean for the fire of humanity and comedy?
  3. 00
    Gateways: Demons of Air and Darkness by Keith R. A. DeCandido (fulner)
    fulner: Demons of air in Darkness introduces the ideas of Stargate to the familiar world or DS9. The probability broach explorers similar ideas but focuses instead from the point of a late 20th century PI who end up somewhere he quickly learns isn't where he thinks it is.… (more)
  4. 00
    Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression by Mary J. Ruwart (fulner)
    fulner: Healing our World examines how libertarianism can solve the problems of the 20th century. The probability broach is a fictional work that examines what the 20th century may have looked like if libertarians had been there guiding principles of the US at its founding in the 18th century.… (more)
  5. 00
    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (fulner)
    fulner: The probably broach is like Atlas Shrugged meets inter-dimensional time travel.
  6. 00
    The Overton Window by Glenn Beck (fulner)
    fulner: Political Thriller to the max

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» See also 11 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
(Original Review, 1980)

As for me, conflict of all kinds is a most important part of what I look for in a story. This certainly includes good (or even just "passable") vs evil, so I agree with Chip to that extent. But denigrating FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE because it was a classic "engineer vs problem" story seems to show an awfully limited set of preferences. There certainly is conflict in the "engineer vs problem" story; it's just not "person vs person" conflict. The real world (being neither evil nor good) can interfere with the best laid plans, and this conflict, and its resolution, can fascinate me for hours. Similarly, social systems pose conflicts, and stories than have people going up against those systems pose conflicts that are not necessarily "good vs evil," but rather personal values vs values that are alleged to be supra-personal. I can understand the feeling that a society that does not create those conflicts must be, in some sense, artificial. That same feeling must exist for the kid who never lived outside the South Bronx who is shown a book that takes place in Scarsdale. The kinds of problems that exist in Scarsdale are both unbelievable and uninteresting to the kid from the other environment. This, however, does not make that environment and those problems really unreal or universally uninteresting. Somehow, the slum kid has got to be shown that there are other worlds, before that kid can deal with the problems of those worlds. That's the way comments that belittle stories with "societies that work" strike me. SF lets us look beyond the problems of our wretched little societies to see that societies portrayed in books like the PROBABILITY BROACH are potentially real and interesting. And that's a major reason why I read SF.

If an author is going to go into all the trouble of creating a universe, which every author does, some more successfully than others, why put in evil or irritants?

The obvious answer to this is that very few people will find such a universe believable --- and believability is the primary requirement of a constructed universe. I know that I/ wouldn't believe in such a universe outside of a children's fantasy; that's one of the reasons I disliked THE PROBABILITY BROACH --- the author just assumed that everything would work out for the very best over 200 years of history. Certainly the failings of a universe help drive the plot. Consider Heinlein's description of how he writes a story: "I put interesting characters into serious difficulties, and by the time I can hear them talking the story is done." (quote >20 years old). I'll further point out that if matters hadn't gone downhill from first book to sequel neither WIZARD nor RINGWORLD ENGINEERS could be anything more than another/ travelogue --- and I'd rather travel myself than read somebody else's rehashing of the same territory, however imaginary. If a character is not in some tight place, his choices can be no more significant than the choice of orange or grapefruit juice for breakfast; it's only when penalties are attached to all possible choices that the situation is interesting. (David Gerrold described this in his book on what was right and wrong with STAR TREK, saying that the best episodes [with the possible exception of the two comedies] could be summarized as "Captain Kirk has to make a choice between
-- Earth's history and the woman he loves
..." (can't remember the other examples offhand).)

[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.] ( )
  antao | Nov 2, 2018 |
This is the first Ficton work I have read by L. Neil Smith, and I highly recommend it to EVERYONE.

If you like mysteries, it's for you, if you like, Science Fiction, its for you, if you like Political Thrillers, its for you, if you like Libertarian policies, its for you.

This book was written in 1980 and takes place in the "near future" in a community where the EPA has regulated A/C to being not allowed for private use, to forcing most competiive businesses to close etc.

Our lead Character, Detective Win Bear, is called to the scene of the crime when yet another gang shooting. When he fins some strange coins and a strange membership card. When he investigates he ends up being in a large explosions at the University and Win is shipped, somewhere, its not clear at first whether there is an elaborate hoax, time travel, or what.

He's gunned down and ends up finding his identical self. They spend the rest of the book fighting for what is his, standing up to the news of nuclear war coming because he got here, and really, I don't want to go into too much, the desk jacket itself gives away far too much of this,and you really REALY need to read this. ( )
  fulner | Apr 25, 2016 |
I agree with the reviewer who said this book is for niche tastes (although given I do to some extent fit the niche, my rating is correspondingly higher.) This is libertarian science fiction--indeed it could be described as libertarian porn: that kind of book where you, if you're inclined that way politically, rather revel in the rare experience of seeing your ideas (or at least the ideas you've debated with fellow libertarians) brought to life. There are works of libertarian science fiction, or works labeled as such, I think mainstream readers can enjoy--and not even notice the political tilt. I would describe myself as having been politically a typical liberal in my teens when I discovered Robert Heinlein, but I loved his The Moon is a Harsh Mistress completely oblivious to any libertarian message until I found it listed as libertarian science fiction when I became involved in the movement. Similarly there are works by Poul Anderson, Vernor Vinge and James P. Hogan called libertarian science fiction which I'd recommend to non-libertarian friends as good yarns, imaginative and well-written, that don't hit someone as overly polemical.

I can't imagine that being the case with The Probability Broach as much as I personally enjoy it. The book reads to me as one big in-joke in its alternate history and its anarcho-capitalist armed society. I can't see this book as sparking off a conversion experience. I can't imagine anyone who wasn't already exposed to these ideas taking them seriously enough to enjoy them--or even lightly enough to enjoy them. Nor do I think the uninitiated are even going to "get" such things as William F. Buckley and Ayn Rand's cameos in this book. As it is, this book ascribes to a version of libertarianism even most self-described libertarians would consider extreme. That said, did I find it fun? I admit I did. Except darn it, my city of New York didn't get where it did because of political pull--Alexander Hamilton's or anyone else's. I have three words for you: Deep water port. ( )
2 vote LisaMaria_C | Apr 8, 2013 |
The Probability Broach is as close to a libertarian utopia as any realistic anarchist dares get. It's also a very detailed alternate history. Most writers of alternate history are content to detail when that history deviates from ours or set their stories in the resulting world with brief references to how things change. Smith gives us a detailed timeline of how things change when one extra word is added to the Declaration of Independence and George Washington is shot in the Whiskey Rebellion.

However, Smith unsuccessfully tries for a Heinlein style. His slang is awkward. The hero's romance reeks of bad Chandler imitations, and there is a little bit too much gun stuff even for me, a lifetime NRA member.

This book was originally published in 1980, and there are jarring elements of the seventies here which don't quite work like a tyrannical America justified by an energy crisis or the talking chimps and dolphins much loved in seventies' sf. ( )
  RandyStafford | Oct 8, 2011 |
ZB13 ( )
  mcolpitts | Aug 15, 2009 |
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My movement to the Chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a criminal who is going to the place of his execution.
--George Washington
Feruary 4, 1789
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... would cease operations early next month.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please do not combine "The Probability Broach" with "The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel". The graphic Novel is a derivative work by L. Neil Smith and Scott Biester, very different from the original.
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Denver detective Win Bear, on the trail of a murderer, discovers much more than a killer. He accidentally stumbles upon the probability broach, a portal to a myriad of worlds--some wildly different from, others disconcertingly similar to our own. Win finds himself transported to an alternate Earth where Congress is in Colorado, everyone carries a gun, there are gorillas in the Senate, and public services are controlled by private businesses.

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