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Anarchaos (1989)

by Curt Clark

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753298,709 (3.44)1
An early work by one of Science Fiction's grand masters Anarchaos is a planet, inhabited by humans, where anarchy is the only law; where each man protects himself as best he can; and where the weak are soon dead. Malone's brother had dies that way, and Malone has come to Anarchaos, carrying a small arsenal of weapons, to find the man who killed him, knowing that he is facing an entire planet of enemies.… (more)

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“Start to say anarchy, and midway through switch and say chaos.”

“It is Hell,” said the steward.

Yup. Less than one visitor in three survives the planet Anarchaos. 72% of visitors in the previous 10 years have disappeared, and are presumed murdered. Cheating, stealing, and killing are not crimes there. And it is there that Rolf Malone is looking to find out the truth of what happened to his brother, and to "choose an appropriate vengeance." And choose he does!

“You murdered Gar Malone. I came to Anarchaos to find you and punish you.”

I liked the beginning of the book, and the ending. The middle part, especially his time as a slave, was pretty uneventful. I do like a good revenge story, even if it's of the science fiction genre.
And I've always been a Westlake/Stark/Clark fan! So, a good read overall!

“Violence done of duty weighs more heavily than violence done out of passion.” ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Apr 8, 2021 |
This is a very peculiar book. It precedes the most famous SF book that considers anarchism, Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, but it’s incredibly peculiar since it misunderstands anarchism only to give what is actually a fairly anarchist critique of authoritarianism, colonialism, and capital. I found it strangely compelling, and I enjoyed having this 1967 printing! ( )
  james.d.gifford | Apr 4, 2020 |
My reactions upon reading this novel in 1993. Spoilers follow.

A short novel of bitter irony.

Narrator and protagonist Rolf Malone, a man so short tempered he kills five people for making too much noise at a party, gets our of jail after seven years to avenge the murder of his brother on Anarchaos, an anarchist world based on the writings of anarchist philosophers. (Contrary to the cover blurb – “The only crime was to be killed” – there are absolutely no crimes – or laws – on Anarchaos.) The author uses it take some swipes at the philosophy of anarchism, syndicalism, and the social degeneracy that the extreme practice of rugged individualism would allegedly cause. Realistically people would not live without some form of law – even if just manners, customs, and traditions and not written law. (Clark aka Donald Westlake realizes this in one scene where various taxi drivers, competing for the narrator’s fare are very polite to each other. “An armed society”, as Robert Heinlein said, “is a polite society.”)

His brother, Gar, is the opposite of Malone – cool-headed (Gar thinks he’s too passionless), educated, responsible, well liked by this family – but the brothers are close, and Rolf feels his brother’s death heavily. As soon as he ventures out of the spaceport on Anarchaos, he murders a taxi driver for his weapons, and I thought I was in for a tale of man methodically, ruthlessly finding out the murderers of his brother and killing them. But the novel takes an unexpected turn as things rapidly go wrong. Rolf Malone is shot, sold into slavery for four years (a chilling experience which reduces Malone to a mindless, animalistic level), maimed, escapes (only to be rescued by a man he reluctantly kills to avoid enslavement again), and is kidnapped again.

During most of the book, he makes absolutely no progress towards his goal of vengeance. It is only when kidnapped the second time that he, almost at the end of the book, discovers his brother died over his discovery of a mineral deposit, caught in the crossfire between two off-planet mining companies. The United Commission, which only assists colonial governments based on real or theortetical governments of the past (a legal invention I liked and which seems realisticallly bureaucratic and flawed) hence Anarchaos is based on 19th century anarchist writings, wants to get rid of Anarchaos but is politically foiled by corporations who find the political conditions ideal for exploring the planet’s fur and mineral wealth)

The man with the violent temper can not work up enough passion to kill his brother’s murderers when he learns their identity. Indeed he pleads with them to erase his mind and return him to the animalistic mindlessness of their slave camp he escaped from. As he urgently explains to his captors “ … I came to this planet, I thought I was hard, I thought I was the strongest there was and it would all go my way, and nothing went my way. I lost every fight. I lost a hand. I learned nothing, and I’m sitting here a prisoner of a man I don’t know, caught up in some sort of problem I don’t understand.” The problem is, as Rolf discovers, that Gar’s mineral discovery is unknown, its location encrpyted in Gar’s personal diary, and both Rolf’s kidnappers and Gar’s old employers want that secret. Upon reading a personal passage in which Gar talks of his hopes for what his reunion with Rolf will do for both brothers, Rolf musters the will to kills his captors. Though he strangles them, his attitude is not passionate but dutiful. He comes to think of his brother’s death as “accidental murder” and not a personal act done because of who Gar was; he agrees with what so many people tell him at novel’s beginning, that it is Anarchaos and its political, social, and economic conditions which really led to his brother’s death.

At novel’s end, a couple of cliches emerge. There is the ambitious, scheming Jenna Guild, ex-lover of Gar and concubine of Gar’s employer, head of Ice syndicate, who plans on using Rolf to kill said head, Colonel Whistler. Whistler himself says that corporations tend to send their worst employees to Anarchaos as punishment and that he’s no exception. Worst here seems to be in a moral sense and not competence. Gar obliges but only, with Guild’s help (he eventually abandons her), to invoke another cliché: the sf action story that abruptly ends with the hero inciting a sudden political/social revolution/transformation. Here Rolf gets a hold of some corporate bombs and uses them on United Commission embassies on Anarchaos. Despite being a common plot device, here this act of terrorism makes sense since it will incite the UC towards one of two things: imposing their government on Anarchaos or pulling out of the planet and taking their economic assistance with them – assistance which keeps Anarchaos alive given its shrinking population. It was not a bad ending but my favorite feature of this story is the transformation of its protagonist, a process unexpected in this kind of story. ( )
1 vote RandyStafford | Feb 24, 2013 |
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'Those who see by the light of Hell are blind to evil.'
The combination of bad people in a bad situation often ends with trouble.
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An early work by one of Science Fiction's grand masters Anarchaos is a planet, inhabited by humans, where anarchy is the only law; where each man protects himself as best he can; and where the weak are soon dead. Malone's brother had dies that way, and Malone has come to Anarchaos, carrying a small arsenal of weapons, to find the man who killed him, knowing that he is facing an entire planet of enemies.

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