Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page

The American Zone

By L. Neil Smith

Review by Dan L. Hollifield

Type of music/work:

Sci-fi Novel.


L. Neil Smith
Amazon's pages for L. Neil Smith's books
Published by TOR Books
ISBN: 0-312-87526-6
Cover by Stephen Martiniere

General impressions of the album/book:

After a long wait, I was finally able to get my hot little hands on a copy of L. Neil Smith's 2001 entry in his North American Confedracy series. It was well worth the wait because this is a fantastic story!


Smith's fans begged for another story set in the NAC that featured Detective Win Bear, late of the Denver Police department, now living in the alternate universe of the North American Confederacy. With this volume, Smith delivers another action-packed adventure/mystery set in the best-realized alternate universe since H. Beam Piper prematurely shuffled off this mortal coil. No one writing today tells timeline-hopping tales better than L. Neil Smith.

Every character is fully realized. These are living, breathing people that leap directly from the page and into the reader's imagination. There aren't any straw-men characters here. Both heroes and villans are packed with every sort of detail needed to bring them to life, set against the backdrop of an altogether too-close-for-comfort version of our world and the Libertarian paradise of the North American Confederacy. Once again, the readers will want to pack their bags and move there themselves!

The level of detail that Smith's fans have come to enjoy from the world-building in his novels are once again vividly present. Every scene is packed with the tiny background bits and bobs that paint the NAC as well as Smith's characters with true-to-life brushstrokes. Longtime fans of Smith's stories will be just as delighted as first-time readers. The blending of storytelling with Libertarian ideals is both seamless and painless for the reader. There's no preachy undertones that might distract the reader from the story itself. While Smith is quite clearly bringing his personal idealization of a working Libertarian nervana into the novel, the message isn't damaging to the story. Quite the contrary, the political mind-set of the characters serves to make them even more life-like. Whether Libertarian hero or Authoritarian villain, the characters are rendered in loving detail that only makes the story better.

If you like alternate universe stories, you owe it to yourself to go to L. Neil Smith's website, or TOR Books, or Amazon and grab youself a copy of this book. You'll wind up wanting to read everything that Smith has written.

Background info:

I could do no better than to link to L. Neil Smith's own website for biographical data on him. So here is a link: Who Is L. Neil Smith?

Likewise, here is a link to L. Neil Smith's website:The Webley Page

Review © 2007 by Dan L. Hollifield

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.