Category Archives: Book Review

Review of Dr Nigel Gervas Meek’s book on the Conservative Party

Review of Dr Nigel Gervas Meek’s book on the Conservative Party

Libertarian Alliance editor Nigel Meek’s book on the Conservative Party is favourably reviewed in the forthcoming issue of Political Studies Review, one of the four journals of the Political Studies Association, the UK’s leading academic politics association.

Buy it on Amazon: Continue reading

Review of Book about Aleister Crowley

Crowley: Thoughts and Perspectives, Volume Two
Edited by Troy Southgate
Black Front Press, London, 2011, 215pp, £10
ISBN 978-84830-331-7

It was late one afternoon, more years ago than I care to admit. I was working as an estate agent in South London, when an old beggar woman came into the front office. “Cross my palm with silver, Dearie,” she croaked in a strong Irish accent.

I glared at her from my desk. It was hard enough at the best of times to get potential clients or buyers to step through our door. The lingering smell she had brought of unwashed clothes and of the scabby, verminous body they no doubt covered was unlikely to help. “Get out!” I said, pointing at the door.

Her response was to shamble forward, a sprig of heather clutched in her hand. Thirty seconds later, she was steadying herself on the pavement. “You’re a wicked young man,” she called, “and you’ll be dead in two weeks – you mark my words.”

“Piss off!” I laughed, dusting my hands together, “or I’ll have the police on you.” Back inside I set about looking for the tin of air freshener we kept for when the smell of tobacco smoke became too oppressive. Continue reading

Review of The Churchill Memorandum

Sean Gabb: “The Churchill Memorandum”

This thriller is a tremendously fun romp through an alternative history set in 1959 where the Second World War didn’t happen. Hitler died in 1939, and the British Empire has sustained its precarious position through careful diplomacy. Britain is still ruled well by a conservative establishment on a mix of traditional values and liberal enterprise: hard currency and technological innovation; beautiful buildings and statues; zeppelins and heated pavements. The sixties (speculated by AnomalyUK to have really started in the 1950s) never happen. Continue reading

Thomas Knapp Reviews Conspiracies of Rome

… let’s call this a recommendation. By way of disclosure, I received no payment of any kind for this recommendation, and even turned down an offer of links to pirated e-versions (said offer from the author himself) in favor of buying the books I’m about to recommend. In making the foregoing statement, I’m assuming (safely, I think) that the author’s friendship, which I highly value, has never been conditional on receipt of a positive review or recommendation.

So: I highly recommend Conspiracies of Rome (which I have read) and The Terror of Constantinople (which I am now reading) by Richard Blake. I strongly suspect that said recommendation will extend to The Blood of Alexandria and The Sword of Damascus, which I haven’t yet read but intend to as soon as possible. Continue reading

Richard Blake Reviewed in Slovak Press

Note: Very fancy Slovak here – hard for me to understand. But flattering, even so, to my friend Mr Blake. SIG

Richard Blake
Sprisahanie v Rime

Vydavateľstvo Slovart
Preklad Marian Pochyly

Roku 608 na juhovychode dnešneho Anglicka pracuje mlady Sas Aelric ako tlmočnik Maximina, kňaza z Ravenny. Vo voľnom čase suloži s Edwinou, dcerou miestneho panovnika Aethelberta. Keď jeho vzťah odhalia, odsudia ho na smrť, pred katom ho zachrani Maximin, s ktorym sa ale musi vydať na cestu do Rima. Duchovny odtiaľ planuje priniesť knihy potrebne na vzdelanie krajiny. Tesne pred hradbami Večneho mesta sa dostanu do potyčky. Vyviaznu, ba dokonca ziskaju nemalu sumu peňazi, relikviar, no najma listiny. Zaležitosti sa začnu zamotavať v okamihu, keď pri stĺpe s vyobrazenim uradujuceho panovnika Byzancie Foka, najdu mŕtve Maximinovo telo. Aelric prisaha pomstu. Začina patrať, pričom sa postupne zoznamuje s mestom. Pokračuje v ulohe, kvoli ktorej s mnichom prišli – riadi prepisovanie vybranych knih, spolu s vyslancom Etiopie sa zahĺbi do machinacii na burze; ako spoločnik aristokrata Lucia nahliadne do zakulisia davnych obradov a po prvykrat v živote vidi papyrus.

No a predovšetkym… Luštenie tajomstva listin si vychutnajte sami. Knižka tvori prvu časť trilogie prepojenej postavou rozpravača. Avizovane nazvy Teror v Konštantínopole Krv v Carihrade jasne davaju najavo, že priaznivci akčnych trilerov v historickych kulisach sa maju na čo tešiť, fanušikov historickych romanov však nepochybne uvedie do pomykova vysoka davka „aktualizacie”. Aelricov bojovne ladeny ateizmus je v siedmom storoči n. l. nanajvyš nepravdepodobny. Spravanie hrdinu, v zrejmej snahe autora približiť sa skusenostnemu obzoru moderneho čitateľa, evokuje skor psychologicky profil šikovneho a vykonneho manažera dnešnych dni.

Published in Knizna Revue,

Richard Blake and Homosexuality

by E-Army

I’ve read all of Richard Blake’s novels in this “Aelric” series except for the last one, discussed below, and I recommend them highly. His point that historical novels all too often fail to present historical themes and events according to the paradigms of the times written about is very much true, and also, of course, applies to movies and other pieces of fiction. Frequently, characters in a book set in the 18th century or earlier seem to do their thinking in terms of 21st-century concepts and moral standards. Continue reading

Why I Hate Government — And I’m Not Too Crazy About Bob Garfield, Either

by Kevin Carson
Why I Hate Government — And I’m Not Too Crazy About Bob Garfield, Either

“The stupid — it hurts!” That’s just a figure of speech, to be sure, but in some cases it’s almost literally true. Bob Garfield’s Valentine for Big Government (“I Luv Big Gov,” Slate, Feb. 15) comes extremely close. Hard right-wingers are easier to take. They love the awful things government does because they’re awful people. They know government is about uniformed thugs pushing people around and murdering them, and they revel in it, because they view the world through a Hobbesian, red-in-tooth-and-claw prism. Center-left goo-goos, on the other hand, try to frame it in positive, nurturing “Why Mommy is a Democrat” terms, and it’s positively gut-churning. Continue reading

The Children Of Israel

by Kevin Carson
The Children Of Israel

Download: Destroying the Master’s House With the Master’s Tools: Some Notes on the Libertarian Theory of Ideology

For some time it has been the consensus among historians of early Israel that the thoroughgoing conquest of Canaan and resulting tribal domains described in the Book Joshua was anachronistic—a projection onto the past of a geographical state of affairs that existed only after the monarchy had defeated the Philistines and the Israelite population had expanded from their original hill territory to the lowland areas of Canaan. The first archaelogical appearance of Israelite villages in the central highlands of Canaan was in the late 13th century BCE; these areas remained their main strongholds for some two centuries until their increased numbers and the establishment of the monarchy under David enabled them to contest control of the fertile lowlands.

Some historians, like Norman Gottwald, suggest the Israelites—rather than infiltrating Canaan from the outside—were predominantly inhabitants of Canaan itself who moved to the central highlands of Palestine for relative freedom. He originally developed this thesis—which we will consider shortly—at length, in his 1979 book The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel 1250-1050 B.C.E. Continue reading

David McDonagh on Self-Deception

We are told that by denying or by rationalising we can change our belief at will but that is clearly false. Our beliefs are automatic so quite independent of our will. The backward psychologists say that we can ignore evidence or the cogency of arguments at will but that looks to be clearly false. The cogency of arguments is personal rather than universal, an impact on the receiver according to his/her human capital state rather than the same for all people or a property of the argument itself. The psychologists seem to overlook that. They tell us that we can lie to ourselves as we can be as ignorant of whether we are honest just as we might be with another person. That does not look possible, let alone unlikely. Continue reading

Sean Gabb Reviews Keith Preston’s New Book

Review Article by Sean Gabb

Attack the System: A New Anarchist Perspective for the 21st Century
Keith Preston
Black House Publishing Ltd, London, 2013, 473pp, £16.50 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-0-9927365-0-7

I first came across Keith Preston in October 2008. In those days, the Libertarian Alliance was able to put up £1,000 every year for a prize essay. The title I had set for that year was “To what extent can a libertarian utopia be described as Tesco minus the State?” I wanted someone to analyse the frequent identification of libertarianism with the defence of big business. Though I had my own view of the question, the conclusions reached were less important than the quality of the analysis. Sadly, my question brought me a flood of autopilot defences of big business, all in the house style of the Adam Smith Institute. One of them began something like: “I’ve never heard of Tesco, so I’ll write about Wal-Mart.” It continued with a love letter so gushing, even Madsen Pirie might have given it a funny look. Continue reading

Jonathan Bowden’s Sade

Note: An interesting essay, from a very naughty website – so naughty that prim libertarians like Yours Truly should not admit to knowing its existence, let alone to reading its articles.

Jonathan Bowden and I were contemporaries, and I believe we were several times together in the same room – he used to attend Libertarian Alliance conferences in the early 1990s. If this latter is so, we must have said hello once or twice. But I have no recollection of having met him. Then again, people whose writings are interesting often come over in person as terrible bores.

Now to the Divine Marquis. Along with Voltaire and Bayle et al. and Margarite Yourcenar, he is one of the few French writers I know well in the original. I read him in my teens for the porn. When I found that to be a gigantic trade misdescription, I turned to sneering at his philosophy. A few years ago, I looked again at his Philosophie dans le Boudoir. It bounces along from one utterance to the next, and is shorter than the novels. But the utterances are still piffle, and he writes in the style of a verbose bureaucrat. You can almost hear him licking a pencil between sentences. I am sure the occasional flash of comedy is unintentional.

Therefore, while I haven’t read it, I agree with the main thesis of Jonathan’s book, as described in this review. De Sade is at best silly. He did himself no favours by spending so much time away from playing with himself. His reputation survived through the 19th century because he had the misfortune to be locked away by every French Government from the ancien regime to the Restoration, and because the notoriety this gave to his name became an opportunity for poseurs like Swinburne to look shocking. His reputation is high today because he was taken up by a group of French lefties even more piffling and verbose than he was. If the European New Right wants to claim him as a luminary, my opinion of the European New Right will only tend to sink lower than it already is.

Most philosophical and political wisdom is to be found in – Epicurus, Sextus Empiricus, Bacon, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, John Stuart Mill. There are valuable insights beyond this progression. But these are the writers who asked the only questions that matter. If their answers are often conflicting, they all dance close by the probable truth. SIG Continue reading

Richard Blake Reviews “Myth and History”

Review Article by Richard Blake
Myth and History
Stephen James Yeates
Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2012, 496pp, £29.95 (pbk)
ISBN-13: 978-1842174784

I was told about this book by Dararis Tighe, whose own review can be found on Amazon. I refer you to her comments on its poor writing and sloppy editing. These are entirely just. Instead of repeating her, though, I will concentrate on the substantive claims made in the book. These are summarised in the product description:

Our recent understanding of British history has been slowly unravelling thanks to new techniques such as DNA analysis, new archaeological data and reassessment of the literary evidence. There are considerable problems in understanding the early history of Britain; sources for the centuries from the first Roman invasion to 1000 AD are few and contradictory, the archaeological record complex and there is little collaboration or agreement between archaeologists, Roman and Anglo-Saxon historians. A common assumption concerning the development of the English language and, therefore British history, is that there was an invasion from northern Europe in the fifth century, the so-called Anglo-Saxon migration; a model based on the writings of Bede. However the Bedan model has become increasingly unsustainable and is on the verge of collapse. Myth and History offers a comprehensive re-assessment of the present scientific, historical, archaeological and language evidence, debunking the model of British history based on Bede, and showing how Roman texts can be used in conjunction with the other evidence to build an alternative picture. Stephen Yeates demonstrates that the evidence that has been used to construct the story of an Anglo-Saxon migration, with an incoming population replacing most, if not all, of the British population has been found wanting, that initial attempts to interpret literally the DNA evidence based on historical sources are problematic, and that the best DNA analysis of the British Isles fits the evidence into a broader European view which attempts to plot the movement of people across the Continent and which sees the major migration periods in Europe as occurring in the Mesolithic and the Neolithic. This DNA analysis is constant with the latest assessments based on language development, contemporary historical reports from the Roman period, and the analysis of archaeological data from the Iron Age and Roman period. He also argues that the Roman texts can be used to identify where the Late Roman provinces of Britain actually lay and this leads to important conclusions about the ethnicity and origins of the early British peoples. This book is a timely attempt to unravel myth from history, present a cogent platform for Anglo-Saxon studies and understand who the British people really are. Continue reading

Review of Mr Blake’s Curse of Babylon

Book review: The Curse of Babylon by Richard Blake

by Pam Norfolk

Published on the 22 January

By the 7th century, the Roman Empire was in tatters… Rome was a pile of rubble, Greece was virtually lost, Spain was overrun by barbarians and Saracens from the East were on the march.

Centre of this fast-crumbling empire was Constantinople, a glittering city of wealth, poverty and decadence, and the ideal power base for Richard Blake’s cynical anti-hero Aelric to wheel and deal his way through one of the murkiest periods in world history. Continue reading

Book Review by Richard Blake

Dandelions and Dog Days:
The Memoirs of a Gentle Giant
By J.E. Thompson, 2013, £7.99
ISBN 9781291561715

Reviewed by Richard Blake

This book is the conjectural autobiography of Louis, a friend’s dog. It starts with his meeting, as a puppy, with his human family, and ends with the inevitable last appointment with the vet. Between these points, we have all the usual highs and lows of a dog’s life.

If you have never had a dog – if, indeed, you have no affection for animals – the book will leave you cold. If you are such a person, there is nothing I or anyone else can say to make you buy it. Fortunately, however, we are a nation of dog-lovers. If you are, or ever have been, a dog-owner, you will find something on every page with which to agree or identify. Partly, I think, because of my present mood, it left me feeling sad, and a little guilty. Continue reading

Review of “Unqualified Reservations” part 1

by Foseti
Review of “Unqualified Reservations” part 1

Part 1: Dr. Johnson’s Hypothesis

As has been noted elsewhere, the phenomenon of referring to oneself as a reactionary is a recent one.

It’s important to remember this fact. The past year has seen an explosion of “reactionary” writing. And I’m left feeling . . . unsettled. The explosion of high-quality Rightist thought is fantastic and should be enthusiastically applauded by anyone outside of the Cathedral (or anyone that enjoys a good argument – is that redundant?). On the other hand, there is something unique about the original neoreactionary thought, and I can’t but feel some of it is getting lost.

I’ve taken a bit of time away from blogging; however, in my absence, I’ve kept up on the reactosphere. My general approach in the past has been to be as inclusive as reasonably possible. If there’s another writer in these dark haunts that’s more inclusive than me, I’d like to know who it is. Continue reading

The Great Reading Disaster

Book Review by Sean Gabb
The Great Reading Disaster: Reclaiming Our Educational Birthright
Mona McNee and Alice Coleman
Imprint Academic, Exeter, 2007, 341pp, £17.95 (pb)
(ISBN 9781845400972)
(Review published in The Quarterly Review, Winter 2007)

This book narrates and explains one of the great disasters of our time. As is often this case with disasters of our time, it also narrates and explains a scandal that in earlier ages would have provoked incredulity. Its theme is the collapse of educational standards in this country, and how this has been brought on by a persistent unwillingness to teach children to read using the only methods that are known to work in the great majority of cases. Continue reading

Richard Thompson Reviews The Churchill Memorandum

Sean Gabb The Churchill Memorandum

Set in 1959 and related from the point of view of a young academic of Indian ancestry working in London, this is fiction exploring the way things might have gone had Hitler died before invading Poland. The British Empire survived with Enoch Powell in charge of the India Office. The USA was isolationist and racist. Various politicians I am old enough to remember are shown in a most unflattering light. Continue reading

Richard Thompson Reviews Blood of Alexandria

Richard Blake The Blood of Alexandria
Reviewed by Richard Thompson

The third in a series of historical thrillers set in the seventh century.

Blake originally graduated in History, and some of the main characters are historical, though I suspect some of their adventures are not. One of the central characters is Priscus, son in law and for a while designated heir of the emperor Phocas. In the story that preceded this one ( see my account of my reading last year) Priscus abandoned Phocas just in time to join Heraclius, who deposed and executed him. Blake has Priscus still in the Heraclius’ service two years later, though Gibbon says that Priscus was deemed to unreliable for high office and retired to a monastery. Continue reading

Well, I suppose he did buy a copy….

Aelric: The Sword of Damascus – Richard Blake

Date: 02/02/12

Advantages: A good start

Disadvantages: Not realistic

The sword of Damascus is a work of historical fiction by Richard Blake and is set in the 7th century, it’s main character is the Lord Aelric a 96 year old British noble who is a monk in the monastery at Jarrow and whose student is the future venerable Bede. This is the fourth novel featuring the character Aelric and the book is written as a first person perspective through the eyes of Aelric. The book begins in the monastery at Jarrow with an attack on the monastery by mysterious Northern men, presumably Vikings; they are after Aelric and want to take him back to the Byzantine Empire for something. Aelric accepts his capture and is along with two younger colleagues taken back towards Constantinople, along the way the ship is shipwrecked and the group become fugitives in Northern Africa. Continue reading

Richard Blake Reviews “Sword of Marathon” by Jack England

Review Article by Richard Blake
(September 2012)

Sword of Marathon
By Jack England
Published August 2012, £7.99 pb, £2.99 Kindle
ISBN: 978 14781

The hero of this novel is a proto-Englishman (England itself will not exist for another thousand years) of great intelligence and beauty who settles in Greece. He begins telling his story in extreme old age, and, though aged, nearly has to kill someone in the first chapter. Much of the novel takes place in Athens. However, anyone who thinks the author has been influenced by my own Ghosts of Athens will be mistaken.

Jack told me he was writing Sword of Marathon in May 2011, when we were both attending a conference in Bodrum. I had just finished Ghosts of Athens, though it would not be published until August 2012. By then, Jack had finished Sword of Marathon, and was working on a sequel. There is a similarity between our novels, but I do swear that neither of us could have had any influence on the other. This really is one of those times when great minds have thought alike.

The story begins when Luke and his brother Hal are on a trading mission and are captured by nomadic and more than usually demented barbarians. Through a series of exciting and well-paced adventures, they arrive in Athens in 490, just when Darius of Persia has finally decided to have his revenge on a city that has not only resisted his invitation to accept him as overlord, but has consistently made trouble along the western fringes of the greatest empire that has existed. Continue reading

Bacon And Egg Man Review: New York Of The Future?

by Dick Puddlecote

Bacon And Egg Man Review: New York Of The Future?BaconEgg.jpgWith the Christmas downtime, I managed to read some of the books which I’ve bought on a whim; been given on special occasions; or ‘borrowed-meaning-to-read-but-never-finding-the-time’.

One of these was Bacon and Egg Man by Ken Wheaton which chimes well with themes discussed here so I thought one of my rare reviews would be in order. Continue reading

Richard Blake’s Sword of Damascus Reviewed

Sword of Damascus
Richard Blake
Hodder & Stoughton, London
Hardback Edition: June 2011
Paperback Edition: January 2012
432pp, £19.99
ISBN: 978-1444709667

Unlike its three predecessors, the Sword of Damascus (Damascus) takes place shortly before the narrative of the 96-year-old Aelric from the monastery at Jarrow (and not 70 some-odd years prior). This definitely puts a different spin on the story, with Aelric suffering from the physical shortcomings wrought with age – with death soon looming — instead of from the view of a handsome and energetic 20-something. Continue reading

Culture Wars and the Police State: A Reply to Kevin Carson

Culture Wars and the Police State: A Reply to Kevin Carson

This is my response to Kevin Carson’s recently republished review of Sean Gabb’s book “Cultural Revolution, Culture War”

Libertarian Alliance

I doubt it’s possible to develop a thorough or effective critique of statism as it exists in contemporary Western industrialized democracies without a comprehensive critique of the PC ideology. The evidence is overwhelming that PC is simply a new form of political authoritarianism, and something that the ruling class is incorporating into its own ideological superstructure. I’m a Nietzschean-Stirnerite, not any kind of conservative, but I find it disappointing that so many of my fellow libertarians and anarchists are unable to see PC for what it is.

Continue reading

Sean Gabb – Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, And How to Get It Back

by Kevin Carson

Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, And How to Get It Back

Sean Gabb, successor to the late Chris Tame as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, is very much a man of the Right: a composite of Burkean and Little Englander, roughly equivalent to the Old Right or paleolibertarians on this side of the Atlantic. In his critique of managerialism and the corporate state, however, he has much to say about globalization and corporate rule, among many other things, that left-libertarians will find of benefit.

Continue reading

The End of Politics: New Labour And The Folly Of Managerialism

by Kevin Carson

The End of Politics: New Labour And The Folly Of Managerialism

Chris Dillow, a heterodox economist who owns Stumbling and Mumbling blog, attacks managerialism from a position decidedly on the Left. But it’s a Left that’s friendly to markets, decentralism, and self-management, and hostile to the New Class version of bureaucratic socialism that dominated Britain from the Webbs to Harold Wilson.

Continue reading

Intrusion by Ken MacLeod

by Kevin Carson

Intrusion by Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod. Intrusion (Orbit Books, 2012).

Imagine a near-future Britain with the full mix of paternalism and police state authoritarianism from Tony Blair’s New Labour days. But the ASBOs are issued pursuant to social policies framed by Cass Sunstein and Michael Bloomberg. And the apparatus of surveillance cameras and detention without trial has been augmented by unmarked secret police vans where citizens are snatched off the streets and tortured with sterilized needles under their fingernails, a la Alan Dershowitz. Throw in revolutionary advances in biotech that simultaneously abolish Peak Oil and Global Warming. The result is a lot like A Clockwork Orange, but without all the squalor. Continue reading

Curse of Babylon Reviewed

Curse of Babylon
Richard Blake
Hodder & Stoughton, London

Paperback Edition: August 2013
496pp, £14.99
ISBN: 9781444709735
Synopsis| Chapter One | Reviews



Book Depository
(free world postage)

This is another adventure of Brother Aelric, a monk in England who was once the Lord Aelric, a senior official in the eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire. Unlike previous instalments, this one is told almost completely in flashback, a wise decision, as it is a very physical tale, with large amounts of fighting, fornication, leaping from rooftops and other forms of derring-do.

This time Lord Aelric is attempting an essential land reform program for the Empire, which inevitably brings him into conflict with established interests. While attempting to fend off political moves to inflame the mob and influence the indecisive emperor Heraclius against him, he also has to deal with Persian intrigue. A war between the two empires has been going on for some time, and the Romans are losing. A Persian ship is loose in Byzantine home waters, containing an old adversary, Shahin, who is making extraordinary efforts to retrieve a magical artifact called the horn of Babylon that has come into Aelric’s possession. Finally he becomes entangled with a woman called Antonia, who has disguised herself as a man so she can pursue a career as a petitioner, but is certainly more than what she appears to be. A Byzantine adventure indeed!

Aelric is a trendy anti-hero, although his ruthlessness and cynicism are less evident in his earlier life. There is still a lot of material that is frankly very demeaning to human dignity, but if you can put aside the occasional descriptions of perverse sexual practices and also that the mighty lord Aelric does a lot of footwork that really would have been done by underlings, this is a very exciting and intriguing story with lots of twists and turns.

Published by The Historical Novel Society
on the 2nd November 2013

The myth of the Unconscious

Book Review by David McDonagh

Therapy Breakthrough: Why some psychotherapies work better than others. Michael R. Edelstein, Richard K. Kujoth and David Ramsay Steele.

The book is about the old Freudian psychotherapy and the new, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy [CBT] that has largely replaced it over the last 60 years. The main difference seems to be that, bit by bit, and in their own innovative way, during the last 60 years the various followers of Freud tended to abandon the Unconscious mind idea or meme that many authors and psychotherapists today tend to think does not exist. I think, with the authors, they are right in that assumption. Continue reading

Sean Gabb on Miliband Senior

From Free Life No 24, December 1995

Socialism for a Sceptical Age
Ralph Miliband
Polity Press, London, 1994, 224pp, £11.95 (pbk)
(ISBN 0 7456 1427 2)

Socialism after Communism:
The New Market Socialism
Christopher Pierson
Polity Press, London, 1995, 264pp, £13.95 (pbk)
(ISBN 0 7456 1458 2)

As their titles indicate, both these books are about the future prospects of socialism. The first is a defence of orthodox Marxism, the second an alternative to it.

I will start with Dr Miliband’s book, which he finished shortly before his death in May 1994. It is not the policy of Free Life to attack the dead. Honour aside, the living make far more enjoyable targets. But this book almost cries out for an exception from the rule. If its author is dead, and his colleagues at the Socialist Register have lost much of their influence since 1989, many of their old disciples remain active in the labour movement; and some can expect to hold office in a future Labour Government. I will not claim that those politicians who now wear suits and have acquired Filofaxes are still running Eisenstein epics in their heads. Even so, Marxian socialism is a doctrine so comprehensive, and so flattering to certain emotions, that it must tend to leave a mark on the character of anyone who once believed it. This being so, it is worth recalling just what credulity and fanaticism belief in it requires. And I can think of no better place to see this than in Dr Miliband’s book. Continue reading

Review of Mat Coward’s “Acts of Destruction” (2013), by Sean Gabb

Review Article
Acts of Destruction
Mat Coward
Alia Mondo Press, Norwich, 2009, 264pp, £10.00, pb
ISBN is 978-1-4401-6322-7
Available via Amazon or from

Acts of Destruction is a semi-humorous crime novel set about twenty years into the future. Its underlying premise is that shortages of oil and other raw materials put an end, after about 2010, to the global economic order as we presently know it. The United States collapses into a predictable mix of centralised fascism and armed separatism. The European Union avoids the full horrors of America, but turns inward and becomes more overtly authoritarian and state capitalist. The British response, however, is to reset the political and economic clock to 1945, and to complete all the unfinished business of the Attlee Government.

In Mr Coward’s Britain of about 2030, a new constitution called “The Agreement of the People” has collectivised the economy and radically decentralised politics. Most government is local and controlled by direct democracy. The remaining central government is balanced by strong localism and by frequent referenda. At every level, there is an obsessive regard for procedural fairness and transparency, and for many kinds of personal freedom. Increasing numbers of people work in collective enterprises. Self-employment is tolerated, as are larger private enterprises that do not employ more than fifty people, or are not engaged in work of patriotic importance. People grow much of their own food. Many other things are rationed. Most transport is public, and everything is recycled. In a generally awful world, Britain has managed to become a country at peace with itself. It preserves its independence by an armed citizen militia. Continue reading

Curse of Babylon Reviewed

I love an anti-hero as you’re never sure which way things are going to  go.  After all they’re unbound by the usual set of ironclad rules that  most have to stand by and for that reason the wonderfully dark as well as delicious Brother Aelric is a cracking change from the norm.

In  this historical adventure (the sixth title for our hero) we get to see his own brand of trouble in Constantinople as a man of rank.  It has great prose, some wonderful twists and of course with a lead character that you’re never 100 percent sure on then you know that its going to be a whole lot of fun.

The only problem that I have with this type of book, and its been a bug bear for years to me, is that I hate books being a look back on a characters life from their own point of view.  It means that there’s no danger to the characters person, that they’re always going to get out of a situation which really does take a huge edge off the plotlines.

Old Review of Mill on Liberty

Note: I think this review stands up rather well after nearly twenty years. I’m not sure I could do better now. SIG

From Free Life, Issue 21, November 1994
ISSN: 0260 5112

On Liberty
John Stuart Mill
Prepared by from the Harvard Classics edition,
published by P.F. Collier & Son, Massachusetts, 1909
Available from gopher://
First published 1859, published on-line September 1993, 281.53kb, public domain Continue reading

Review of “What Hath God Wraught” by Daniel Walker Howe

by Foseti

 Review of “What Hath God Wraught” by Daniel Walker Howe

Everything goes fast now-a-days; the winds, even begin to improve upon the speed which they have hitherto maintained; everything goes ahead but good manners and sound principles.

- Philip Hone

In the conclusion section, Howe says, “This book tells a story; it does not argue a thesis.” That couldn’t be more unture.

The book is Whig history if anything is.

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting time period and it was long enough ago that even a mainstream historian treats most of the events with a reasonable amount of dispassion. For example, you can say stuff like:

Ethnoreligious and negative reference group voting influenced politics more in the North than in the South, since the North had greater ethnic and religious diversity.

But I digress. Continue reading

Orwell’s Big Brother
Rothbard’s review of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four (Harcourt, 1949) appeared in Analysis, September 1949, p. 4

In recent years, many writers have given us their vision of the coming collectivist future. At the turn of the century, neither Edward Bellamy nor H. G. Wells suspected that the collectivist societies of their dreams were so close at hand. As collectivism sprouted following World War I, many keen observers felt that there was a big difference between the idyllic Edens pictured by Bellamy and Wells and the actual conditions of the various “waves of the future.” Continue reading

Ghosts of Athens: Another Nice Review

by S.J.A Turney

I may be at a disadvantage with this dark, complex and involved epic historical thriller from Richard Blake in that it is the fifth in a series and I have leapt in at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I fear I have missed a number of nuances of character relationships that have built up in previous books (relationships between characters and also between characters and the reader.)

That being said, I reiterate how much I enjoyed it. I have four points I noted as I read through it which are the bones of my review: Continue reading

Conspiracies Of Rome ~ Richard Blake

Note: So many reviews all over the place, Mr Blake is barely able to keep up with them!

Conspiracies Of Rome ~ Richard Blake

Some periods in history are rarely represented within the realm of historical fiction, in large part because there is little known historically. However, as time passes and archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and, more often than not, nature walkers stumble onto finds or information that had been lost. However, in having little information about a particular period, a creative author can fill the gap. Without definitive information, the author can afford to take liberties that would be impossible for stories say, within the rather more well documented Tudor period. Why more authors don’t take this opportunity is, quite frankly a mystery to me. Continue reading

A Case for Scepticism

From Free Life, Issue 17, January 1993
ISSN: 0260 5112

Christopher Hookway
Routledge, London, 1992, 251 pp., £12.50
(ISBN 0 415 08764 3(pbk))

The beginning of scepticism is to realise that I cannot be sure if material objects really exist. I can, for example, take up my snuff box. What do I perceive? I see an area of colour bounded by other colours. I feel a smooth hardness. I smell menthol. If I open the box and carry a pinch of snuff to my nose, I can describe further sensations, culminating in a brief but intense burning, followed by an agreeable change in my way of conceiving and ordering ideas. At all times, I perceive impressions of a snuff box, never the thing itself.

This is not an idle distinction, since I have often in dreams experienced all the normal impressions of an object without once later supposing that a real object had actually been there. For at least this reason, then, impressions and the objects to which they may refer are logically separable. Continue reading

Enoch was right (wing)

by B.K. Marcus

Note: Never heard of Enoch? These Americans are endlessly provincial. Then again, vanity and mediocrity can only be kept in union by a thick bond of ignorance. SIG

Continue reading

Popping Pills With The Romans 

I was recently reading a book (the historical fiction, Conspiracies of Rome by Richard Blake if you were to wonder) and early on in the book there were a few references to pills. Of the medicinal kind. ‘Buying pills from the Apothecary’. ‘ Pills rattling in a metal pill box’.
This got me to thinking about pills in Ancient Rome. I had not come across any reference to them in an early Roman setting before, not in non fiction and not in fiction.  That is not to say that there are none, just none that I have come across or remember. And, as is the way with me when I sense there is something new for me to learn about periods of history that interest me, my mind was awash with questions. Continue reading

A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell

by Kevin Carson
A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell

The following article was written by Kevin Carson and published on his blog Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism, March 29th, 2011.

Thaddeus Russell. A Renegade History of the United States (New York: Free Press, 2010).

Unlike many dissident histories of the United States, which attempt to portray racial minorities, sexual subcultures and subordinate classes as “worthy victims” in terms of the social mores of the white middle class, Thaddeus Russell celebrates the kind of people that your parents may have warned you about: the low-down, no-count, not-respectable people. You know, the folks who “never amounted to anything”—and neither would you if you didn’t steer clear of them. Continue reading

Conspiracies of Rome: Another Review

Since Mr Blake is notoriously disinclined to blow his own trumpet and bang his own drum, I feel a compelling obligation to do so for him. As chance may have it, you can buy any of his books with just two clicks by following the links from the right sidebar of this Blog. SIG Continue reading

Blood of Alexandria: Another Fine Review

This is the 3rd Aelric novel. It is like the first two with lots of plot twists and buckets of blood but with more of both. Its a fine story. (spoiler alert) One thing I want to bring up is that our hero makes a momentious decision towards the end. As readers know, he is what we would call a secular humanist and it one of his goals to save civilization or at least the Empire of the Romans. He is horrified by what absolutely has to be done to accomplish this. Is humanity worth saving? Aelic finds the detritus of one who answered this question in their time. They found keys to a door which just keeps on opening for our race. But he in his time decided man was not ready for this key. Aelric could turn that key and revive this empire of unjust taxation, pointless violence, God’s vicegerent on earth and white marble. Yes he decides to carry on with his goal but also leave the key for others to find. He knows that humanity with the power of knowledge is not worth saving without freedom for all– a job for many of our little lifetimes to fulfill and renew.

Another Fine Review of Mr Blake

Can’t remember if I’ve posted this one:

The Sword of Damascus


Jarrow in the Dark Ages. Also the cold and wet ages, a particularly wearing combination for Brother Aelric, aged 94. Even worse, a pack of Vikings is threatening dire consequences unless the door of his monastery is opened. Surprisingly, they want him rather than plunder. It turns out they have been paid to bring him to their (unspecified) employer, who Brother Aelric suspects may be the Emperor of Byzantium. This is because he was once the Lord Alaric, legate extraordinary of the emperor, and his last departure from Constantinople was not a happy one. However, things are not as they seem, and the journey into the Mediterranean soon takes a very different course. Continue reading

Richard Blake: Review of “Ghost of Athens”

Note: Mr Blake’s Ghosts of Athens is out in paperback on the 25th April. Place your orders now to avoid disappointment!

4.0 out of 5 stars Well Written, February 23, 2013
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Richard Blake continues his high standard of detail and storyline with his latest book. I recommend it to anyone interested in the period.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Incredible Work By Blake, February 5, 2013
Don Sproat (Orlando, Florida United States) – See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghosts of Athens (Aelric) (Paperback)

The author’s fifth book in the series continued to amaze and delight this reader and I cannot wait for the next installment! His main and supporting characters are wonderful and so well developed over this long a series that they are like old friends. Of course the same action, intrigue, and naughtiness permeate this book as in the first four. I encourage all persons interested in Roman Empire Era fiction to read the entire series. Kindle readers will be happy that the “Aleric” books are available in that format.

Review of “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov

by Foseti

Review of “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov

Policymakers, aka “social scientists,” tend to have a simplified framework for understanding man. We live in an era in which one understanding, homo economicus, is steadily being replaced by another, homo statisticus. If the church of homo statisticus has a patron saint, it’s probably the Hari Seldon that emerges in this book. Continue reading

Review of “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James

by Foseti

Review of “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James

A while back, I had drinks with one of this blog’s best commenters, and he strongly recommended this book (he also provided some thoughts, some of which I’ve taken).

The recommendation came with a set of warnings, which should be heeded. To put it bluntly, the book is quite horrible. I merely repeat the obvious by saying that the writing is poor (it’s not just not good, it’s prole, it’s juvenile, it’s absurd), the characters are unbelievable, etc. Consult a mainstream review for more on these obvious aspects of the book.

And yet . . . Continue reading

The New Joy of Gay Sex

From Free Life, Issue 19, November 1993
ISSN: 0260 5112

The New Joy of Gay Sex
Dr Charles Silverstein and Edmund White
The Gay Men’s Press, London, 1993, 220 pp., £16.95
(ISBN 0 85449 214 3)
Reviewed by Sean Gabb

I did think of turning this review into a plea for the toleration of sexual differences. But where homosexuals are concerned, I suspect I am about a decade too late. I will not claim that they have today no justified grievances. The criminal and civil law of this country embodies a mass of prejudice which ranges from the petty to the viciously destructive. Even so, the argument for removing that prejudice has been largely won in the minds of those who matter. There are very few middle class people left who regard homosexuality as something abominable – as justifying an exclusion that amounts to social death, or even as justifying the slightest legal disability.

Of course, such people do still exist. But they are the despised minority. They are the ones often excluded from polite society. They are even the ones whom this journal may soon be defending from a legal persecution.

This being said, I will deny my readers an unnecessary effusion, and move directly to consider the merits of this book. Continue reading

Briefly in Praise of Edward Gibbon

by Sean Gabb
from 2000

It may have been observed that no issue of Free Life appeared between last October and January. The blame for this lapse is entirely mine, but the reason is Edward Gibbon. I opened the first volume of his Decline and Fall one Sunday afternoon in September, and closed the last volume early in December. During this time, almost every moment not reserved to earning a living or to the cares of married life was given up to reading Gibbon. I read him on railway trains and in the gaps between lectures. I read him in bed and once very furtively in the Church of St Mary le Bow. I read him sometimes with enthusiasm and sometimes with helpless envy. I read him sometimes with impatience. But always I read him in the knowledge that he was the greatest of English historians, and one of the four or five greatest of all historians, and easily one of the greatest of all English writers. Continue reading

Review of “Everyday Drinking” by Kingsley Amis

by Foseti
Review of “Everyday Drinking” by Kingsley Amis

“Your writing,” she stated, “is getting more and more biased and entrenched in reactionary fuddy-duddyism.” An excellent summing-up, I thought, of my contribution to the eighties’ cultural scene.

This is a difficult book for me to review.

On one hand, the subject is very important and should be given its full due. On the other hand, Amis is a wonderful writer and it’s difficult not to set the substance aside and quote him a lot. Continue reading

The Libertarian Mind

by Keith Preston

A new study of the psychology of political beliefs indicates that Pareto was correct when he said that an individual’s political views are as much an indication of their own innate personality type and psychological makeup as much as anything else. In other words, we may be “hard-wired” to adapt certain political outlooks. Read about the study here. And see what the same study said about liberals and conservatives here.

Emma Goldman once said that anarchists are born and not made, and Sean Gabb said in his interview with me that being a libertarian is like being a homosexual in that it appears to be innate to the person’s own essential characteristics and not something that is merely adopted. I generally agree with that with the qualification that political beliefs, like sexuality, are something of a continuum. Someone can be either a hard-core libertarian or merely be a libertarian-leaning liberal, conservative, socialist or centrist. Also, I’ve noticed that people raised in libertarian or anarchist families seem to be much more likely to hold those views as adults when compared to people raised in environments where more conventional political views were the norm. The ironic observation that we can make from this is that people who are normally herd creatures (which is most people) can in fact adopt libertarian or anarchist views if such views are the norm for the “herds” with which they are the most closely associated. There is also the question of “libertarians of convenience,” that is, folks who adopt libertarian views because they believe their values or references groups are under attack by the existing state and embrace libertarianism as a survival strategy for their own kind. Continue reading