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  • kjoannerixon

A Country of Ghosts

Is A COUNTRY OF GHOSTS didactic? Absolutely. It very obviously intends to be, and doesn't ever pretend to be anything but a kind of travel guide to a possible world. It succeeds at this, with a protagonist who is unencumbered by personal ties or previous allegiances and blessed with an unquenchable curiousity. He uncovers the New World by progressing through it, witnessing its history unfolding as an evil empire attacks the mountains where the anarchists live.

I consider myself an anarchist, more or less--to the extent that I have a coherent political philosophy, I call myself an invitational anarchist. Meaning, the ideal framework for organizing society is for a person to throw a party and to invite other people to either join them on their terms, or, no hard feelings, throw their own party on their own terms. A party, or a library, or a city, or a country. I am aware this breaks down, immediately and badly, as soon as people are coerced by, like, having physical needs that they have to try to meet via limited resources. But the core of it, that people should feel free to set the terms on which they engage with others, is important to me.

At the same time, I'm obviously aware of the complexities and challenges of throwing a party the size of the entire planet, which is the level of cooperative human action necessary to address climate change and global thermonuclear war and also smaller things, like vaccine distribution and buying hothouse tomatoes and tracking down weirdos who kidnap kids to other continents. Our current systems for managing these tasks are all deeply, deeply flawed, but I find I'm mostly okay with it if we use representative democracy to appoint people we collectively authorize to use force to accomplish specific tasks, like requiring dumbasses to vaccinate their kids for measles before sending them to public school, or requiring the owners of the hothouse to pay the people growing tomatoes in the hothouse.

Anyway, I thought this book was very cool and good, and also I'm not 100% convinced that the anarchists in it could manage to get every schoolkid vaccinated for measles. Maybe that's an acceptable sacrifice, in exchange for feeling this free. Maybe not.

If there ever is another book set in the Hron universe, I would love to see Killjoy address situations with domestic abuse and coercive control in intimate relationships. A COUNTRY OF GHOSTS primarily focuses on large scale social organization and questions like how resources are distributed, how trade is conducted, who runs a war when a neighboring empire attacks, etc. But I would love to see a more intimate, messed up story. I love the idea that freedom is an emergent property that aries in relationships between people who don't try to control each other--and I really want to see that theme worked out in a story with, like cult leaders and Bad Mothers and generational trauma and boyfriends who would rather die with you than live apart.



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