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Liberty’s Daughter, by Naomi Kritzer

Review copy provided by the author, who is a friend of mine.

Beck Garrison doesn’t really remember life on land. Her father Paul brought her to live on the cluster of libertarian seasteads when she was in preschooler, when he told her her mother died in an accident. Since then she’s gotten thoroughly accustomed not just to the pitch and yaw of the repurposed yachts and other holdings but also the rules of the different steads. Which ones have no laws, which ones have minimal laws, where she’s allowed to go alone, where she needs to check in with private security…where she just cannot go, period. Kids are resilient, Beck even more than most, and by her mid-teens she has picked up a part-time job as a finder, helping people trade rare goods like sandals and shoelaces so that everyone has things they want from land and Beck has a little pocket money.

Not everything people want to find is quite so simple as a swimsuit or a bottle of fancy whiskey. Looking for a missing person leads Beck through a cascade of discoveries about her home that isn’t what anyone intended her to find, but she’s not going to quit, and she’s definitely not going to abandon people to some of the circumstances she’s discovered.

Because frankly? Have you read some of articles about actual attempts at libertarian utopian communities? Naomi has. They tend to be gross in a number of directions. Sewage treatment is one, and that’s a pretty key element of seasteading. Human right violations would be another. Liberty’s Daughter walks a really good line between not flinching away from these elements and not getting screamy, wallowing, or unpleasant to read. It also points out some of the ways that spontaneous organization can be a really good thing. I don’t actually think that Naomi specifically sat down and said, “How could I demonstrate the difference between classical anarchist thinking and the contemporary American libertarian movement with a fun teenage protagonist and her adventures?” but if she had, it might still have come out like this. Which is not to say that it’s an anarchist treatise or in fact any kind of treatise. Beck’s reactions are a lot more pragmatic teenager “well that’s dumb, how do we fix that” than “and I will give you a several page speech about liberty,” which works a lot better and makes for a more fun book.

There are villains here, but they’re not grandiose and chiseled. There are heroes here, but they’re mostly just trying to make life work better for the people around them with limited resources. So…like life, really. But with more adventures. Yeah, I’ll sign on for that.

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