Reviewed by L. Neil Smith
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Too many years ago to think about comfortably, I made a convention speech in Phoenix entitled "You Can't Fight a Culture War If You Ain't Got Any Culture" (and yes, I am aware that it should have been "No Culture").
Well here's the news, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, and everybody else in between: the libertarian movement has plenty of culture. Its latest manifestation has arrived in the form of a motion picture version of J. Neil Schulman's long-beloved novel, Alongside Night, a prophetic story of a revolution brought on by a monetary crisis, the sort of crisis seven billion people are living through today.
It's also about "Agorism", an anarcho-capitalistic alternative to organizing human civilizations around the brute initiated force of government.
I suppose a few disclaimers are in order here. The first is that I have known and been friends with "the other Neil" for 34 years, since 1979, when we met at the national Libertarian Party convention at the still-futuristic Los Angeles Bonaventure Hotel, somewhere close to the "there" that Dorothy Parker famously complained there wasn't any of, there.
His first novel, Alongside Night, had just been published; he was at the convention to promote it. I was there to serve on the national platform committee (little knowing it would be my last such appearance), but my own first novel, The Probability Broach, had been sold and was due to be published in December. We also met F. Paul Wilson (who came to accept the very first Prometheus Award) and Robert Anton Wilson, who was there because quantum entanglement had brought him.
We sat in the concrete-modern hotel lobby and talked for a very long time. In those days, he was skinny and I was fat. I think Schulman was already talking about a movie version of his novel even then. So when I heard, a couple of years ago, that he was doing the job himself, I didn't know quite what to expect. The next thing I heard was that Kevin Sorbo was starring in it, and I became extremely interested.
Overall, the cast includes a lot of names that are very familiar to most libertarians and TV science fiction fans. First, on my list, anyway, is Sam (Jenkins) Sorbo, Kevin Sorbo's wife, the lovely creature who played the Golden Hind on Hercules, the Legendary Journeys.
Next, in no particular order: Gary Graham, star of the TV series Alien Nation and the actor who played the Vulcan Ambassador Soval on Star Trek: Enterprise; Garrett Wang and Tim Russ, Ensign Kim and Commander Tuvok, respectively, of Star Trek: Voyager; and Jake Busey, as the President of the United States. We also get glimpses of Adam Kokesh, Ron Paul, Brad Linaweaver, and "King" David Friedman. Schulman himself plays a small but pivotal part.
Special mention to Christian Kramme, a relative newcomer who looks and sounds exactly as I always imagined Eliot Vreeland would look and sound. He also handles an autopistol like he knows what he's doing.
Naturally, everybody wants to know whether the movie's any good. I can't find a proper run-time on IMDB.com, but—keeping in mind that I'm not a real movie critic, and all aesthetics are subjective—it kept me thoroughly interested, and seemed much too short. I'm pretty sure that's usually a good sign. Mind you, Alongside Night is a relatively low-budget picture, but Schulman got excellent value out of every penny. The story is, by turns, touching, suspense-filled, violent when violence was called for, highly polemic, and altogether satisfying. It's also full of inside jokes, so carefully woven in that movement newcomers, or those who haven't read the book, won't notice them.
A great deal of Alongside Night's effect rests on Kevin Sorbo's Herculean shoulders. He brings to the work a look and feel of style and grace, of warmth and strength, of gravitas and dignity that it might otherwise have lacked. He's the real thing. Schulman receives full marks for getting him to sign on. I was a Sorbo fan before. I'm particularly fond of his little made-for-TV western, Avenging Angel.
Now I'm a big Sorbo fan.
With their hats on their heads and their boots on their feet—or is it with their hands in their pockets and their coat-collars high?—Schulman and his trusty sidekick, Associate Producer J. Kent Hastings have been touring the country offering free showings to selected audiences. We were fortunate in Fort Collins to host such an event at Nordy's BBQ restaurant, a favorite libertarian hangout, where Alongside Night was very enthusiastically received, and where an otherwise annoying technical delay allowed us all to make a party of it.
When it comes to theaters, I'll go see it again.
And absolutely without a doubt, enjoy it.
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