The Watch - Dennis Danvers A time-traveling anarchist.

That would have been enough to get me to read the book. Then, after stumbling across the book at my local library and reading the secondary title: "Being the unauthorized sequel to Peter A. Kropotkin's Memoirs of a Revolutionist", I headed directly to the checkout.

It's not often you find science fiction books centered on the leading historical thinkers of social anarchism. In fact, I can't recall ever seeing a similar premise. Especially a time-traveling one.

Peter Kropotkin is transplanted moments from his death to Richmond, Virgina, 1999. The adjustment that Kropotkin must make to American culture serves as interesting reading through most of the book. However, what I found most engaging was the imagined implementation of anarchist principles in modern society. The mundane moments of communal living as well as Kropotkin's reaction to Hemlock Society's nihilistic, anger-fueled anarchist play were some of the best segments. One of my favorite of such moments were between Kropotkin and Mike's university advisor, Dr. Richard Sapworth:
"A pleasure", he says, tilting his head back in order to assess me, I gather, through the proper portion of his spectacles. His hand retreats upon arrival without ever actually grasping mine. "Cole tells me you're an anarchist."
"Yes."
"Bookchin? Chomsky? Or what's that fellow in Oregon's name?"
"Don't know. I'm a Kropotkin man through and through."
"Oh really? That's unusual. Relation?"
"No. I just like the way the man thinks."
He waits for me to elaborate, but I don't. "Interesting. Where is it you teach?"
"I don't."
I smile pleasantly, and he decides I'm a wit. "I know how you feel. They get stupider every year, don't they?"
"The faculty?"
He smirks at my irony. "Them too."
"What's your field?" I ask, for I know the etiquette.
"Consciousness Enactment," he says, squaring his shoulders.
"What's that?" I ask.
"Well," he says, rising up on his toes and chuckling, "that is The Question, isn't it?"
I would have thought there were several others more pressing, but he considers the matter settled. "Let's start with The Republic," he says, and does, and continues on from there without pausing for my Let's not. I try to listen, but it all sounds to me like it's just another lemming trek down the it-doesn't-matter-what-you think, only-how-you-think road over the it-doesn't-matter-what-you-do precipice to drown in a sea of precious pointlessness. Pg. 182-183


The voice Danvers used for Kropotkin at first threw me. Having only read some of his works, my impressions of Kropotkin lacked the casual sociability with which Danvers imbues his protagonist. But, in reflection, I tend to think Danvers' personification is more accurate that that of the somewhat withdrawn scholar-idealist I had imagined. The Watch accomplishes, for me at least, a renewed desire to read Kropotkin's original works. Such subtle activism seems a worthy attribute of any book, let alone a science-fiction story.

But all is not collective utopia with The Watch. The plot seems tenuous throughout most of the book and utterly falls apart in the end. Though the characters and story devolve to a point that eventually pulled me from my suspension of disbelief in eye-rolling frustration, the scattered moments of an idealist anarchist in today's society still carry through.