Oath of Fealty: 02/03/07
In the first chapter of Oath of Fealty, one of the characters makes an off-handed reference to Uncle Tom's Cabin and from that point on I couldn't help but compare the two books. Both books share similar flaws in the strengths of their stories as they sacrifice political agenda for narrative.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was written with an urgency and is a blatant call to end slavery. Oath of Fealty's message while politically motivated isn't as important or significant and therefore the book fails both in being an interesting story and in inspiring action on the part of the reader.
The only truly interesting piece of the book is its set-up. Imagine a city with a population around 250,000 jammed into a massive skyscraper that serves as a controlled environment where the citizens willingly sacrifice privacy for safety. The city (or arcology) is called Todos Santos and it's somehow located in the San Fernando Valley. What happened to the cities all ready there? By choosing to set the story in such a crowded area it is hard to believe that such a huge building could be built (it's also the same major flaw of The Truman Show).
Like Stowe's story of Eliza and Tom the story unfolds as a comparison of free life and slave life (or life off and on the plantation). Niven and Pournelle need a big chaotic city to compare to their controlled environment. Unfortunately there are so many flaws in the idea that a building of such a size could be built near a well established urban area that the story flounders. So much of the book is devoted to justifying their choice of location for this social commentary that the actual story is neglected.