The Liberal Institute
BOOK REVIEW

The Transhumanist Wager by Zoltan Istvan
by KYREL ZANTONAVITCH

This is the best novel I've read in over 30 years! I don't ever expect to see its like again. Fascinating, amazing, and shocking to the point of numbness.

It's rather comparable to Atlas Shrugged -- the earth-shaking epic and classic by Ayn Rand from 1957. It has Atlas Shrugged's magisterial story sweep and stunning philosophical ambition. It has Rand's quasi-god-like heroism too. And like the other novel, Zoltan Istvan's book is looking to mercilessly conquer the world.

Let's hope!

Mr. Istvan's thunderous 300-page saga, The Transhumanist Wager, is a truly remarkable novel of ideas. It's unique. It has no peers or rivals. And it's completely unexpected and unprecedented.

Like Atlas Shrugged, it offers many formidable intellectual challenges. One or two of these I've yet to work out. Like Rand's lengthy magnum opus, The Transhumanist Wager is mesmerizingly philosophically bold and rich. And like Atlas, it's rather repetitive in introducing these dynamic, new ideas to a silently dumbfounded world. But at least you clearly know where each novelist-philosopher stands on the issues, and what controversial and ferocious thing they each have to teach us.

I find this to be an unapologetically extreme and revolutionary book. A true tour de force and deep-thinking book which comes at all of us from out of the blue. If you don't read it, you're fatuously and tragically missing out. Wager is a historical game-changer, and likely to spark a new era in mankind's evolution. Humans will never be the same.

It seems a shame and crime to give away virtually anything in the plot, so I'll keep it very light. The hero of the story seeks a truly astounding level of personal growth and, simultaneously, human evolutionary ascent. He effectively threatens to dethrone Zeus himself. Whether Jethro Knights -- the alter ego of Zoltan Istvan -- actually achieves this is something the high-intelligence, high-virtue reader will have to find out for himself.

This book is jaw-droppingly ambitious and powerful. It's also massively persuasive. The novel is filled with energy, zealotry, ferocity, honesty, courage, and heedless impetuosity. A visionary and fundamentalist book of gigantic and fearless integrity which is almost utterly loyal to its own monumental and yet somewhat narrow beliefs. But make no mistake: these ideas and beliefs are world-rocking.

Ultimately, Mr. Istvan is a slightly but significantly limited philosopher. He's not an Objectivist, and isn't that familiar with Ayn Rand's intellectual beliefs and theories, evidently. Still, I consider Zoltan Istvan to be an immensely powerful neoliberal thinker and a formidable cultural warrior. He fights for the Good Guys; and he aims to capture a great deal of the future. Amazingly, Mr. Istvan may have come to these ultra-high-level theories and points of view without having had much help from today's leading neoliberals: the economic Austrians, the political libertarians, and the philosophical Objectivists. Maybe Zoltan Istvan just used his own exceptionally high virtue and Herculean fearlessness to derive his "transhumanist" philosophy from the classics of human literature and intellectualism, especially the Greeks, Romans, Renaissance, and Enlightenment thinkers. Astonishing, if true!

And yet...Mr. Istvan isn't that strong a neoliberal. He, his hero, and this novel don't entirely believe in the epistemology of reason, the ethics of individualism, and the politics of liberty.

Still, what a dynamo and hero this Zoltan character is! What a vivacious, ferocious, and catastrophic intellectual and spiritual warrior! Mr. Istvan is a one-man wrecking crew of contemporary culture and evidently a magnificent being of immense and singular stature. Or at least his alter ego in the story is.

Altho' the ideas inside somewhat overwhelm it, The Transhumanist Wager is a genuine novel which tells a dramatic, wonderous, and wide-ranging tale. The plot is exciting, involving, and enthralling. The characters are generally believable, often archetypal, and sometimes indelible. This is a heroic epic which transverses the entire planet and overwhelmingly impacts all of mankind.

I also found this book to be a hugely enjoyable, winding, and suspenseful yarn. It's great fun to read, and even more fun to think about.

Overall I consider Zoltan Istvan's The Transhumanist Wager to be outstanding as a novel, and even better as a book of theoretical and practical philosophy, regarding the shooting-star ascent of man, and our soon-to-be superhuman future.

KYREL ZANTONAVITCH is the director of
The Liberal Institute