Overall, The Weapon Shops of Isher was enjoyable, but it has a number of problems. Some of this is structural leftovers from being a combination of three short stories, but some run deeper.

The novel starts with a prologue that’s as long as any three chapters of the book put together. In it a 1951 reporter is transported approximately 7000 years into the future as an accidental side effect of a struggle happening there. From there, the rest of the novel is concerned with events in that far-distant date, and our reporter doesn’t even come up again for half the book. He becomes a background element for bits of the second half, before getting resolved in a one-page epilogue. That, at least, is big idea SF at its best, and the original consolidated story might have had a lot more punch.

The bulk of the novel actually has three different viewpoint characters, two of which have complete arcs. The third is a typical plot-destroying superman, and is thus immune to having any real character development. He is ‘Earth’s one immortal man’, and has the usual bevy of abilities that a millennias-long life might be expected to convey. Of course, how or why he’s immortal is not gone into at all, nor any real background on him.

Overall, the central conceit of the book is the necessity of an armed (or at least potentially armed) populace to resist tyrannical governmental power. However, it undermines its own message by the use of near-magic guns. They are also themselves capable of protecting their possessor from most things, and can only be used in self-defense (the psionic technology needed for such a feat is not gone into, nor if you could use one to blast open the door of a room you’ve been locked into; not being able to just shoot up the countryside seems to be assumed).

But still, the actual writing is fairly good, and while the main plot has a twist that’s not hard to figure out as it happen at the end, it then has another nice twist to resolve the overall conflict.