by Kristine

Anyone out there who is remotely interested in politics? Do you lean a tiny bit more right than left? Ever wondered what would happen if there was a modern day civil war between the red states and blue states? If yes, then Empire by Orson Scott Card might be the book for you.

Empire_Cover.jpgMajor Rueben Malich, formerly in combat in the Middle East is sent stateside to attend university where he is enrolled in the courses of one Professor Averell Torrent. Unsure of what he was doing there but attentive nonetheless and taking notes in Farsi, he listens to Torrent and on occasion participates in verbal sparring. One great mind pitted against another. Arguing about Rome versus the United States. Absolute power. Revolution. World domination. Democracy. Race. The usual.

One day after class, Professor Torrent says to Malich, "Dammit, I'm trying to find out if you'd be interested in a covert assignment to help hold this country together and prevent its collapse into pure chaos….If there were some way you could help in an effort to prevent civil war, to preserve the republic, such as it is, how far would you be willing to go?" Malich's answer? "I'm a major in the United States Army, sir. I will never do anything contrary to my oath." Torrent responds, "Yes, that's what I'm counting on."

That sets Malich on a path of deception and secrets. However, he's stationed at the Pentagon and used to many secrets. See, his new assignment is to find holes in the security of the Secret Service. How can the President be assassinated? So he sets out to the do the best job he can and he finds a way.

And then that way is used to kill the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense.

While Reuben and his partner, Cole, avoid the authorities and try to find out which domestic terrorist is responsible for the murders, Reuben's wife Cecily, a former aide to Senator LaMonte Nielson, who is now the interim President, begins to worth with Nielson from that direction to find who is responsible.

While all this goes down, while the nation is in emotional chaos a secret movement becomes public. A radical left-wing army calling themselves Progressive Restoration invade and take over New York City, shooting and killing anyone in a uniform. Even a hotel doorman. They use high tech weapons, what I visualized to look a bit like the big spidery metal aliens used in the last remake of War of the Worlds. They are 14 feet tall and bulletproof. Seemingly invincible. Not many people on the planet have the resources and money for such massive research and development. So the list of possible leaders is narrowed down.

While this civil war begins to rage with National Guard versus city cops and people confused about their roles and what they’re defending, the rest of American society goes on about their business like usual. Everyone goes to work, goes grocery shopping, still goes to the movies.

Not much changes in the day-to-day lives of the citizenry and it’s more of an apathetic disinterest with moments of paying attention to CNN but for the most part it’s not everyone else’s problem. No one seems to care what the politicians are doing, as long as it doesn’t mess with American Idol.

The author, Orson Scott Card, takes a departure from his usual writing genre. This novel, written in approximately three months focuses on current events. Typically, as in Ender’s Game series, he is a sci-fi futuristic writer. This time, he was commissioned to actually write this story for a video game focusing on a modern day civil war in America. This book was the result.

I found this book entertaining because it’s just paranoid enough to be plausible. Every election season nowadays, who doesn’t get tired of all the jingoism and rhetoric? Even now, the next Presidential election isn’t until November of 2008 and the media has already been focusing on candidates and party platforms. Can we get a break here?? Among other things, 9/11 has taught us all that life can change on a dime and our priorities can be changed in a millisecond. So we end up tuning it all out due to political overload.

So a civil war between blue & red states, while sounding impossible, maybe isn’t quite. Citizens turning a deaf ear and blind eye while the nation melts around them, as long as they still get their cable TV? I can believe it.

Empire_game.jpgThis is tale of what might happen if someone like George Soros used all of his resources to “fix” the country after the debacle of the illegal elections of 2000 and 2004. To put it all right, the way it should have been if the true winner had taken office.

Orson watched episode after episode of 24 in order to keep the pace going in this book. He also relied heavily on the internet for research. So in more ways than one this was a very modern novel, utilizing pop culture, the web, and television shows to help put you inside the story.

In a lot of ways I lean to the right so I didn’t hate this book. I have a feeling that it might piss people off who lean more to the left. There were parts of this story that I found to not make much sense due to my pre-conceived conceptions of behavior. By this I mean, what sort of leftist liberal wife is a stay at home mom and on the staff of a conservative politician? Okay, so there’s a few out there, just like I’m a Republican pro-choice atheist, I’m sure there are liberal SAHM’s. Just seemed a little strange. But I suppose if Mary Matalin and James Carville can make their marriage work, the marriage between Malich and Cecily could work too. Since they’re fictional and all.

In the Afterword the author tries to explain that he really isn’t biased or anything and doesn’t mean to give an impression of leaning to either the left or right but it definitely leans. He does mention that in today’s political environment, a moderate does get vilified like never before. Believe one thing of a party and suddenly you’re labeled as being in lock step with that particular party and not allowed to think anything else.

Look, the story moves along, it’s another fast paced book. Lots of battle, intrigue and wondering if it truly is the Left or the Right who is behind this. I have my ideas and the story ends in such a way as to leave it open for a sequel or for you to draw your conclusions about whether the actions of a particular character were for the good of the country or the advancement of his own selfish goals. Is one man capable of master manipulation of the entire nation, to become a benevolent leader that everyone looks up to and trusts, and actually be hiding a desire to dictator? Is it possible for a single man to dupe the United States in such a way?

Are we that naïve and trusting?

I can see this being an interesting video game. I could visualize the scenes in my mind very well.

There were twists and turns and yes, I was even shocked over a couple of unexpected actions. I even gasped once.

This isn’t a book that is going to have mass appeal in my opinion. I even asked someone who read this book what his impression of and he didn’t like it compared to the author’s previous work. It was too “Tom Clancy”. While Tom Clancy is a great author, he isn’t what you expect to read from a SciFi writer. This was the first book I’ve read from Orson Scott Card and I like espionage/spy thriller types and I was entertained.

This was simple enough to make a good summer blockbuster flick with lots of things blowing up. And it reads just like that.

I am not an expert on the military or the weaponry utilized so I can’t really tell you if all of that was accurate, but it sounded good. Big and shiny with lots of noise and blood.

Another thumbs up for a recently read novel. Pick it up if you’re interested in a hypothetical modern day American civil war where in the end, the right side wins. Maybe.



I think I fall in the middle. Not red, not blue. But purple. Like Grimace.

If it's in the genre of Tom Clancy, I think I'll check it out. :)


It sounds like a great book. Good job on the review!!
I am going to check it out.


Sounds like a good summer vacation book. Ender's Game is one of my all-time faves so when I hear 'by Orson Scott Card' I always figure it's worth a look.


I have to confess I've not actually ever read a Tom Clancy novel. Have you seen how thick those things are?? He's very much into detail which I like to a point, but I prefer narrative.

The Tom Clancy comparison comes from someone else who has read both Clancy and Card.


Ooh, and the video game is coming out on the Xbox 360. This could be the start of something beautiful.


I have the Wii. It would be nice if they made Empire for that!


Ever wondered what would happen if there was a modern day civil war between the red states and blue states?

We'd kick their butts this time... none of that sympathy crap!! I mean... oh wait.. a book review.. hmm.. interesting...


I love OSC's books, just hadn't seen this one yet.


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