Tag Archives: Near-future SciFi

Empire


Author: Orson Scott Card

This is a story about a short-lived civil war in a contemporary USA. It starts with the assassination of the president and VP by unknown terrorists, followed up by an attempted coup by the military and a rebellion of Liberal Elitists on the coasts, who are supported by a Bill Gates caricature with his army of iPod-like AT-STs ripoffs.

The novel started as a video game project that stalled, so OSC decided to convert the plot into a thriller. While it would have made a decent video game, he never really put the pieces together enough to make a coherent book. Too many holes, too many questions, too many implausibilities hamstring the effort. OSC specifically refers to 24 many times during the book, including in the acknowledgements. I haven’t seen the show, but I can only hope it’s tighter and better written.

But, Card is a decent historian, and presents us with an intriguing idea. Given the title and the content of the prolog, I don’t think I’m giving away anything when I say that the civil war is a ploy, a first step by a nefarious man to turn the US into an empire. Card’s thesis is this: it is improper to compare the US to the end of the Roman Empire. If the US collapsed right now, the vestiges of our culture worldwide would be shrugged off. He claims it is more proper to compare us to the end of the Roman Republic, having not yet entered the Empire stage. The plot came from Card’s attempt to imagine how the US would transition from the republic stage to the empire stage. It could use some polishing, but it is a thought-provoking idea.

Despite a transparent attempt to appear moderate, the book is politically charged. Strawmen emerge from the left and the right, but the stronger characters are all, let’s say, one sided. E.g. all the academic people are froo-froo and treacherous, while only half the military people are gruff, power-hungry bullies.

OSC claims that reviews of Empire break down political lines – low from the left and high from the right. This sort of mine-field tactic is a cheap trick of argument, unworthy of someone as smart as OSC.

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World Made By Hand


Author: James Howard Kunstler

A near-future genre-bending story of a fairly optimistic post-apocalyptic world. Oil has run dry, war has distracted the government, electricity and transportation are severely disrupted. All the worse, a virulent flu has devastated the population, particularly culling the very young.

Suburbia is dead, and the world returns to local community structures where power is divided between those who can get things done, and those who can have things done to others. In this world Robert Earle must contend with a mysterious new cult and the lawless interruption of the well-being of his town.

It’s a well written story, with solidly intriguing characters and a fairly tight plot. The “genre-bending” element jumps in abruptly two-thirds of the way through, though- this will disrupt the less dedicated readers. Keep it up, though – there’s plenty to enjoy.