Saturday, April 5, 2008

Book Review: Empire by Orson Scott Card

Write What You Know ... Or Know What You Write

Orson Scott Card is a prolific and talented writer of science fiction, and has deservedly gained a legion of fans. With Empire, he left science fiction to write a futuristic thriller, which is a very different animal.

Empire had to be written according to the guidelines for a thriller, and the results were mixed.A futuristic thriller must be consistent with current social and technology trends while making a plausible projection into the future, the story must unfold at a fast pace, the lead characters must be strong and dangerous, there should be plenty of action and suspense, and it must be (pardon the phrase) fair and balanced. OSC succeeds to varying degrees in most areas.

Empire postulates that partisanship between the political Right and Left has gone much too far, leading to the beginning of a new American civil war. An interesting theme, and OSC moves the story along at a good pace with plenty of action. The characters are realistic, if a little too familiar. The giant, robotic-like weapons, however, are pretty standard stuff; more imaginative weapons would have energized the storytelling.

The critical flaw is that the story is not fair and balanced; the conservatives wear the white hats while the liberals are almost all black hat dudes. This is exactly the kind of packaging that OSC warns us against. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth, and we are all mixtures of wholesome and unattractive characteristics and beliefs.

Readers can enjoy a story that doesn't precisely fit their view of life if they feel the author has presented a balanced perspective. Empire failed here. For me, this flaw dragged down a pretty good futuristic thriller to the level of a made for TV movie.

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