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Empire Hardcover – November 28, 2006

2.7 out of 5 stars 316 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Empire Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Right-wing rhetoric trumps the logic of story and character in this near-future political thriller about a red-state vs. blue-state American civil war, an implausibly plotted departure from Card's bestselling science fiction (Ender's Game, etc.). When the president and vice-president are killed by domestic terrorists (of unknown political identity), a radical leftist army calling itself the Progressive Restoration takes over New York City and declares itself the rightful government of the United States. Other blue states officially recognize the legitimacy of the group, thus starting a second civil war. Card's heroic red-state protagonists, Maj. Reuben "Rube" Malek and Capt. Bartholomew "Cole" Coleman, draw on their Special Ops training to take down the extremist leftists and restore peace to the nation. The action is overshadowed by the novel's polemical message, which Card tops off with an afterword decrying his own politically-motivated exclusion from various conventions and campuses, the "national media elite" and the divisive excesses of both the right and the left.
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From Booklist

Some video-game developers asked Card to write a scenario for "an entertainment franchise . . . about a near-future American civil war." They came to the right man and held off on releasing the game until he completed this relentless thriller, which couldn't be timelier and is, for all its hyperactivity and flip, Hollywoodish one-liners, heartfelt and sobering. Its heroes are two special-ops army officers who keep their oaths to defend the U.S. against all enemies when far too many of their ostensible colleagues have decided to abandon theirs. A rocket hits the west wing of the White House, killing the president, vice-president, and secretary of defense. While those directly responsible are Arabs, the next day, 14-foot-tall, bulletproof, armed globes on mechanical legs, backed by shooters on individual hovercraft, seize New York City by killing anyone in uniform. None of the new attackers looks anything other than American. A "Progressive Restoration" administration is established in the city, and it encourages other cities and states to join it to restore government as it should have been but for the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004. Intriguing plot wrinkles come fore and aft of those basic developments, there are many deftly shaped supporting players, and major shocks explode in a split second (no Stephen King slo-mo for Card!). Moreover, all the action doesn't obscure the author's message about the dangers of extreme political polarization and the need to reassert moderation and mutual citizenship; indeed, it drives it home. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Empire
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (November 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765316110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765316110
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (316 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #647,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Platt on November 9, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was expecting science fiction from Orson Scott Card. Never having read any of his books before this one, I was curious about him, but since he was very well published I assumed the quality of his work was high. I was not disappointed. It's not what I would call "science fiction" in the classic sense. It's more like political/military fiction, a la Tom Clancy, which is a good thing. I know, from decades of personal experience, that a book is well-written and entertaining if I can see and hear the characters and the scenes in my head, like watching a movie only I can see and hear. I was easily able to do this with "Empire" and its sequel, "Hidden Empire." Considering the current state of our political system and gearing up for a presidential election roughly a year away, the events depicted in this book are very topical, even though it was written about 9 years ago. If anything, our system is even more polarized now. It's frightening to contemplate hard-liners on both sides taking the law---not to mention, futuristic weaponry--into their own hands to start a second civil war in this country. Glad this was fiction.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I will keep my review "fairly" brief, after scanning a number of the positive and negative reviews. I have no problem with the main characters having a conservative point of view. I do have a problem with the execution of the writing. As I pursue my own masters in creative writing, I am stunned by how Card violates some of his own advice from his two good books on writing (Character and Viewpoint; How to write science fiction). Whether you call this science fiction, or an espionage/thriller, it still has to be believable within the confines of the world he is building. It doesn't.

Card choses to build a world that is essentially "right now" and post 9-11. He populates it with people that actually exist (O'Reilly on FOX). If you do that, in broad brush strokes you are setting expectations that this is the world we live in right now and people would react as you have seen them recently react. They don't.
Card does a number of things that make this hard to swallow: 1) Major attack in and on New York City, where the entire nation still empathizes with the police and fire department (left or right politically) and has the revolutionary forces kill all uniformed people and the city then rolls over and embraces that group? This world? Today? Really? Embrace the killers of anyone in uniform? Then he basically ignores the entire situation for several months (elapsed novel time) and focuses strictly on the remaining protagonists? Card, what happened to "world building" as you discuss in your craft books? Yes, you wanted to keep it fast paced, but that much time elapses and we get close to zero feel for what is happening in the nation. A few blurbs about city council votes does not cut it!

The premise at its core could have worked.
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Format: Hardcover
Ender's game is one of the great science fiction novels. It's characters are well-rounded and the society Ender lives in gradually unfolds as we see him react to it.

The somewhat lurid cover of Empire--and Card's name--led me to pick the book up from the new books section of my local Barnes and Noble. I really looked forward to several enjoyable hours in Card's universe, thinking, perhaps, that it was a prequel to the Ender novels.

I always give a science fiction author my willing suspension of disbelief when I start a story. To do less is to imply that I already know all about the story line. But this participation by me as a reader is fragile, and depends on the skill of the author and of me as an educated reader to keep alive.

Sadly, that belief died an excruciating death during the first few chapters, and never recovered. Card has complained that Empire is viewed as good or bad depending on the political views of the reader. That may be the case but as an independent voter, leaning toward Libertarian, I am not wedded to either the far right nor the far left. I find them both equally odious.

I enjoy Atlas Shrugged as well as more liberal stories such as Brave New World (liberal in the classic sense that the state knows best). In Empire, Card tries to paint both sides as evil, with the liberals in the most evil column and the conservatives in the "maybe-a-little-evil" position.

Fine. I can live with this when it is skillfully woven into a story line. I didn't see that in Empire. CNN = bad. FOX = good. Red states = good. Blue states = bad. Again, if it is a given, I can accept that in a story. But Card seems to have forgotten that editorializing through characters is a thin film to base a book on.
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By J. Mattingly on January 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even being as conservative as I am I has a hard time reading this book. What could have been a action packed military thriller quickly became boring talk fest. One converstaion after another about nothing,that had to do with everything. While the begining of the story is and the initial plot(If there is a plot)are a good basis for a book that quickly goes no where.

I was hoping for a look into what a second American civil war would look like. I have read many books by Harry Turtledove and other writers who have taken on the subject and done wonderful jobs with it. This was not case with this book.

What realy killed the book for me was the ultra right wing angle of the book. As a Republican I can stand a lot of left wing bashing. But comparing Al Gore to the Unabomber was just a little more than I could take.
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