Customer Reviews: Hidden Empire
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on January 11, 2010
I'll start this review by saying that I've been a fan of OSC for close to 25 years now, and have read just about everything that he ever wrote.

However, I've noticed that his latest books (maybe for the last 8-10 years or so), have really gone downhill, not in their craft, which is superb, but in their plotting and storylines.

Hidden Empire is no execption to this. It comes across (like many of the 'Shadow' books) as just another episode in a franchise, instead of as a work in its own right. I used to be amazed at how much epic story Card could put into 300-400 pages, but now I'm disappointed at how little he gets into the same amount, and it looks like Empire is going the same way and is going to drag out across many, many volumes, each of which advances the overall plot about as much as an episode of a TV series.

[Mild spoilers here]
Epidemic breaks out in Africa, USA quarantines unpopularly, Christians break the quarantine, Christians are attacked, USA defends them, and a little twist at the end of how some US soldiers respond to their president's action when he comes out smelling of roses.

Don't get me wrong -- it's a *GREAT* story, and it is *BEAUTIFULLY* written, but it feels deliberately small so that many more books (and thus royalties) can be squeezed out of the story of how Torrent will repeat the history of the roman empire and take the USA from Republic to Empire.

Mr Card, if you're reading, take it from one of your readers who has followed you for years. You're losing me. When once upon a time I would be there on release day to pay $25-$30 for the hardback of your book, now I'm content to wait for it in the public library. I made an exception for Hidden Empire, as it was my second Kindle purchase (my first was a book that I wrote myself, just to see how it would look on Kindle! :) )

I don't think I'll make that exception for volume 3. Sorry.
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on March 26, 2010
I've been an avid Orson Scott Card reader for years now, and am continually impressed by the sheer volume of great ideas he brings together in his novels. The Ender series, his short stories, and Alvin Maker series are among my favorites of the genre. Hidden Empire is no such thing. I had mixed feelings with the first Empire novel, due to the amount of time it spent bombarding me with political philosophies I disagree with. But that book made up for it with an incredibly interesting story, interesting characters, and OSC's usual terrific prose.

Hidden Empire had all of the bad of Empire, with none of the good. It felt more like an infomercial for Fox News and Christianity than a Sci-Fi thriller. At least three separate times he referenced Fox News by name specifically to favorably contrast them with their competitors. We were told that MSNBC thinks Christians are stupid. We were told that Fox got to interview the leader of a movement while the 'other' networks just found the craziest people they could find. Even if I agreed with that (I don't), and even if it were true (it isn't), it has no place in a novel like this. For a novel that claims to be against blind partisanship and political extremism, jumping into the ring to say which news network is superior is hypocritical at best, outright insulting to readers at worst.

As for the plot itself, it's almost non-existent. When I read books, I always come in to work the next day wanting to talk to friends about the details of what was happening. In this book, almost nothing happened worth talking about. The first 275 pages of the 330-page book were almost completely devoid of what anyone would define as an 'event'. There was a rescue from an embassy, and that was about it. The best way to summarize this point is to say that the plot description written on the dust jacket of the book doesn't start until the last 30 joke. I honestly had to check to make sure that the book I was reading matched the dust jacket, that's how little the book resembles the description. And in an extreme case of irony, the dust jacket description uses the phrase "quickly runs afoul", as in the protagonist QUICKLY got on the bad side of someone. How page 300 out of 330 is 'quickly' is beyond me. The cover of the book also shows a scene from the first book, not this one, probably because there was almost no action in this one to put on the cover. It's misleading to say the least.

In short, if OSC had published this book in 1985 instead of Ender's Game, we would have no idea who he is. His political beliefs and religion have completely overshadowed his ability to construct an interesting narrative. One-dimensional characters, horrific pacing, lack of action, and an absurd amount of preaching make this a book to avoid.
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on December 27, 2009
The sequel to his recent book, Empire (Tor Science Fiction). Hidden Empire is a different sort of book than the previous novel was. While Empire dealt with an impending civil war in America along red-state / blue-state lines and the men pulling the strings behind the war, Hidden Empire deals with an epidemic in Africa and the social, political, religious, and military response to that outbreak. The conspiracy elements which gave the original novel so much of its power are much more subdued in this novel, though still present to some degree.

I enjoyed the novel, especially the parts involving President Torrent (clearly a favorite character of Card's), but I wish it focused more of its energy on conspiracies and/or politics instead of concentrating on efforts to fight a viral outbreak. I appreciated the chapter introductions, typically written from President Torrent's perspective, and the feel and depth of the characters.

As a Christian I appreciated Card's interjection of Roman history involving the plague outbreaks and the Christian response to those events, though parts of the book feel like Christian Fiction and I wonder how readers who do not share my faith will respond to these sections. It all fits with history and the comparison of Empire's America to Rome, but again, it's a different sort of book than Empire was.

The book is incredibly modern in its setting: references to modern-day Russian and American politics, culture, board games, military technology, and even the Kindle (which I read the book on).

Bottom line: I enjoyed the book, though not as much as Empire. I hope that the series will continue and look forward to reading more about Card's Imperial America.
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on May 4, 2014
I wasn't sure how this story was going to work when I started, but you can always count on OSC to surprise you with some clever plot twists and an unexpected resolution. It's still kind of different reading Card without and true fantasy or supernatural elements, but he is a master at storytelling, and this book was no exception.
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on January 13, 2016
Empire and Hidden Empire: I think these books are nothing but the author's political and religious views with a thin veneer of fiction slapped over them. Very disappointing. What happened to this guy? He used to write amazing speculative fiction! So sad.
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on January 15, 2012
I have never heard of OSCard until I bought this book at the dollar store. It sounded interesting but I could never get into it. It is slow moving and not very compelling, but I kept reading until I got tired of it. Then I went to Amazon to read the reviews and agree with the one and two star reviews. It's pretty boring and the script is not realistic in my opinion. I will skip to the last 30 pages and may be surprised, but I doubt it.
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on May 6, 2012
I'm a big OSC fan, and have read most everything he has written, even some works not in the mainstream (for instance, his movie reviews, posted weekly on his website, are a treat). When it comes to storyline, developing characters in meaningful ways, and deftly dealing with complex moral issues, Card is one of the best. I have told myself before that I would read the back of the Wheaties box, if he had written it. That said, this futuristic series-- beginning with the first in the series, "Empire", and continuing with this second volume-- is not up to Card's usual standards.

What I liked: The "Empire" series starts with an interesting premise-- a future of global unrest, totalitarian government, religious oppression, these themes should be compelling and relevant. And Card's writing, even if not his best, is still above average.

What I didn't like: No characters I cared about. Story line that took much longer to get anywhere, even compared to the first book in the series. The religious angle, which Card usually handles with subtlety and skill, seems clumsy and too overt in this story. Mostly, I did not like that Card seems to be phoning this series in, like the books some famous authors only lend their name to, while a less skilled, less well-known co-author does the heavy lifting. The result rarely measures up to the name on the cover.

That's how I feel about this book, and this series. Not a bad book per se, but Card can do better.
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on April 18, 2016
You see that cover up there? Yeah, the one with Card's name emblazoned on it? Deceptive advertising at its worst!

The sequel to the quirky but good Empire, Hidden Empire is also quirky, but not very good. While Card's trademark characterization and pacing are intact, there is a definite lack of action to keep the story interesting. This hasn't always been a problem for me with Card's other books (Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide are not action-heavy), but it sure is with this one.

There were a few sci-fi elements but they did very little for me. I did appreciate the political, social, and religious commentary found throughout the book, however. I also like how the topic of political power is explored through the characters and story, but the President in Hidden Empire is no Hegemon. Where this book shines, however, is as a study of disease and quarantine theory. Outside of that, there's a lot of stuff that feels forced and the ending leaves a lot to be desired.

I should probably give this book 2 out of 5 stars, but I like Card too much for that. If you're bored and you want to know what happens after Empire, give Hidden Empire a read. It is short, after all.
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on July 25, 2016
It was a good book, until the author decided put an EXTREMELY bad message as the culmination of this two part series, which I will describe after this spoiler alert below, for those who want to read the book first.

Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler!

At the end, the "hero" of the book (Captain Coleman) shoots and kills his soldier friends who are trying to stop America from being taken over by a tyrant (Torrent.) Captain Coleman is portrayed as having done the right thing in killing his friends who were trying to stop America from being turned from a free Republic into a Tyrannical Empire. I find this sickening and vile. In respect to Orson Scott Card, I may have misread his intentions, perhaps we are meant to be horrified that Captain Coleman would betray his country to a tyrant, but it seemed to me like Card was justifying his actions.
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on December 30, 2014
Wa-wow!!! The absolute worst fiction book I've read all year, I finished reading on Dec 30th!! Orson Scott Card's "Hidden Empire" (2010). [SPOILERS!!] It starts out *ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!* In the aftermath of the failed Second American Civil War (2012-2014), a novel virus like Ebola but airborne infects Nigeria in May 2014 [ok that's pretty prescient!] and the U.S. intervenes after 3 months when its infected over 100,000 people and killed 50,000.

They respond by quarantining the entire continent, in cooperation with China, India and Europe, and loading up Northern African countries and South Africa with munitions and technical gear to literally detect and destroy any peoples making their way by foot, car, plane or boat out of the quarantine zone.

So far so good!!! I *really* enjoyed the first quarter of the book! Then Mr. Card jumped the shark!!!!~!!! All of a sudden it stopped being about the pandemic and started being about an infected military troop with a single, widowed mom and her 14 year-old trying to get out, along with SO MUCH Pro-Christian outright propaganda it literally made me revolted at least thrice!!

I stomached it for 120 more pages and 30 pages from the end, it started to get good!! A final battle. A guy trying to protect the President from his conspiracy-theorist freak friends (also fellow Delta Force). He kills all of them but one, finds him with the President, about to shoot the President...

And then he finds out *SURPRISE* All of his friends WERE RIGHT! The President freaking admits [gloats, really] that he orchestrated the entire Civil War, the killings of the congress, etc., EVEN EBOLA [!!] to entrench his position as DICTATOR and bring PEACE TO THE WORLD ]his words[.

The protagonist then says, "Well, I've always known!" Which just made a bumockery of the last 100+ pages where he made FUN of his friends for having "such outlandish unprovable theories". Then the President is like (direct quote), 'Whew! I so didn't want to have to kill you! You're one of my best operatives!"

And then the protagonist goes on a screed on how <quote>Power Presidents are many times mistaken for tyrants</quote>. AND THEN the next frickin page later, he has a moderately intense life crisis, wondering if his best friend (and husband of his widow friend) and all his other friends and .. you know ... MILLIONS OF AMERICANS who died from the Civil War were being disserviced by him letting the President get away with it!!! He then says to himself: <quote>Peace is worth a benevolent dictatorship. Besides, America hasn't been a democracy for decades.</quote>

Then there's like a little perfunctory wrap up about the other alive characters we have heard nothing about for 75 pages, for like 2 pages. Then the book ends.

No closure. If you are a fascist boot-licker of the fundie religious, Fox News, George W. Bush, and even Hitler (who I am **SURE** also wanted world peace!!), then you should like this book.

Frankly, I've read MUCH BetteR Ebola novels for $1.00 from indie authors.

[Read 111,457 words in 3 days; 38,656 words/hour; ~1,500 words/minute]
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