Flashback review: Empire

I'm doing it again. I've dived into my archives for an older book review. I am also breaking one of my normal rules: this is a negative one. I don't like to discourage authors, so I just don't review most books I don't like. I make exceptions for well-established authors who are probably wise enough not to read their reviews, and doing well enough that I can't make much difference. So you might see me throwing rocks at the occasional mega-bestseller, but that's about it. And now, without any further ado...

Empire is easily the worst thing I've ever read by Orson Scott Card, and the worst book I've read in some time, period. I honestly didn't think he was capable of such clunky prose, wooden dialogue, and cardboard characters. The thriller sections weren't thrilling and I often had to push myself to finish. There was actually dialogue along the lines of "Seeing as we're both in such excellent physical shape, there's no need to park too close." This is just plain sloppy writing. And he was so desperate to deliver his message, large chunks of it read like rant. I much preferred the Afterword, when he laid out his social concerns in a straightforward and much more readable manner. His attempts to work these concerns into the dialogue and expositions were done with all the subtlety of a novice (which Card isn't) and gave my eyes a good workout from frequent rolling. He was working on a schedule and running late and boy, does it ever show.

It is a shame. OSC, as he is known to his fans, is capable of much better. I've read a number of his books and they were either brilliant (Ender's Game, most notably) or at least a darn good read (Enchantment). Also, the questions he raises in the book are worthy of a better treatment. The polarization of American political culture into two camps of mutual loathing is one I've blogged on before. It's toxic, and this book shows us what such toxicity could theoretically lead to. The whole question of the United States as an empire or empire-to-be is also worthy of some serious thought. I wish he had handled it as deftly as he did with such large issues in the Ender series.

And I would also dearly love to see a female character who is not a carbon copy of all his others. All his main female characters have the same persona: engaging, witty, highly intelligent, unconventional. I would dearly love to meet his wife, who is supposedly the template for them, and who is obviously well worth knowing, but I wish he could summon up another female character he is capable of liking.

 

OSC's website

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