Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hidden Empire

There has been a lot of controversy about Orson Scott Card and his 'beliefs'. I personally don't care what I person does in their private time--unless it's against the law--as long as it doesn't affect or seep into the writing. Unfortunately, I can't say that's the case with Hidden Empire. Shame since OSC is not a bad author. He's imaginative and his stories are interesting. A lot of folks I know still love Ender's Game despite disliking the man who wrote it. Fair enough. The novel I'll be reviewing today was a gift. I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. However, I don't regret reading it even though sometimes it was a difficult task...


Hardback copy
The war of words between right and left collapsed into a shooting war, and raged between the high-technology weapons on each side, devastating cities and overrunning the countryside. 

At the close of Empire, political scientist and government adviser Averell Torrent had maneuvered himself into the presidency of the United States.  And now that he has complete power at home, he plans to expand American imperial power around the world.

Opportunity comes quickly.  There’s a deadly new plague in Africa, and it is devastating the countryside and cities.  President Torrent declares American solidarity with the victims, but places all of Africa in quarantine until a vaccine is found or the disease burns itself out.  And he sends Captain Bartholomew Coleman, Cole to his friends, to run the relief operations and protect the American scientists working on identifying the virus.  If Cole and his team can avoid dying of the plague, or being cut down by the weapons of fearful African nations, they might do some good.  Or they might be out of the way for good.


I wanted to like this book. I really did. The premise interested me. I was in the mood for outbreaks and deadly viruses. The world handling a crisis. It was even a timely read with this current Ebola crisis, but man was this heavy on the politics. If you are a right-winged, Christian who loves Fox News and don't believe in Global Warming, you'll like this a lot. If you like military jargon and vague action scenes, you'll love this novel. If you enjoy a lot of backstory and too many references to the previous novel (which I didn't know existed or read) then you'll enjoy this story. If you enjoy precocious children who are ridiculously wise for their age and who love to banter with Mommy, you'll also like this story...I could do this all day. Fact is, I didn't enjoy any of those aspects of the novel. I read to be entertained, not to be told what's right and what's wrong. This was supposed to be Science Fiction. It read more like wishful thinking on the author's part.

Anyhow, I'd like to believe that every novel has some good in it. So, I'll concentrate on what I did like. The novel starts with this little African boy whose whole family dies from an outbreak started by a monkey. I won't say more. Did I already say too much? A captivating start and I kept hoping the kid wouldn't die since he was so interesting. I also enjoyed learning about the different languages in the various African tribes.

The president of the United States wanted to quarantine the whole continent of Africa in order to prevent the virus from reaching the states. A lot of people found issue with that. As they should. A lot of folks wanted to go to Africa and help the sick. The whole thing is a PR nightmare for the president and his people.

About the president's people, Cole, a military officer, and Cecily, a mom who loves to bake cookies for her five kids and councils the president on the side. I didn't connect with the mother too much. Not with how she handled her eldest son's, Mark, whole do-good crusade. But I did like Cole. He was smart and knew what to expect and who not to fully trust. Before being sent to Africa to check out what the deal was, Cole knew the whole operation wasn't right. As a good soldier, he does what he must, but suffers deadly consequences. Action ensues and they find themselves trapped in a country they can't leave and sick. The Muslim bad guys are coming to get them! But are they really the bad guys, or are the bad guys 'friend's? The pre-ending was big. The real ending was anti-climatic. It should have ended several pages before it actually did.

Hidden Empire has its moments and all the epidemiology and author knowledge over how outbreaks occur was what made me enjoy it the most. Enough that I overlooked a lot of the other stuff that bugged me throughout the story.

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