Fictional President Averell Torrent is that man. He sees the world in broad historical strokes, and secretly patterns himself after Augustus Caesar, who transformed the Roman republic into an unstoppable empire. Torrent is the ultimate strategist and opportunist, using natural crises and calamities as the catalysts to reshape the world according to his vision.
The convenient crisis that rears its head is a new and very deadly African virus that is ravaging the dark continent, leaving 50% of its victims dead. President Torrent institutes a quarantine blockade of the entire continent in order to contain the disease. Once the disease has run its course, he deposes the illegitimate warlord governments and redraws the borders of the African nations in a more enlightened way.
The three heroes of the book are Cecily Malich, her son Mark, and Colonel Coleman (“Cole”). We know Cecily and Cole from the first book. Cecily is the widow of Reuben Malich, the hero that thwarted the progressive rebellion and restored peace. She is also a close advisor to the President. Cole was Reuben’s sidekick, and now leads his tightly woven team of expert special ops soldiers, who are sent into Africa to protect American interests and prevent genocide among the warring factions.
Hidden Empire has an overtly Christian theme, which is articulated by Cecily’s thirteen year-old son Mark. When a grassroots movement arises among Christian groups, who insist that they to be allowed to violate the quarantine and go to Africa to care for the ravaged plague victims, Mark insists that it is his Christian duty to go help. Of course his mother says no, but he eventually prevails, arguing that the Christians’ selfless care of plague victims was what eventually propelled ancient Christianity into prominence in the Roman Empire. Regardless of the risks, it’s what Christians do, so not helping would be hypocrisy. So Cecily resigns her position with the President and she and Mark go to Africa, putting themselves in the middle of the action as the President’s schemes unfold.
With Empire, and now Hidden Empire, Card has proven that he has fully mastered his foray into the techno-thriller genre. The book takes place in the present day real world. All of the cool military technology that the author utilizes in the story is either presently available or at least conceivable in the short term. The pace of story is blistering and relentless. Try to imagine an episode of the television show 24, but written by Tom Clancy. It’s like that.
Card effectively weaves the themes of oil geo-politics, Christianity, terrorism, loyalty, and patriotism an unforgettable tale that thoroughly entertains, while making the reader somewhat uneasy at the same time – it all somehow seems disturbingly possible. I look forward to the next book in the series with great anticipation.
Title: Hidden Empire (December 22, 2009)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor (Tom Doherty Associates) 336 pages.
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