Friday, June 13, 2014

Hidden Empire

Orson Scott Card's novel Hidden Empire is the sequel to his novel Empire. There we witnessed the assassination of our country's top leaders and a political movement that had used this event to attempt to take control of several state and local governments. Out of the aftermath of these events an ex-Princeton political science professor named Averell Torrent rose to power. A man who was ultimately nominated by both the Democratic and Republican parties to serve as their candidate for president. A man who helped to unify the country with his ability to bring about quick and sensible solutions of all manner of crises and issues. A man both astute and clever, who seemingly has the ideal solution for every national and international problem that arises. Yet he does not seem to have any enemies or skeleton's in his closet. So what is it about him that bothers some of his closest advisors?

Shortly after Torrent's rise to power, we meet a young Nigerian boy, who becomes the first person infected with a deadly virus carried by monkeys in the forests of his village. In short order the highly contagious virus has spread throughout most of Nigeria and begins to work its way like an unstoppable wave in all directions. The president orders a quarantine for the entire African continent in order to protect U.S. interests from this disease that has a mortality rate of nearly 80%. In order to gain political approval for this seemingly heartless decision, the president ultimately agrees to let missionaries entire the continent to tend to the sick. When local warlords begin to raid and to kill, a team of special ops men are sent to protect the missionaries. Ultimately through this unspeakable epidemic, the African continent is remade and comes out the stronger for it. Yet it seems that nearly every event has been scripted or controlled. While there is no proof
of this, the available evidence seems to point toward the president. Could he have unleashed a killer virus on the world all for his own political gain?

Ultimately we learn that Torrent is not a saint, but that does not mean that he is not a man of principle or an exemplary leader. This multi-dimensional character is a very intriguing one due to his brilliance, his principles, his nobility, and his flaws. This story, while still a thriller, was more character driven, more nuanced, more considered, than Empire. I thought it was a very strong piece of work.