Orson Scott Card's Empire

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A 2006 What If novel by Orson Scott Card, telling the story of Major Reuben "Rube" Malich and Captain Bartholomew Coleman, who get caught up right in the middle of the next American Civil War - the war between the Left and the Right. Takes place in the same universe as the game Shadow Complex. Card was hired to write a story for the game, about a second Civil War, and the authors got more than they bargained for. Card takes a very serious look at the rising extremism and political tensions in modern America and extrapolates them to their logical conclusion: when both sides toss around enough "they're going to destroy our way of life" rhetoric, someone on one side will start shooting, and then it becomes a matter of self-defense for everyone involved. This has actually happened before, in several parts of the world, in the last couple decades, and Empire is the story of how it could happen here.

It was followed with in late 2009 by Hidden Empire.

Tropes used in Orson Scott Card's Empire include:

This first novel contains examples of:

  • Alternate Universe: There are less-than-subtle hints that the story is meant to take place during the summer of 2008, during the heated race for the U.S. Presidency for that November, and what was still in the future when the book was first published.
  • Anyone Can Die: Including Rube, in a very unexpected and ignominious fashion
  • Awesome but Impractical: The Progressive Restoration's Humongous Mecha. In the one major combat action shown, they get blown to bits by missiles from Apache helicopters before they even get into the mechs' weapon range. They did, however, manage to successfully occupy New York City without any problem so they couldn't have been too impractical.
  • Ax Crazy: The Progressive Restoration movement.
  • Badass: Rube, Cole.
  • Badass Normal: Rube and Cole face people with power armor and mecha on foot with normal weapons.
  • Batman Gambit: Averell Torrent arranges for the Progressive Restoration to come into existence while framing the Republicans for a Right wing coup. He then arranges to become Vice President so he can unite the nation behind him.
    • Gambit Roulette: All of the above requires INCREDIBLE foresight and manipulative ability on Averell's part - to the point he must have the divinatory and mind control abilities of a Sith Lord.
  • Big Bad: appears to Aldo Verus. It's actually Averell Torrent. His Evil Plan involves spawning the Progressive Restoration and unite the nation behind him.
  • Captain Ersatz: Averell is a rare in-universe example. He wants to be Augustus Caesar.
    • By the end of it, Reuben seems to be one of (the Right's perception) of Ollie North. Well Ollie North crossed with Solid Snake.
  • The Chessmaster: If the ending chapters of the book are any indication, Averell Torrent loves his board games.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: "Aldo Verus", (an Expy of Real Life's George Soros).
  • Covers Always Lie: The blurb on the back is so disconnected from the events of the book it's tempting to call it false advertisement. Plus, the cover art depicts what looks like a scorpion tank from Halo shelling the Capitol Building (a scene which never takes place in the book).
  • Downer Ending: Averell Torrent ends up elected as President of the United States by a resounding majority.
  • Divided States of America: Divided along political lines, not geographic ones.
    • Subverted. It looks like there's going to be a right-wing response to the Progressive Restoration - but the General who tries to recruit Cole was really with Aldo in the first place.
      • Orson Scott Card seems to have realized this himself and makes General Alton actually a Republican - only a pawn for Averell Torrent.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Around halfway through the novel Rube gets betrayed and shot right through the eye in a very sudden but effective scene.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Seems to be the conclusion at the end of Hidden Empire.
  • Fox News Liberal: Reuben's wife Cessily is the only good "liberal" in the book. She is a housewife who never expresses a single liberal opinion other than to remind the audience, every few chapters, of how liberal she is.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Progressive Restoration, wacky chaps that they are, go for a few of these.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The village headman performs one for Reubens. It haunts him for much of the book.
  • Ho Yay: A massive amount with its two protagonists. Ironic, given the author.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Averell Torrent.
  • The Mole: Dee Nee.
  • Mood Whiplash: This occurs when mecha start showing up in what was previously a Tom Clancy-esque political thriller.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: It's today... except with Spider Tanks, Humongous Mecha, Powered Armour, hovercraft, etc...
    • Also, there's no specific mention of who the President and other political figures are except by allusion. This keeps the book from being dated.
    • Literally, it's 2008, about two years after the book was published. This is clued in not only by clear call-outs to modern devices and cars but also to then-current Senators and specific calendar dates (the Friday 13th mentioned in the book fits with the calendar alignment).
  • Mini-Mecha - The walkers fielded are pretty much spheres with giant-ass legs, and are piloted via cockpit.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Reubens is asked to make a plan for assassinating the President to guard against it. You can guess how this goes.
    • Even better, he's guilty of funding the terrorists.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: "The President's" name is never actually spoken on camera, but he's either George W. Bush or his twin brother.
    • Though maybe not. He was mentioned as being "too liberal for many Conservatives." Does that sound like Bush to anyone? They mention many other names, like "Please don't tell me they want to bring back Al Gore," so I think if they meant him they would have used his name.
      • George W. Bush really is left of center for the 2004 Republican party. I'm not kidding. (And to many Republicans in 2011, he's a RINO ("Republican In Name Only")).
    • Hillary Clinton is all but called out by name, and Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is called out by name, but only enough to still invoke this trope (calling out not only his last name and his state but the fact that he was the oldest-serving Senator).
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: The Progressive Restoration manages to research, construct and train an army big enough to occupy New York, without anyone picking up on their shenanigans until the moment of their attack. It's hand waved as being funded by a phenomenally wealthy hardcore-liberal, not to mention several characters question where the Hell they got the manpower.
    • I'd say Averted. As crazy as the super-tech is, it's stated that the mecha and power armor exists only in small quantities.
  • Powered Armor: Soldiers of the "Progressive Restoration" are equipped with various types of these.
  • Qurac: The unnamed middle eastern country at the beginning of the novel where the US Military is not officially operating. Appears to be the Theme Park Version of Afghanistan but they speak Farsi.
  • Sexy Secretary: Dee Nee. She's also The Mole.
  • Spider Tank: The Progressive Restoration fields these as well.
  • Strawman News Media: Solidly a left-wing type III, except for Fox News of course.
  • Strawman Political: The point of the novel - the two extremes of the political spectrum decided to stop beating around the bush and just beat the snot out of each other.
    • The right-wing Strawman Political really isn't, however. And the real big bad? The moderate.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Reuben helps the bad guys set up their plans and prepare their new technology, leading him to need to Clear My Name once the fireworks start.
  • Word of God: There is an Afterword at the end of the novel where Scott Card speaks about the problems of extremism in the American political system. It's very apt, but is hamstrung by virtue of it following a book that didn't really come across as (read: wasn't at all) "moderate" or "centrist" in its politics.
    • A explanation by analogy, the George W. Bush analogue is considered an example of a liberal left-leaning Republican.

The second novel contains examples of: