Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Empire by Orson Scott Card

At a certain science fiction convention earlier this year, I had the pleasure of, in the midst of a fascinating discussion, muse on the question of who would be a good guest of honor at a Worldcon that had yet to receive the honor.

Amid suggestions of "How about Jack Vance? Is he well enough?" and "Norman Spinrad?" and "Would Arthur C. Clarke do it again? I'd love to meet him," I tossed out a name:

Orson Scott Card.

Eyes rolled. Pronounced sighs were released. Someone went to refill their drink.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. He's something of a wacko these days," I said. "But Ender's Game! ENDER'S GAME!"

Then it was related to me that many regulars have avoided conventions where he was guest of honor, such as Boskone 2005, and would refuse to attend worldcon. It can't be that bad, I fumed. This guy wrote the last SF book that can be considered a classic of the genre. The science fiction book that introduced an entire generation to SF -- a modern day Heinlein.

Then I read this. And so should you.

But please don't waste your money on his latest novel. I'm here to save you the time and money.

Empire is vile. It is barely veiled hate speech; an attack on liberal America that enables Card to fulfill his masturbatory fantasy of painting all liberals as ignorant and evil, and then kill them. But this isn't John Ringo writing this filth, this is Orson Scott Card, and people will read what he writes. This isn't an inconsequential Baen Books novel that nobody but a core audience will give a damn about, though it's about as realistically feasible as the majority of the shite that is published by Baen.

He writes about many things of which he is woefully ignorant in this novel, but his worst affront in my mind is his complete lack of understanding of anything that accompanies military service, combat, and chain of command. He's not embarrassed by his ignorance, in fact he seems to revel in stereotypes and straw men arguments. The hero of the story is a soldier; a good, stolid, and brilliant soldier -- because he believes in God. When it is inferred that the good soldier does not suffer from combat induced trauma because of his relationship with the almighty and his living the 'Christian Way,' I was admittedly infuriated.

Card seems to make a habit out of speaking on topics he knows nothing about -- homosexuality, combat induced PTSD, logical thought. Stuff like that.

Empire is infuriating, sure, but it's even more depressing that some innocent minds may be corrupted by this nonsense. Most of all, it's embarrassing to the genre.

Ender's Game or no, this was it for me and Scott Card. And it's really too bad.


Collector's Notes:

Overprinted by TOR, this will be on bargain bin shelves in a few months, like that last 20 books from Card. Even at the reduced price, I recommend you stay the hell away. I'm just going to pretend that Card stopped writing after Speaker For The Dead, and strictly speaking as a collector, so should you.

Comments on "Empire by Orson Scott Card"


Blogger Neth said ... (2:10 PM) : 

It sounds like this book is exactly what I think it is. I won't be getting this one.


Blogger Race said ... (2:32 PM) : 

So... Tell us what you really think. :)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:27 PM) : 

Always funny to watch the moonbat throught police swing into action.

I think I'll stay the hell away from this blog instead.


Blogger Patrick said ... (7:40 PM) : 

I've had the ARC for a while now, but no time to read it.

Let's just say that your review has not moved this novel closer to the top of my pile of books to read. Far from it...

I'm not even sure I want to give it a shot anymore, not with all those books I have awaiting my attention...

We'll see...


Blogger Fred Kiesche said ... (9:03 PM) : 

"This isn't an inconsequential Baen Books novel that nobody but a core audience will give a damn about..."

Hmmm...what about all those inconsequential Baen Books novels that have won Hugos (Bujold, for example)? Don't burn the whole publishing firm down due to one part of it. Heck, even Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross have been published by Baen at this point.


Blogger William Lexner said ... (9:29 PM) : 


Baen has published some absolutely wonderful stuff. The Bujold's in particular, though I adore Martin's Tuf Voyaging as well.

That said, the majority of their output -- Flint, Drake, Ringo and that ilk -- is preposterously awful.


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Blogger Alice said ... (8:27 AM) : 

Holy crap! Guess that removes any danger of me picking up one of his books. I don't care if they're good; anyone with that attitude does not deserve a penny of my money.


Blogger The Silver Fox said ... (11:20 AM) : 

I think you're underestimating Drake but hey, different strokes and all that.


Anonymous Xray the Enforcer said ... (3:27 PM) : 

I read the first chapter online, curious to see if it really was that bad. Oh. My. Eyeballs. It's terrifyingly bad.


Blogger OsRavan said ... (5:52 PM) : 

i agree with stego. that book made me gag.

we can add the history profession and history grad school to the list of things he knows nothing about but writes scathing attacks on


Anonymous Max the Mostly Mediocre said ... (4:57 AM) : 

I'm gonna second the 'underestimating drake' notion. Granted, he's written some crap, but I've not encountered better military fiction.

First time I read some of the Slammers stories, they hit me harder than the beach sequence of Saving Private Ryan


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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:22 AM) : 

I read that text of Card you linked(the hypocrites of homosexuality) and this can't be written by a sane person.But I have to ask you,mr.lexner:why do you criticise Card but revere Robert Heilein,who had some pretty fascist ideas of his own in his day?Only soldiers allowed to vote?Gimme a break!
It can't be just because of your military background


Blogger William Lexner said ... (8:52 AM) : 


You bring up an interesting point with regards to Heinlein, but you make a mistake thinking that anything is ever simple with regards to the Grandmaster. Don't worry, it's a common enough misconception.

Heinlein has been accused of any and every political proclivity known to man. He's a feminist and a misogynist, depneding upon whom you ask. What he was, in truth, was a great mind who explored many ideas in an unequaled library of fiction.

I do not believe that the idea that one ought to earn the right to decide the fate of ones nation is a ridiculous concept. In fact, I can not fathom how any feel this could possibly be some sort of unalienable right. We live in a society of priviledge, but some, believe it or not, have had to earn those priviledges that are taken for granted.

You say facist, I say reasoning and reasonable.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:34 AM) : 

Well,it's obvious that you have a huge admiration for Heilein.I just think that there are many ways to "earn the right to decide the fate of a nation" that don't involve a military career.Aren't doctors,lawyers or even a guy who works in a convenience store worthy of the right to vote?
Also,I would like to know your thoughts on Joe Haldeman.He seems to be the antethisis of Heilein since Forever War seems to have a strong anti-war sentiment while Heilein glorifies the military service,at least in Starship Troopers


Anonymous Simon said ... (12:12 PM) : 

Woohoo! I like it!

To be honest OSC lost me as a reader in his arsey forward to Ender's Game, which as a book had some good points, but many, many bad ones too! I have no respect for the man as a writer. Personally I couldn't care a less if he is a right-wing god bothering nutter too. In fact I actually like my authors a little on the flipside of reality. I makes things more interesting. However being a talentless moron kind of gets in the way of his appeal as a nutter!

Anyway, nice blog!




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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:03 PM) : 

Okay... I read the essay by OSC that you linked to, and I don't see how that is causing this level of outrage.

He gave his honest opinion about this issue and presented it in a reasoned manner, not attacking anyone or getting histrionic with any of his points. Every step of the way, he gave his background and the reasons why he believes the way he does.

I still don't understand why it is that anyone that exhibits the slightest expression of faith is branded a right-wing religious nutjob.

I have never read more than half an OSC book and don't necessarily agree with anything he says, but at least in the article linked to, he didn't come across as anything more than someone that has a clearly defined faith and a willingness to stand up for it.

In contrast, Lexler didn't clearly state HIS biases when launching into his very dark opinion of OSC. Granted, I haven't read all of his blog entries which may or may not spell out his belief system, but I came across this article and based on just this article, these are the assumptions I've made about Lexler:

1) He's gay and is offended that OSC's opinions seem to target him and his lifestyle.

and/or 2) He's an athiest, or Christian-hater. I'd even go so far to guess that he was raised a Catholic and has childishly chosen to reject any ideas he was raised with just out of spite. Or if he's not a Christian-hater, he's someone that strikes out against anyone or any group that has a contrary opinion about any aspect of the lifestyle he's chosen to lead.

You talk about "hate speech" when you're doing the exact same thing with your anti-Christian hate speech.

Out of all of this, I'm just saying that it's easy to attack someone and call it hate speech, but unless you give a rational presentation of your own points, you come off looking worse than the person you're attacking.

Between what you wrote and what OSC wrote, I see only one person speaking ignorantly. (hint: it's not OSC)


Anonymous Mike V. said ... (4:54 PM) : 

Anonymous Coward,

I don't see anything anti-Christian in the post. I see plenty of anti-OSC rhetoric, but it seems to me that if Mr. Lexner has any sort of axe to grind, it's strongly sympathetic to PTSD sufferers, with sizeable pro-military bent (which, considering that Mr. Lexner used to be Sgt. Lexner, is unsurprising).

The only Christianity-related comments I see are those that imply that being Christian is no infallible shield against a traumatic and pernicious psychological disorder, which isn't "anti-Christian hate speech" so much as a statement of fact.

Finally, a hateful opinion, however reasoned or non-histrionic the presentation might be, is still a hateful opinion.


Anonymous Mike V. said ... (5:03 PM) : 

Also, it occurs that OSC is a Mormon, and so Mr. Lexner's criticism of him would more properly be considered anti-Mormon, not anti-Christian. Yes, I know the Mormons call themselves Christian, but no matter how much my grandmother may call herself my grandfather, she still won't grow a pair.

More on the topic here.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:29 PM) : 

The point I was making remains. After reading OSC's essay, I see nothing resembling "hate speech" in it. He presents a valid stance against homosexuality in the church (that it's the Mormon church is irrelevant). At no point in his article does he advocate anything hateful or violent or anything else. It was a strongly held opinion strongly delivered.

As for Lexner's anti-Christian bias, it's obvious in his writing that he has contempt for Christianity (or perhaps any organized religion). Am I wrong? He was infuriated by the "Christian Way" being portrayed in a positive light. I doubt he gets his panties in a bind when someone following the "Military Way" is portrayed in a positive light.

I have no problem with someone having a negative opinion of Christianity. There are wide swaths of it that make me cringe. But when someone uses the same kind of biased, ignorant rhetoric to denounce something as being biased and ignorant, it just strikes me as completely hypocritical.

In all other cases, Mr. Lexner is a well-spoken writer. I'd love to read a more reasoned, detailed explanation of what he believes and why.

As it is, this review came off as "I hate this book because it makes Christians out to be heroes."


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:28 AM) : 

Mike V,it seems the only thing you do in this blog is to call anonymous cowards to anybody who disagrees with lexner!Remember you did the same thing to me in the previous thread?

I'm not the anonymous from the previous post(I was the one who asked Lexner's opinion about Heilein) but it seems to me that you should read what the person's writing before insulting them.

Although I don't agree with what the previous anonymous said(I think OSC is a classic homophobic that resorts to quoting scripture to make his point), he made his point without resorting to petty name-calling.He acused Lexner of being anti-christian,yes,but he explained his motives and lexner should be the one answering!


Blogger William Lexner said ... (9:42 AM) : 

Lexner doesn't care to answer anonymous posts, to be perfectly honest. But I won't leave Mike out to dry on this.

If one does not read Card's diatribe on homosexuality as hate speech, then one most likely shares his hateful beliefs. To me, it's akin to 'not having a problem' with Mein Kampf or 1940's etiquette guides for women in the work place.

I do not have a problem with people having a religion. I do not have a problem with people worshipping as they wish. Where I do have a problem with deists is when they use their mythology to pass judgement on those other than themselves. I have a problem when they vote based upon their mythology.

I do not brand Card a right wing religious nut job. I call him a bigoted, self-fellating, cultist nutjob.

Yes, I am gay, and yes I am a Christian hater. Ask my Christian wife about it.

I'm not anti-Christian -- never have been. I'm anti-ignorance.

That the two have so much in common is no fault of mine.


Anonymous Mike V. said ... (4:32 PM) : 

Let's be fair, Anonymous Coward I. Calling you a coward isn't all that I do. I think that I addressed Anonymous Coward II's points in a fairly cogent manner.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:53 PM) : 

"fairly cogent manner"?Dude,you start your post calling me a coward just because I choose not to tell you my name.My name is Peter.So?I'm still anonymous to you.I don't think that makes a difference.

As for what the other anonymous said,like I said before, I don't agree with him.OSC's text is a piece of homophobic crap and nothing can excuse him.Even worse is the fact that he forces his views down his readers' throats in a very Goodkind-like way.But anonymous expressed his opinion clearly without insulting anybody.

Very nice of you of not "leaving Mike to dry",mr lexner.Apparently anyone can act like a dickhead in your blog just as long as he's your friend.


Blogger William Lexner said ... (7:37 PM) : 

Wait a sec......that's patently untrue. I'm letting you act like a dickhead, and you're certainly not my friend.


Anonymous Mike V. said ... (1:40 AM) : 

Well, it makes a difference to me inasmuch I can now call you Peter instead of Anonymous Coward. See? I'm not asking for your social security number or a photocopy of your passport. It's just basic courtesy to give someone a name when you communicate with them.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:00 PM) : 

a.k.a Peter
C'mon Mr Lexner!Don't be like that.I'm a huge fan of your blog.Plus,I totally agree with what you said about OSC.How am I being a dickhead?

All I said was that the other anonymous' opinions should be acknowledged.


Blogger William Lexner said ... (8:29 PM) : 

Look, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but it's very hard to take anyone seriously without something to identify them with. I don't know why this is hard to understand.


Blogger A.R.Yngve said ... (8:32 AM) : 

Now, everyone knows that ENDER'S GAME is the novel that cemented Card's success, career and status in the field.

I read that book as a teenager. Sure, it was exciting reading -- was the kid protagonist going to make it to the end, against seemingly impossible odds? And as the book dealt with games, and I was a computer-game geek, it had instant nerd appeal.

But after reading it, ENDER'S GAME left an uncomfortable feeling in my mind, and I didn't want to read it again... I couldn't put my finger on it then, but something didn't feel "right" about ENDER'S GAME.

Much later, it dawned on me what was wrong with the book's subtext and message, and wrote an essay/polemic about it...


Blogger omninaïf said ... (6:26 PM) : 

"If one does not read Card's diatribe on homosexuality as hate speech, then one most likely shares his hateful beliefs"

Thats just fucked up. To even hear somebody say that. You know how many people that I haven't read? And you catalog me with them?

Messed up...


Blogger omninaïf said ... (6:26 PM) : 

"If one does not read Card's diatribe on homosexuality as hate speech, then one most likely shares his hateful beliefs"

Thats just fucked up. To even hear somebody say that. You know how many people that I haven't read? And you catalog me with them?

Messed up...


Blogger omninaïf said ... (6:26 PM) : 

"If one does not read Card's diatribe on homosexuality as hate speech, then one most likely shares his hateful beliefs"

Thats just fucked up. To even hear somebody say that. You know how many people that I haven't read? And you catalog me with them?

Messed up...


Blogger William Lexner said ... (6:38 PM) : 

I think you misunderstand the sentence. Please read it again.


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Blogger TheBrummell said ... (10:05 PM) : 

Thanks for making all the way through what was obviously a painful experience in order to write your review.

While I think that Mr. Card's opinions on matters outside his literature are probably irrelavent, those opinions inevitably come through in subsequent books he writes. After seeing his stupid little "intelligent design" essay a while back, I decided I'd probably avoid anything he wrote after about 2002, since I don't care to have a good story ruined by a ridiculous subtext.

I'm often tempted by the bargain-bins at the bookstores, especially when there are big names on sale for cheap. I'll avoid this one; thanks for saving me a few bucks.

Also, I really like most of David Drake's stuff, too.


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Blogger Adam said ... (3:15 PM) : 

I've read almost everything Card has written and Empire is probably his weakest work. The writing is sloppy the arguments are strawmen and the story and science are lazy to the point of neglect.

It's also Card's first real Mary Sue novel. Only Card took the Mary Sue to the next level. He has Malich, Malich's wife, Malich's new deputy (who later becomes the hero), the new president, and the eventual future president/emperor all spout exactly the same rhetoric, they all speak with the same voice have the same though process and are bent on pretty much the same goals--which are what Card has espoused consistently, every week for six years in his Reviews Everything Column and War Watch (now World Watch) Column. In other words, every point of view character in the novel is actually the same Mary Sue POV.

I would argue that Malich doesn't have PTSD because Card takes a Patton view on PTSD and presumes that he wouldn't be bothered with such 'weak-minded silliness'. Card has also stated innumerable times in print as himself that he would have absolutely no trouble killing anyone in war or who posed a threat to his family, and he's had innumerable characters espouse the same philosophy. He completely believes he's capable of killing with an absolutely clean conscious and his mary sue characters in this book take the same philosophy.

His last good book was probably Enchantment, though Crystal City was pretty decent, the more I learn about American history and native american culture pre Columbus (and during early settlement and occupation of Native lands) the more subtly offensive I find the portrayals of the Indians.

I didn't even buy Empire, the first HB Scott has released in probably 10 years I didn't bother with, I checked it out from the library.

Empire reminded me of the Da Vinci Code, well written in the sense that it's compulsive page turner (and you want to finish it ASAP to put yourself out of your misery) but appaling and abominable in every other sense.

In the time sense Card has been writing his weekly columns/protoblogs, his writing has gotten more and more pathetic, he relentlessly relies on strawmen argument for any topic on modern culture, history, politics, domestic or foreign policy and he does it in the most exploitative authoritative voice that he accuses his mortal enemies--the college professors of literature and writing--of committing in lockstep in order to pollute and fog the minds of the innocent undergrads under their absolute control. I grew up listening to James Dobson on Christian radio (parents choice), so I know exactly what I'm hearing from Card, and I know what I never heard from any of my professors in my college experience.

Perhaps Card was subjected to intense prejudice in his post graduate career at Notre Dame in English Literature, since he was already a well decorated short story scifi novelist at that time. and maybe the (supposed) persecution, rather than the recession, was enough to drive him to go work for a video game company (and eventually novelize Ender's Game), in North Carolina, but ever since then there's been a vicious undercurrent in everyone of his work against 'intellectuals'. His short fiction before then doesn't have the same constant thread.

Card used to write interesting science fiction because he wasn't always about save the world scifi, he could create interesting mileaus and base the SF conceits of the story on character, familial/cultural, and ethical decisions--the best kinds of scifi in my opinion. But his writing has gotten increasingly juvenile since he began the Ender's Shadow series and abandoned his more interesting works (Pastwatch, Mayflower, Alvin) to write endless, repetitive sequels with very little of interest to say and little to no merit as literature.


Blogger Dustin said ... (2:50 AM) : 

Here's a question. OSC tauts this garbage as a cautionary tale about divisive politics, and its possible outcome. Well and good, I suppose. I agree that divisive rhetoric poses obvious problems to reasoned discourse etc. I also agree that Mechwarrior-themed civil war may possibly result, though the probability is pretty low. Far below the Americans maintain political quiescence, domestic apathy ensues possibility.

My question is how Card feels he's addressing that issue, painting pithy, vapid stereotypes of American progressives circa 1990s, pitted against the religiously sanctified "true" Americans. Isn't that pretty inflammatory? Aren't we being a tad flippant, Card?

So much for the call to moderation.


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