The Game of Empire

by Poul Anderson
Series: Dominic Flandry
Reviewed date: 2007 Sep 5
Rating: 3
278 pages
cover art

Yet another Flandry book. What to say? The plot is nothing new: the Terran Empire is in decline, the Roidhunate of Merseia is waxing. An ambitious Terran general decides he can best serve humanity by declaring himself Emperor and reinvigorating the Empire. General Olaf Magnusson is a popular war hero, and followers flock to him.

Dominic Flandry plays only a bit piece in The Game of Empire. The real hero is his daughter Diana, who teams up with a Tigery (Targovi) and a Wodenite (Axor) to investigate unsettling reports about Magnusson's supporters.

The big secret is hardly a secret. Anderson telegraphs it from the first chapter. Magnusson is in league with the Merseians. They trained him, arranged for his military victories to vault him to hero status, and are supplying him with war materiel for his coup attempt. Magnusson is so completely under the Merseian thumb that if he becomes Emperor, the Empire will be little better than a Merseian vassal.

It's not a bad novel, but it's uneven. Anderson ruins the fun by making the secret so easy to guess. Then, after he spends most of the book leading up to the final revelation, he stints on the denouement. Everything is wrapped up in three short perfunctory chapters. It's a feeble ending to an otherwise respectable story.

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