Saturday, July 7, 2018

"Empire of Silence"

Christopher Ruocchio is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision-making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Ruocchio has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book —Empire of Silence— at twenty-two.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Empire of Silence and reported the following:
From page 69:
"...Order. Without that, civilization on a galactic scale is impossible. It breaks down.”

“The Eudorans get on just fine!” I objected, thinking of the nomad caravaners with their net of asteroid stations spread throughout human space. “And the Freeholders.”

“Please,” Lord Alistair sneered. “Those inbreds can’t hold a single planet together, much less a thousand.” And with an impatient hand wave he dismissed billions of human lives from our conversation as one shoos away a fly. “Do you know that some of those Freeholder worlds have countries? Nation-​­states like those from before the Exodus? Some of those little colonies can’t even build starships! They fight themselves as much as they fight anyone else.”

I shrugged. “And we don’t?”

“The rules of poine have their admirers in the Imperium, I’ll grant. But the Chantry regulates our actions, minimizes collateral damage.”

“They threaten dissident lords with biological weapons, you mean. What has any of this to do with circuses?”

The Archon of Meidua thrust his chin out. “We ­aren’t like those other nations, son. There’s no congress, no body politic here. When I make a decree, I make it. Personally. No proxies, no fallbacks. The old systems of democracy and parliament only allowed the cowards to hide. Our power depends not on the consent of the people but on their belief in us.”

“I know all this,” I said, shifting forward to the edge of my seat. My nostrils flared. I had not forgiven the man for abandoning me to my injuries. He was my father, in Earth’s name. My father. And I was being lectured because I had been brutalized. Still, he was right. I was not just a boy. I was his son, and there was a responsibility on me to carry the weight of my house. There was power in that responsibility and an accountability, too. It is for this reason that a lord was better than parliament. A lord had no excuse. If he abused his power, as I feared Crispin might, he would not rule for long. If he was cold in the application of his power, as I knew my father was, he would not rule easily.

“No, you don’t,” the lord snapped, smoothing a curling lock of hair back behind one ear. “We have to engage with the churls. We have to show that we are people, boy, not some abstract political concept. That is what they understand. That is why I sent you and Crispin to the Colosso while I treated with Elmira. I am patriarch to the people of Meidua, and you both were sent to represent me and our house. Personally. Crispin played his role admirably; the people love him now because they see him as part of their world. He fought in their Colosso, while you ... ​you turned your back.”
You’re trying to get me in trouble with this passage! Here Hadrian’s father is outlining a bit of his philosophy of governance, which is decidedly Machiavellian, if not completely untrue. Hadrian starts this novel out in quite a position of authority, which many people will be quick to point out is a kind of privilege. What those same people are very often blind to is the degree to which that same authority brings with it a degree of scrutiny and responsibility. Contrary to popular wisdom, tyrants almost always die horribly because the people simply won’t consent to be governed by such people. (I think the assassination rate among European monarchs was something like 16%, making it one of the most lethal occupations in history). It’s even true among chimpanzees, our closest relatives, where it turns out the troop leaders who are kind but firm rule better, more stably, and over periods of increased prosperity (which would imply a kind of objective morality and ethic of leadership, but that’s a big conversation). Hadrian’s father is a tyrant, and as we’ll see: his negative example points Hadrian towards the proper path.

I don’t actually think this page is very representative of Empire of Silence as a whole. While Hadrian certainly has very complex feelings about the Sollan Empire and his place in it (and about everything, really), he doesn’t discuss political theory very much. Nevertheless, it’s a very important scene and one which informs Hadrian’s character in ways I don’t think even he could readily admit.
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My Book, The Movie: Empire of Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue