Book Review: The Four Kings by @ScottSpotson

The Four Kings by Scott Spotson – 4 stars

Today’s world – skyscrapers, Internet cafes, and all – is in great turmoil. Economic doldrums have seized the entire world in the last several years, and powerful nations such as Pakistan and India are just about to unleash nuclear might upon each other. These troubled times have been labeled The Great Blight.

In response to the perceived failure of humanity to get its act together, powerful wizards have taken over the planet. In North America, four arrogant young wizards have set up a zone of governance for that continent. They unleash a harsh regime of “bread and circuses,” vowing to drag Earth forward “kicking and screaming” in order to advance progress by “a hundred years,” while at the same time thrilling the populace with their wizard games – the ultimate reality TV. Their appointed liaison to the humans, Amanda Fullerton, must soon decide which side of history she must support – or suffer the consequences. Compounding her woes is the fact that she has fallen in love with one of the wizards.

The Four Kings reminded me in a very general way of Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia Emerging. It has a similar sort of cultural upheaval story, though one pursued along different lines. It also follows the life of a young woman who finds herself as the focal point of the change. In this case, all of the change is abrupt, wrenched into existence by magic.

Amanda is a basically likable character through whose eyes we see the wizards and the world. There were points when I wished I knew more about what she was thinking or feeling, but not many. She’s not an exceptionally fascinating person, just an average representative of intelligent and young humanity. I was reminded of people I knew in college *mumble* years ago when reading her, which is, I assure you, a compliment on the author’s effort.

It’s interesting that the author didn’t use any actual historical events in the distant past when discussing the history of wizards. Although delving into such topics might have derailed the story, a linking of some relatively well known and plot relevant event could have helped cement the believability of the whole notion of magic in the world.

The most interesting part of this book was the way it examined applied Randian philosophy. In the beginning, there’s a sense that Ayn Rand should be considered brilliant. As it progresses, the story follows the path unflinchingly to the logical conclusions of the wizards’ actions. Do not fear this book if you despise Rand, because her ideas are not glorified within it, but rather examined and considered in a reasonable manner.

Some – but not all – of the wizards’ games seemed entirely irrelevant to me, other than to have an action sequence. Amanda’s ability to deal with her obstacles in the endgame wasn’t explained or capitalized on, which confused me greatly. The love story was also a little disjointed.

It’s a fairly quick read as novels go. Overall, I enjoyed it. At several points, I found myself needing to put it down and thinking ‘just one more chapter…’, which then became two more chapters, and then three…

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