Clifford Simak in his later work was well known for his brooding, introspective tales which often dealt with subjects such as “what does it mean to be human.” These works are beautifully written and draw heavily on his rural Midwestern roots.
Empire is an earlier work, more in keeping with his days as a regular contributor to Astounding Stories under the editorship of John W. Campbell. Here the themes are about power and greed, and the struggles of a small group of men against tyranny set against the backdrop of the entire universe.
As the novel was written a few years after the end of World War II and during the period when the Soviet Union was completing its takeover of Eastern Europe, these issues were not irrelevant. That so much misery could be brought to so many by the seeming whims of a few individuals was something that was fresh on everyone’s mind, and much of the science fiction of the time dealt with these topics.
Campbell’s influence can clearly be seen. The outline of the story is not dissimilar to some of his own works. However, though Simak had not yet come into the distinctive voice that would mark his later works, the writing is more nuanced than Campbell’s. He had been a newspaperman for a quarter of a century and an author of science fiction for nearly twenty years, and those experiences show in the quality of the work. There is more to this novel than just good guys and bad guys chasing each other around the solar system.
I’ve been a fan of Clifford Simak for a long time. Perhaps, that’s because he was, like me, a product of the upper Midwest, but I think it is also because he was a good writer. Unfortunately, his works have become harder to find lately. Empire, while it may lack the depth of some of his later works is still a good read, and Resurrected Press is pleased to offer it for your enjoyment.
Hellhounds of the Cosmos is an early story (1932) from his days writing for Astounding. While it is very much a story of its time, it is of interest in tracing Simak’s development as a writer.