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3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  321 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Arslan is a young Asian general who conquers the world in a week without firing a shot and shortly thereafter sets up his headquarters in a small town in Illinois.

A masterpiece of political science fiction and a book to challenge such works as Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossessed, Arslan is a book that others are now measured against. "It's about fathers and sons, about pow
Mass Market, 352 pages
Published October 15th 1988 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 1976)
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Jul 19, 2007 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: existentialist tyrants . . .
What can I say? It opens with the brutal rape of two children, and ends with the probable extinction of the human race, and somewhere along the way you forget to hate the man responsible for these and many other crimes. At once a skillful riff on Marlowe's Tamerlane and a meditation on human cruelty and grace, Mary Jane Engh reminds us that those two attributes can be contained in the same human. A dark, ugly, beautiful book.
S.A. Bolich
This is possibly one of the most brilliant and odd books I've ever read. Engh does a superb job of dropping the reader into a very strange and inconceivable situation, with zero infodumping yet with total clarity. The creepiness of what is happening is clearly captured along with the helplessness of the populace to prevent it. It does take a rather long time to clarify exactly how everyone got here, however, and that was a niggling thought for quite awhile as I was reading. This, in fact, is the ...more
I read Arslan the first time when I was reasonably young. I was shocked and disturbed and enthralled. The implausible back story aside, the book is about the strange charisma of a brutal and fanatic tyrant and his effect on a small American town.

I found the book less effective this time through. The beginning was just as powerful, even knowing what was coming. But the latter half of the novel was weaker than I remembered. The story is told (in two alternations) from the viewpoints of Franklin Bo
Sweet Mary Mother of God - It's been over twenty years since I read this!

But I was reminded of it last night after reading this review. And, yes, the rapes from the first chapter are still a vivid image in my mind.

It's an extraordinary book but not one I could comfortably recommend.
Didn't particularly like it, but it stuck in my head for days after I read it. So kudos to the author for being able to do that.
Mea Artist
"Arslan" one of my top 10 favorite books of all time, is a taut, extremely polished novel by an author with a very short list of published works. I have tried a couple of other books by M.J. Engh, but, (with the exception of an excellent but very hard-to-find story by the name of "The Oracle"), have found her other works unremarkable and at times unreadable. Which makes "Arslan" a bit of an enigma, in my eyes. It's written in the first person and narrated by 2 of the main protagonists, skipping ...more
...I guess whether or not you will like this novel depends on how well you think the author succeeds in making a very unlikely plot sound plausible. For me this pretty much failed on all fronts. I appreciate the efforts of the author to make the reader go back and froth between seeing Arslan as Lucifer himself and a caring man for those around him but in the end his character feels forced. Too extreme in many areas to be believable. The same goes for Hunt really. Franklin is more realistic. Peop ...more
Bizarre premise, dares you to take it seriously. The two narrators are as distinct as I've ever found within a single book, making for some jarring shifts in perspective and understanding. An abusive experience, but you'll develop a kind of Stockholm Syndrome by the final pages.
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The titular Arslan is a God Emporer of Dune type figure, intent on teaching humanity a lesson of such enduring depth that it becomes an ingrained part of what it means to be human. The lesson itself is one of subjugation, of learning where to fit within the Earth's system rather than riding atop it. The teacher, however, is such a brutal figure you wonder whether the intended outcome is undone by its implementation.

The split narratives are a bit irritating. While the book as a whole lacks any s
Interesting, liked the idea and premise, Arslan was complete and three dimensional, a brilliantly described character of both good and evil. It was realistic because men are both cowardly, brave, degenerate and full of compassion but all told I found it hard to suspend my disbelief. Arslan is a rapist and paedophile, primarily for sport and recreation, there is no moral come back for the character's actions, to be 'forgiven/tolerated' is very hard to swallow. As for the capitulation of the world ...more
Kate Sherrod
Man, am I starting off the new year with a brain-bang! I came across M.J. Engh's Arslan via a Google Plus discussion of New Scientist's curated list of "Brilliant SF Books that Got Away".* Arslan was not one of them, but my friend and fellow Wyoming sci-fi aficionado Walter Hawn** suggested that it should have been, and he's yet to steer me wrong, has Walter.

And, well, he still hasn't!

Caveat lector, though: this book should maybe come with a trigger warning, because the first public act of the t
MJ Engh did it once, I believe she can do it again, but where is another book like Arslan?

Arslan reads as much like mainstream literature as speculative fiction, nevertheless, it is a post-apocalyptic novel, albeit a unique one. There are no atomic bombs, no meteors, no aliens from another galaxy, just...Arslan. Everlasting, eternally Arslan, ultimate antihero from the middle east.
Very timely, considering it was written at a time when we weren't in constant conflict with that part of the world.

This is a remarkable, unsettling, memorable novel. Arslan, the title character, is a young general from the ‘independent’ country of Turkistan. Arslan has an ambition: he wants to rule the world. As the book opens, he has just achieved his ambition, and has decided to set up his H.Q. in the small town of Kraftsville, Illinois.[return][return]It’s a measure of M.J. Engh’s skill that she can take this improbable premise and make it credible. Arslan is a remarkable character - brutal and charming b ...more
I do not understand why people like this book. It is a very shallow and simple work. The characters are not extensively developed (Hunt to some extent, Bond not at all) and the plot is incredibly boring and involves a total and uncompromising willingness to abandon reality by the part of the reader. The 'alternative fiction' is so unbelievable that I am mystified as to why it is set in the modern real world. Overall simply a waste of time
This book was an intelligent answer to the question "What would happen if a dictator conquered the world and set up headquarters in Illinois?"
At first I thought "this is completely unbelievable," but by page two I didn't care. The characters dragged me in, I devoured it in a day. The narrator is a deeply moral man, even when he recounts atrocities he makes the story moral as well. I still have to give a content warning for this book because of rape.
This is a story of moving on, making do, and
I don't know how to rate this book. Feels shallow.

It's awful, disgusting, but compelling and engaging and horrific and pointed. I was up all night reading it but feeling guilty for being so obsessed.

Probably the best exploration of the fear of the other and how it becomes you or is you. Told from christian middle class white American perspective so it starts at least, racist and homophobic and sexist as fuck.

The Cold War being over as I was born probably doesn't help my understanding of this n
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]More of a political fantasy than an sf novel this. Set in 1976 (when it was written). Central Asian dictator through sheer force of personality takes over the world, setting up his capital in a small town in Illinois. He then sets out to bring about the end of the world as we know it, and finishes off by cultivating his garden. His rather nasty sexual tastes were probably more acceptable fare for a novel in the 1970s than they would be now. S ...more
Philip Chaston
What could be a nasty book turns out to be a powerful political allegory.
Edward Davies
This is an impressive work that is even more relevent today than it was when it was originally published. The book almost expertly shows both sides of the story, and it's very rare that we are forced to take sides at any time. This Dystopian (or Utopian - depending on your point of view) novel is forceful and passionate and makes for interesting and uncomfortable reading.
Quite extraordinary. Rich, poetic, disturbing. I was gripped instantly and throughout.
One of the best political novels of all time.
The first half is OK, but incredibly racist (of course someone from Kazakhstan would rape some kids what else would they do?)(first chapter - not really a spoiler), - I would be interested to see the response if the character was a US general who committed these crimes. i doubt it would have the praise it seems to get.

But when it switches narrator it just didn't work. The author tries to hard to have two distinct voices and what you have is

person 1 - doesn't really use adjectives
person 2 - uses
I read one chapter of this book, threw it across the room, and went online to read as many reviews of it as I could find. I am thoroughly mystified. Apparently everyone agrees that this book is brilliant, but no one can explain why. All of the reviews went like this: "This book is horribly racist and sexist. It uses violence to shock the reader. It's brilliant!"

Can someone explain this to me?
I suppose that if you liked the Lord of the Flies, you'd like this book. I don't know, I found both books unnatural in a similar kind of way. In both cases, I couldn't understand how anybody could think or behave like the characters; I couldn't find any human experience to relate to. In Arslan, I especially couldn't relate to Hunt at all, who is the narrator for a good part of the book.
Read it some time ago. One of the most powerful, subtle pieces of believable sci-fi novels ever, it somehow blends a sense of bigness and world-altering events with the most poignant of human interactions. Hunt Morgan is especially compelling, and the writing in his pieces of the novel is elegant without being pretentious; effortless poetry.
An interesting book which starts with 2 brutal acts of violence and gets crazy medieval (literally) from there. The main protagonist is a cross between the Unibomber and Ghengis Khan and his assault upon America (with some crazy science added into the mix at the end) keeps the story going. Odd, but I thought it was worth the effort.
Unsettling, at times strange and confusing. Not quite as "science fiction" as often billed, and -- to my surprise -- not as existentially terrifying at the end as it was in the beginning. Engh's skill in crafting these characters and their dynamics is not to be overlooked, plausibility of the setting notwithstanding.
Rather old-fashioned (even when new!) rendition of Farnham’s Freehold themes, without the time-travel special effects. A disappointment. The widely heralded gay content is nothing like the consensual relationships that are the ideal of modern American gay culture.
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M. J. Engh is a science fiction author and independent Roman scholar. In 2009, Engh was named Author emerita by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She is best known for her 1976 novel Arslan, about an invasion of the United States.
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