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3.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  444 Ratings  ·  55 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
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 6th 2001 by Orb Books (first published 1976)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,316)
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Steve Cooper
Feb 21, 2016 Steve Cooper rated it really liked it
The first thing you usually hear about this book is that it attempts to make a rapist of children likable. Then you learn that this monster is a 20-something general from Turkmenistan who manages (implausibly) to militarily conquer the US, and indeed, most of the world. Much of the potential audience has been lost by this point, and more's the pity. Even though the novel's setup may feel contrived, the main characters are realistically and feelingly portrayed. And throughout there's an explorati ...more
Jul 23, 2016 Scott rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
The big reputation of this book drew me to it, and after forcing myself through a few chapters my disappointment was weapons-grade. Basically, a murderous young warlord from central Asia takes over the US in a war that is as well described as it is plausible- which is not at all. Still, I can handle a flimsy premise if the story teetering on it is strong, interesting and believable, but Arslan is none of these. The titular warlord rapes kids, ships everyone's daughters off into sexual bondage, e ...more
S.A. Bolich
Jul 29, 2014 S.A. Bolich rated it really liked it
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
Jul 19, 2007 Dan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: existentialist tyrants . . .
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 27, 2015 Metaphorosis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2013-rev
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
Feb 12, 2011 Terence rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
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.
Feb 27, 2015 Erik rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Preposterous idea but gripping writing at times. I wanted to like it, but in the end I simply couldn't suspend my disbelief for either plot or character. A new Tamerlaine gains world domination through a ridiculous nuclear bluff and invades the USA to set up headquarters in Kraftsville, IL. The docile Illinoisans (along with the rest of the world) then come to respect and even love their captor who has raped women and children and committed mass genocide? Wh-at?

The only things I appreciated were
To start with let me just say that, if you don't like spoilers, skip the introduction by Adam Roberts who proceeds to talk about the major plot points of the story as if you're already familiar with them (or have no intention of reading it).

That said, by the time I got to the end, the plot doesn't seem to matter any more as it surely isn't the focus of the author's intention. The focus is Arslan himself.

Arslan is a Middle-eastern despot who somehow utilises tensions in the cold war and one side
Mea Artist
Apr 05, 2013 Mea Artist rated it it was amazing
"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
David Lawrence
Feb 24, 2016 David Lawrence rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I bought a book which rated almost all the science fiction books that have been printed. This one was one of the highest rated, so I bought it. I simply don't understand why anyone would rate this as a science fiction book with a rating any higher than one. It's not rubbish, but it is full of unbelievable, characters with whom I could not empathise. The science fiction element is superficial and it is mostly the musings of the "hero" who has a very strange moral compass. I think part of this may ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Peter rated it liked it
Somehow, a dictator from a small middle eastern country has taken over the world. And, while traveling through America, he decides to make a small town in Illinois his base of operations. There, he makes his first introduction with shocking, abhorrent acts, but over the course of the years and decades, many sides of Arslan are seen.

This is a strange book, and difficult to review. On the whole, it's not especially believable... but there are parts that ring incredibly true, and the majority of th
Dec 21, 2014 Richp rated it did not like it
This book is about human behavior at its very worst, and not just by the villains.

It is set in a universe much like ours, although the land of origin of the protagonist involves some reorganization of the central Asian republics of the former USSR, and the leaders of USSR are portrayed as total wimps, and I found Arslan's ascent to power quite implausible.

I can understand why some find this a powerful novel, but unlike pure horror fantasy, it does not present itself as fantasy. It could have use
Emre Arslan
Jun 12, 2015 Emre Arslan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is tumblr level slash fiction. Utter garbage.
May 24, 2015 Kevin rated it liked it
Wow, what to say about this one?

This was a well-written but very disturbing book. A few other reviewers point out that the back story of how Arslan comes to take over the world is implausible, and it is. But it also isn't the point.

It's more of a character study of three men: the titular sociopath who succeeds in conquering the human race, a one time school teacher who is simultaneously his most competent opponent and his enabler, and here is the part that makes the book hard to read, a young b
Jan 30, 2011 Derek rated it liked it
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.
Aug 25, 2014 Joshua rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 03, 2014 Dana rated it liked it
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
Jun 06, 2013 Ian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed for SF Mistressworks:
Aug 24, 2015 Jay rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Dated and very overrated

Worth reading only for a fictionalized demonstration of historic methods of pacifying conquered populations, and completely counterfactual in light of the outcome of the Cold War, which, in fairness to the author, lay a decade-and-a-half in the future.

In short, a great concept, which doesn't hold up beyond the teaser text printed on the back cover. Go read the short story version of Ender's Game instead.
Jul 08, 2014 Geoffflockhart rated it it was ok
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
Jan 03, 2013 Kate Sherrod rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 08, 2011 Mea rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2014 Francisco rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Jul 03, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
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
Aug 15, 2013 Wolverina rated it really liked it
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
Dec 25, 2015 Mohsin rated it liked it
Deeply disturbing and gripping, Arslan is one of those novels that manages to cross genre boundaries with fluidity. It's not quite dystopian, nor is it "science-fiction"; rather, it's more Orwellian than anything else with characters who although sometimes implausible, are well sketched out.
Philip Chaston
May 27, 2014 Philip Chaston rated it really liked it
What could be a nasty book turns out to be a powerful political allegory.
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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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