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3.36  ·  Rating details ·  606 ratings  ·  71 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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3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  606 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Oct 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
It took me ages to track a copy of Arslan down, having seen the book described in various places as an Important Science Fiction Novel.

After forcing myself through a few chapters my disappointment was weapons-grade. I read a lot of older SF, and with a few exceptions can generally see why a book was popular in it's era, even if it no longer really holds up against modern works. M.J Engh's Arslan is one of those few exceptions.

Basically, a murderous young warlord from central Asia (the titular Ar
Rachel (Kalanadi)
I wish I could give this one star, because reading it upset me and even made me feel physically ill. But it is actually well written; the author is a competent writer and storyteller. I simply hated the content, which is packed with rape, especially the rape of children, and features a young man growing up to love his rapist. The protagonist's (Arslan's) motto is "first the rape, then the seduction", which adequately describes the arc of the story too. This book is summed up as "a small American ...more
S.A. Bolich
Sep 16, 2011 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
Steve Cooper
Feb 05, 2016 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 explo ...more
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: existentialist tyrants . . .
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-rev, reviewed
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
3.75/5 Stars

Humanity was a plague. Locustlike, we ripped holes in the world’s fabric.

About : Wow. What to say about this book. Well, it’s all about Arslan, a young Asian general from the European-created state of Turkistan, who takes over the world’s military powers without firing a single shot. His methods and reasons remain a mystery from most of the world, but he gradually reveals his vision to two men in small town Illinois, where the modern conqueror makes his capital.

Arslan was just repub
Dec 06, 2008 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.
Emre Arslan
Jun 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is tumblr level slash fiction. Utter garbage.
David Lawrence
Feb 24, 2016 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
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
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, lgbt, alt-history
This is a hard book to rate and review for me because I honestly couldn't tell you if I liked it or not.

From a technical standpoint, it's very well written - probably some of the best sci-fi I've ever read. However, from a plot standpoint, you need to take your brain out and not think about it too hard because otherwise you'll drive yourself mad.

As for the characters... I don't know. I don't think the author did a good enough job in making me understand why (view spoiler)
...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
Mea Artist
Apr 05, 2013 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
Jake Collingwood
Nov 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
I generally try not to give up on books. Generally, even if a book is not to my liking, I can at least see how it might appeal to other people. I threw in the towel at just shy of two thirds of the way through Arslan.

Arslan is the story of the titular warlord after he conquers the Earth. As far as I can tell, he accomplishes this through magic, because Engh's adolescent-at-best portrayal of global politics and military matters certainly doesn't explain it. We see Arlsan first through the lens of
Feb 15, 2015 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
Dec 21, 2014 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
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
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At the begining of the book titular Arslan rapes a boy and a girl in front of his soldiers and sets his comand centre in town.The man sounds like a monster.M.J. Engh,however,does something incredible;slowly,as we read her masterpiece,she transforms Arslan into one of the most fascinating characters in the history of fiction.Few writers are capable of that.

If you can,then buy SF MASTERWORKS edition.It contains excellent itnroduction by Adam Roberts.
Jennifer Hill
May 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
I seem to be incapable of grasping this book's alleged great depth. I'll read and attempt to appreciate almost anything, but in my opinion, the crime of the book is it's pointlessness. I can handle narratives that contain sexual violence and other vile deeds if there's a point, but if there is a point, I'm missing it. Orson Scott Card is out of his mind for recommending this.
Jan 30, 2011 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.
May 17, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed for SF Mistressworks:
Kate Sherrod
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-reads-2017
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
Lou Jacobs
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
ARSLAN was originally released in 1976 to critical acclaim ... however this is my first reading ... provided by an ARC of the release in exchange for an unbiased review. This is not what I expect from Science Fiction but is best described as
Dystopian fiction and yet provides a compelling insight into the human condition.
The set-up for the story involves an implausible conquest of the world by a brash, charismatic tyrant from Turkmenistan - who outmaneuvers the world powers of USA, Russia and
Aug 30, 2015 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
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
first, a preteen girl and boy are sodomized in front of the cowering townspeople. Goes downhill after that. Disturbing, depressing and without redemption. Unbelievable, sad and beautifully written. Some bombs of Christianity are dropped early on, but thankfully, turn out to be duds. What does the reader do when main character #2 is raped as a child by a warlord, then made to be the warlord's sex slave and adopted son? Everything the opposite of this story is good. Obviously, an allegory of the O ...more
Kay Smillie
SF Masterworks usually tend to be four or five star reads for me (although I do not include fantasy in the range, as fantasy has a tendency to bore me). Gave this two stars. The story is told from two different perspectives. Namely by two of the locals caught up in this odd invasion. It doesn't quite work for me. Found myself wishing for the story to end sooner. Somewhat disappointing.

Ray Smillie
Thomas Rose-Masters
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional meditation on the politics and philosophy of war, the precarious balancing of power and the terrifying ambivalence of morality. Although celebrated as a masterpiece of SF, for me this is a novel that erases genre boundaries and delivers a profound treatise on the prospects of human abilities to barter with each other and themselves, of victimhood and exile, of domination and the inevitable and dreadful slide from rebellion to acceptance to understanding to love of the oppressor.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
1 star is too much. I feel duped by this book. I was cruising along fine, then the switch to Hunt's pov. Argh. The uselessly flowery rambling of a new narrator halfway through made it so mind-numbingly inane that I couldn't finish. I tried, more than once, to pick it back up and slog through...but I just couldn't. Maybe the end changes everything but I'll never know. A reminder, as a writer, on devices to avoid.
Ce Eme
May 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was totally into it, i got to the middle of the book, and suddenly it changed the narrator to Hunt. My god, the boredom! Dropped it at 60% after a lot of pages of nothing happening, skimmed a lot of pages after that and then definitely dropped it, it was promising for a while. Going around and around for pages and pages to say NOTHING.
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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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