Simple Tricks and Nonsense is a remarkable debut science fiction novel from J. Andrew Corbett that seamlessly blends fantasy with science fiction. The book introduces us to Gaius Claudius I, the founder of the Infinite Empire and the current Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial armed forces. Corbett expertly crafts Claudius’ character as a wise and virtuous emperor who happily relinquishes his position at the end of his term. Alongside his loyal bodyguard, Lucia, Claudius spends his time defending the empire he created. However, the story takes a darker turn with the arrival of Claudius’ successor, Emperor Salvator DeFauth. DeFauth has no interest in relinquishing his position, and his rigged elections and use of violent thugs like the Tal-Dek indicate his ambition to become a dictator for life. If Claudius wants to protect his empire, he must forge new alliances and, perhaps, even go to war.
Corbett masterfully weaves political intrigue with science fiction to create a story with real stakes. The various political factions, such as the Coalition and the Legion, are fleshed out, and their motives are expertly explained. Corbett’s characters are relatable and likable, each with their own understandable motives and desires. Notably, Corbett uses his characters to convey his views on inclusivity, referring to them as “beings” rather than pigeonholing them by gender and referring to them by their species rather than their race. Although the book features plenty of political maneuvering, there is no shortage of action, with the Tal-Dek providing a particularly brutal and cruel enemy for our heroes. The book’s pacing is excellent, with Corbett deftly balancing quieter character moments with exciting blockbuster scenes. Corbett could have spent more time developing the rules of his sci-fi world beyond the political environment. However, this does not detract from the overall quality of the book and leaves room for exploration in future books in the series.
Simple Tricks and Nonsense is a fantastic science fiction novel that will satisfy fans of political intrigue and thrilling action. J. Andrew Corbett’s writing style and storytelling are engaging, making the reader eager to discover what happens next in the series.
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