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Reviewed by Cecelia Hopkins for Readers' Favorite
Simple Tricks and Nonsense by J Andrew Corbett tells the story of Gaius Claudius I, founding Emperor of the Infinite Empire and current Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial armed forces. Viceroy Claudius had the grace to step down at the end of his term of office and now loyally defends the Empire, aided by his devoted bodyguard, Lucia. Emperor Salvatore DeFauth refuses to retire gracefully and survives fifty rigged elections. Maneuvering behind the scenes to obtain ultimate power, DeFauth employs the savage Tal-Dek to murder humans who have become inconvenient. Alliances form to overturn the Emperor’s rule, but the dangerous situation requires war.
Simple Tricks and Nonsense by J Andrew Corbett incorporates a fascinating combination of political intrigue and science fiction. I felt Claudius had just enough faults and flaws in his personal life to make him realistic, and I admired the steadfast ethic which guided his official actions. Lucia, Alia, and Dien all had understandable motives and desires. I liked the inclusive terminology, especially the word 'beings' which is used instead of words like 'man' and 'woman', and which also encompassed non-human races like Byth and Draegh. Moreover, humans were considered one species regardless of skin color or planet of origin. The exceptions were the Tal-Dek, who are terrifying because of their cruelty, and I was thrilled when Lucia proved they could be defeated! The different factions, including Coalition, Legion, and the Atlas Initiative, were cleverly used to create an exciting political landscape of alliances and rivalries. The world-building wasn’t detailed but was effective in terms of scope as galaxies became conquerable territories. Corbett provides pages of effective action and delivers a blockbuster space opera.