EMPIRE CITY by Matt Gallagher

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From the publisher:

The author of the “urgent and deeply moving” (The New York TimesYoungblood returns with this bold and provocative novel following a group of super-powered soldiers and civilians as they navigate an imperial America on the precipice of a major upheaval—for fans of The Fortress of Solitude and The Plot Against America.

Thirty years after its great triumph in Vietnam, the United States has again become mired in an endless foreign war overseas. Stories of super soldiers known as the Volunteers tuck in little American boys and girls every night. Yet domestic politics are aflame. Violent protests erupt throughout the nation; an ex-military watchdog group clashes with police while radical terrorists threaten to expose government experiments within the veteran rehabilitation colonies.

Halfway between war and peace, the Volunteers find themselves waiting for orders in the vast American city-state, Empire City. There they encounter a small group of civilians who know the truth about their powers, including Sebastian Rios, a young bureaucrat wrestling with survivor guilt, and Mia Tucker, a wounded army pilot-turned-Wall Street banker. Meanwhile, Jean-Jacques Saint-Preux, a Haitian-American Volunteer from the International Legion, decides he’ll do whatever it takes to return to the front lines.

Through it all, a controversial retired general emerges as a frontrunner in the presidential campaign, promising to save the country from itself. Her election would mean unprecedented military control over the country, with promises of security and stability—but at what cost?

Featuring Gallagher’s “vital” (The Washington Post), “evocative” (The Wall Street Journal) prose, Empire City is a rousing vision of an alternate—yet all too familiar—America on the brink.


Matt Gallagher takes up the task of writing about the aftermath of war – the feelings and actions of those veterans that have fought in the war and returned home. There are those that have war-related wounds, both physical and mental, and how they deal with these in a world that is no longer involved with combat.

Thirty years after a victory in Vietnam, the United States has become mired in the morass of another conflict overseas and one that looks to be without an end in sight. Moral imperatives designed to attract people into the military appear everywhere with stories of the heroics of the military spread all over the country. These also include the appearance of a group of “super soldiers” that have been modified to be able to do things such as become invisible, fly, run, at very rapid speeds traits that would make the U.S. military almost invincible.

Gallagher has taken an excellent idea to a stage that turns the novel into a chore to read. There are descriptions of feelings, actions, events that simply run one into the other. I found myself taxed to get into the gist of the book and ended up finishing it wondering what was going on. The actions and feelings of the principal characters became muddled and mixed with others in the story.

5/2020 Paul Lane

EMPIRE CITY by Matt Gallagher. Atria Books (April 28, 2020). ISBN: 978-1501177798. 368p.

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