It's somewhat surprising that I didn't get excited about Orson Scott Card's writing until I met Bunny. I've devoured most of what I've gotten my hands on of his, but there's still plenty of his back catalogue for me to get into, so when I found Hidden Empire in the bargain books section for just $2 it wasn't even a question about whether I would buy it. Also it helped me put off the need to buy the sequel to this in hardcover, which would probably not be my best $30 ever spent, though I can't wait for the paperback release.
As far as Hidden Empire goes, I'm not totally fan-girl about it. It's engaging, sure, but it's missing some of Card's signature magic and pizzazz. Maybe it's that I never read the first book, so I don't know the backstory well. Maybe it's the more contemporary setting, where I can't bury myself in a fantasy world. That might be the crux of the matter, that Hidden Empire is more political fiction than science fiction.
The characters inhabit a world not all that much different than our own; there's been a civil war in America, but things have come to an end and things are mostly back to normal. Then an epidemic of "monkey flu" sweeps over Africa and we watch the fallout, how the new American government of Averell Torrent handles the situation. It's about politics and machinations, making difficult decisions and how people in power move towards the future.
Character was a weak point in this book. There were plenty of intriguing and interesting people, but while Card spelled out their personalities and motivations for us sometimes it felt as if they existed only to move the story along, as though these same characters would not be coherent in any other situation. Again, maybe they would have made more sense if I'd read Empire.
All in all, I'm glad I didn't buy this book at regular price but it was definitely worth my 200 pennies (plus tax) and I enjoyed reading it.