The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Empire of the East was first published in a substantially different form but has been reworked into a one-volume omnibus. The story takes place on a barely recognizable Earth centuries after a nuclear holocaust. The people of the West have regressed to a feudal lifestyle and have no memory of Earths technology. Magic has replaced it, and the cruel Eastern empire has taken control of the West.

The protagonist is Rolf, a peasant who becomes leader of the Free Folk, a small guerrilla group devoted to ending the oppression of Ekuman, governor of the Broken Lands. When Rolf joins the movement, he learns that success hinges on the guidance of Ardneh, a mysterious godlike entity who inspires leaders of the Free Folk by telepathy. The leader preceding Rolf had been told to find the Elephant but died before completing the task. Rolf discovers the Elephant, which turns out to be a nuclear tank from the Old World (prewar Earth). On the day Ekuman is to celebrate his daughter Charmians wedding to Chup, a neighboring noble, Rolf is inspired by Ardneh, and his natural talent for technology awakens. The Free Folk use the Elephant in battle, defeating Ekuman and destroying his fortress. The wicked and greedy Charmian, however, escapes; her bridegroom, Chup, survives as a crippled beggar.

Chup is restored to health by a demon who directs him to Charmians refuge in the Black Mountains. This domain is ruled by Som the Dead, Viceroy of the East. His...

(The entire section is 535 words.)