Review: Empire of Lies by Andrew Klavan

The world always seems like it’s going to hell when you’re depressed.  And, of course, it always is going to hell in some way.  That’s what makes it so hard to tell the difference between Armageddon and the blues.”, Andrew Klavan, Empire of Lies

Andrew Klavan is something of a recent discovery for me.  While I’ve seen the two movies adapted from some of his earlier books (True Crime and Don’t Say A Word) and, quite possibly, read some earlier works, one of his more recent, “Empire of Lies” (2008) was, for me, a great joy, perhaps even a celebration of the hard road of truth-telling.

First, it must be noted that Mr. Klavan is unique within the Hollywood/NYC literature scene.  For one thing he’s an unabashed conservative, as becomes obvious in his humorous PJTV “Klavan on the Culture” video clips, such as we presented recently here.  For another, Klavan is a self-proclaimed Christian, though of which particular strain isn’t necessarily obvious or even relevant.  Fortunately, given the decidedly up-hill climb this combination of beliefs would otherwise present to an aspiring author, Klavan is inordinately talented, disarmingly funny, and stunningly honest.

While I suspect these qualities have been present to one extent or another in his earlier works, in Empire of Lies, Klavan clearly goes “all in”, determined, it seems, that if he’s going to take heat for telling the truth, he’d best bet big.  Like the ire he apparently inspired in a 2008 Op-Ed review of the film “The Dark Knight” in the Wall Street Journal, “What Bush and Batman Have in Common“, Klavan appears to understand just how easily the real value of the truth can be undermined in our squeamish desire to avoid it. 

From the Op-Ed: “Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They’re wrong, of course, even on their own terms.  Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don’t always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.  The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them — when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.”

In Empire of Lies, Klavan skillfully employs the stock tools of the trade, immediately recognizable to anyone who’s seen a big-budget, feature suspense/thriller film in the last decade.  What sets this tale apart from the pack, however, is not merely the author’s willingness to address the unaccountably uber-sensitive subject of Islamo-Terrorism, but his earnest effort to expose the flawed nature of his own quest to understand his own moral responsibility in the world.  For anyone who’s ever fashioned themselves a writer, you know that this, when sincerely attempted, is an endeavor of supreme courage, rather diminishing the heat of political debate by many orders of magnitude.

And this measure of honesty, really, is the central theme and purpose of the aptly titled Empire of Lies.  We might be more comfortable attacking the web of deceit we find in the world around us.  It is far harder, but infinitely more useful, to do so in our own lives. 

“To admire Satan is to give one’s vote not only for a world of misery, but also for a world of lies and propaganda, of wishful thinking, of incessant autobiography.”  – CS Lewis, A Preface to ‘Paradise Lost’

Harry Tuttle

More great content from Andrew Klavan may be found at his website.

For the alternative Zombie point of view, click here.

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