Sic Semper Tyrannis is about a post-apocalyptic US that, after the
collapse of the federal system, split into walled Cities separated by
tracks of wasteland. Cities are run like corporations and first and
foremost priority is the economic and physical security of the cities.
The technology is slightly more advanced than ours, with high-end
weapons firing plasma rounds and considerably more space travel than
in our time (although it is sublight).
The story switches between the viewpoints of Terry Hailwood, a college
student with aims at a tenure track as professor, and Michael Crowley,
Tampa's CEO. For most of the book, Terry's viewpoint serves mainly as
background and exposition, demonstrating the ramifications of the plot
in the greater world and adding a calmer narrative to the more
action-centric narrative of Michael Crowley. Michael is framed and
banished from Tampa in a boardroom coup and becomes a wandering
teacher in the wasteland.
The switching viewpoints makes figuring out how much time has passed
between chapters difficult, which makes the flow of the book somewhat
confusing, but other than that, I found the book to be quite
straightforward and an interesting read. Branaugh explores a world
where economic problems get highest priority, because a City lives and
dies by the value of its shares. He dives into the meat of the
setting, and uses reasonably smooth exposition to explain how the
economics of such a world might work, and what liberties one has in
and out of a City. His world-building is paced a little weirdly, with
slow doling out of fundamental facts about the world as one reads the
book. This generates the occasional double take, but you get used to
the style and as you are reading, you get the occasional "a-ha!"
moment. Suddenly, you understand the world a little better, and if
you enjoy reflecting on what you have read, this phenomenon adds to
the complexity with which you interpret events that have already
happened in the book.
All in all, its not high art and it doesn't evoke too much emotion,
but once it ramps up, it becomes reasonably exciting and it’s not a
hard read. I'd say grab it if you are looking for a book to read for
half an hour before going to sleep, but don't mind occasionally being
kept up for a couple hours finishing a suspenseful section.