April 4, 1984 (p. 52)
By Jane McLoughlin
Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, L. Ron Hubbard (Quadrant Books UK P 8.95)
This blockbuster heralds the return to the literary field, after some 30 years, of L.Ron Hubbard, who has otherwise been busy inventing and proselytising the highly succesful religion he called Scientology. One of the self-proclaimed masters of the Golden Age of SF, Hubbard slots himself in there with Heinlein, van Vogt, Asimov, Orwell, Huxley, Karl Capek and 80 others, all neatly listed on his dedication page. Himself the author of 200 short stories and 100 novels, Hubbard also claims to be to some extent responsible for our presence on the moon. "The Golden Age of Science Fiction," he writes, "that began with Campbell (his first editor) and Astounding Science Fiction gathered enough public interest and readership to help push man into space."
There is some truth to this modest claim, though historians will have to do a little work to establish Hubbard's share of the glory. His literary pretentions are easier to examine. The new book, we are assured, is "pure science fiction", "right on the rails of the genre" with none of that fantasy stuff and penned by one of the all-time greats of SF, "with a total mastery of plot and pacing".
Not quite. Battlefield Earth, at 819 pages, is about three times too long and contains four novels roughly welded together.A good deal transpires, with the hero, Jonnie Goodbye Tyler, commencing his adventures as an illiterate hunter in the Rocky Mountains, one of a mere35,000 humans not wiped out by the psychopathic Psychlos, large and furry but not cuddly creatures who have colonised the planet fir its mineral wealth.
Chief villain among these is Terl, who simplifies matters for Jonnie by locking him in a cage and teaching him enough technology to conquer a galaxy or two. Not for a while however: Jonnie has first to organise a revolt and recruits Scottish Highlanders.
Much action follows. Hubbard's plot alone must have taken him a year or so to construct, and it is ingenious. He has an excellent understanding of evil impulses, particularly deviousness, which helps with the plot, and is well-enough aware of his weaknesses not to dwell upon frailties like love, generosity, compassion. But his crudities are not intrusive and fans of what now seems an old-fashioned style of sf will be more than happy.