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This review is from: Battlefield Earth (Mass Market Paperback)
If you're going to write an old-school pulp-style slam-bang sci-fi novel that deliberately sets out to ignore the increasing sophistication, psychological realism and attention to literary style that has characterised the genre since the 1960s, then the least you can do is pay attention to scientific accuracy. In this novel, the late L. Ron Hubbard couldn't even be bothered to do that. Among the many implausibilities of this novel is the idea that humans can breathe the Psychlos' atmosphere if they wear a breath mask containing a filter full of salt. Hubbard appears not to have noticed that since human blood is already full of salt, we wouldn't need a breath mask; our blood would do the job for us. In the meantime, the plot of the book is almost insultingly stupid. A caveman-like supposedly heroic human has to defeat the evil baddie aliens, but it's implausible that he could possibly acquire the skills to do so, so Hubbard contrives a bizarre plot in which one alien fiddles with our hero's brain in order to enable him to learn things quicker. But if that's the case, how come the hero survives the process with his allegiances intact? How does the process not cause massive brain damage? For that matter, what sort of brilliant evil alien (who have supposedly been ruling Earth for 1000 years) deliberately makes his own slaves more intelligent? And if the Psychlos are as corrupt and screwed-up as Hubbard's plot requires them to be, how come they all this cool learning technology hasn't made them superior? Doesn't it work? And if it does work, how come it works on humans too? Oh, but never mind, it's only fiction...
A genre that has produced such stirring, strange and beautiful things as the best work of Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson, Ursula LeGuin and William Gibson should not be judged by the drivel of one of its more cynical and less gifted exponents. SF at its best is some of the finest writing around. This, however, is dreck.
'Battlefield Earth', or at any rate the first half of it, also gave rise to a movie which is a strong contender for Worst Film Ever. The blame for that can be laid squarely at the feet of John Travolta, whose vanity project it was in the first place. The blame for the witless and inane novel that inspired it belongs to entirely to Lafayette Ron Hubbard - the pulp writer who created a pulp religion.