Sunday, January 26, 2014

SciFi Classic Review: Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard

Battlefield EarthBattlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Adventure, social and economic exploration, revolution, a true David vs. Goliath tale.

I was staring at this book on my shelf the other day and thought to myself, "I need to review this." This is one of those stories that I've read several times and often think about, even when I'm not actively reading it. As such, I'm writing this review cold (having not read this in recent months) but am pretty sure I can do so well.

Battlefield Earth takes place hundreds of years in the future after a militant race of aliens takes over the planet to mine its vast mineral resources. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler and his bedraggled village live beyond the attention of the aliens and have done so for generations. They never stray far, fearing the monsters that have been passed down in the verbal histories. But Jonnie isn't satisfied with their lot. He sees his people getting sick with a strange illness and dying, his own father joining them. He sees them suffering and wants better for them, especially for Chrissie, the girl he adores. So he decides to leave and find a better place for his village, despite the protests of the villagers. This begins the first tale, where Jonnie sets out to find adventure and a better place only to encounter the sadistic aliens that destroyed his world for profit.

From there, the story becomes one of quiet revolution, as Jonnie is forced to help one of the Psychlos mine a uranium tainted gold deposit (because radiation ignites Psychlo breathe gas). His captor makes the mistake of giving Jonnie lessons from a machine that downloads information into the mind, supplementing Jonnie's already solid intellect with the information he can use to rise against the Psychlos. This part of the story is exciting and always reminds me of that old show where the prisoners run an underground spy network right under the noses of their captors. Like that show, Jonnie and those he gathers with him steadily gain a measure of control over their lives, unknown to the Psychlo, and plot to end the Psychlo reign over their world.

And this leads to the third part of the book. One would think once you've kicked out the aliens, all is done, but that's just not the case with Battlefield Earth. Instead, it's just the beginning. As the newly freed humans find and incorporate the far flung pockets of humanity that remain, political tensions rise between those that follow Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (capitalists) and those that follow Brown Limper Staffor (communists). This part of the story is ironic to say the least and disheartening as well. That hate and bias could survive an alien apocalypse is rather sad. Anyway, Jonnie and his crew manage just fine, even as Brown Limper tries his best to undermine them. All this occurs in the year following their uprising against the Psychlos. The whole time, they have no idea if the end of the year will bring with it the end of their hard-fought, and possibly short-lived, freedom.

And then we get to the other aliens. The part of the book reveals that the Psychlos, while nasty and prolific, are not the only aliens in the universe, not even the most powerful aliens at that. A mysterious gray man begins making appearances at various locations around the world. When one old woman he meets gives him a coin bearing Jonnie Goodboy Tyler's image and name, the man knows he's found the one he needs. Not to go into too much detail, this part of the book is more intellectual than prior parts. Still there is the intrigue, the plotting and the mystery, but the focus is economic in nature. Here we find out exactly what the human revolt accomplished and also discover how small the earth is in the grand scheme of things. We also learn the identity of the most powerful beings in the universe.

All of this being said, Battlefield Earth is a massive book, but it's divided into four complete, yet interconnected tales. The hero, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, is charismatic and smart. He accomplishes the impossible with the aid of his team, but does not feel like the hero everyone makes him out to be. Not only is this an adventure with some incredible climaxes sprinkled throughout, it's a social and economic commentary. One could probably stop reading at the end of the second part and come away satisfied that good triumphs over evil, but some really interesting content would be missed.

For those who watched the movie, it only covers parts one and two, probably because those were much more translatable to the big screen. Still, as someone who's read the book, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie on its own merits. I think they cast it well, and though the way the mining team is selected and gathered is completely different (and not at all as entertaining or as impressive as the method in the book), it is otherwise pretty close. I loved seeing my favorite action scenes acted out.

Overall, I loved Battlefield Earth, even the parts that go a bit social/economic. It makes me think about where we're going as a society. And the plausible, though unlikely, scenario of aliens eradicating us to mine our planet still brings chills. It reminds me that we are truly a speck in the universe. We have no idea what, or who, is out there, and if they are out there, we could be nothing more than stock or an infestation to be eliminated or used as they see fit.

I highly recommend this book to those who love sci fi and adventure, particularly those who like stories to carry a deeper meaning. This is a long book, but it is broken down well and one could simply read the first two halves for the adventure and come away satisfied (but I recommend the whole thing).

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Short Story Review: Adventurer's Honeymoon by Kevin L. O'Brien

Adventurer's HoneymoonAdventurer's Honeymoon by Kevin L. O'Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quick, fun little short story featuring a couple on their honeymoon. It's just long enough to introduce the characters and show off their fighting prowess. It hints at a larger story in which the characters play a major part and is followed by several excerpts, which make up a majority of the ebook content.

The fight scene is well written and enjoyable to read. I think other stories by this author might be worth looking in to, but I prefer longer stories. I'd want to read a story that takes a bit longer to get through to get a better feel.

Between the time I picked this up and the time I wrote this review, the cover changed. The original cover gave the impression that this would be a comical tale, but I don't think this can be considered a comedy. There were some humorous moments, but it's not the focus I think. Still, the original cover seems to make more sense than the one with the bird on it. The young newlyweds fighting played a much bigger part than the large bird companion that the two can ride.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Short Story Collection Review: Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre edited by Tim W. Lieder

Teddy Bear Cannibal MassacreTeddy Bear Cannibal Massacre by Tim W. Lieder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scary, creepy, humorous, etc.

There are no teddy bears, cannibals or massacres in this book, but there are some things on the same level of strange.

Some are definitely aimed at adults (as in not appropriate for children). A rather long story right in the middle seems more like a humorous memoir and totally doesn't fit with the general horror theme. Then again, I'm not sure this actually has a theme.

The majority of the stories are either creepy or scary. A few are really well done.

Overall, I enjoyed this read, though I probably shouldn't have read them just before going to bed. Recommended for folks who like short story collections, horror, and a little humor.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Review: Sergeant Obvious by Donald Meisenheimer

Sergeant Obvious
by Donald Meisenheimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Absurd, crazy and vivid. A rollercoaster ride.

I found this book for free on Smashwords and bought it for no other reason than the quirky title. Great story.

The story is told from the perspective of a young man who is trying to find his missing uncle. Although the main character is a teen, this book seems like it targets adult readers.

The story features stopped time, ninja girl scouts, clones, aliens, and overly friendly enemies. Everything is connected with everything else, and nothing happens without a reason, no matter how absurd. Although some (or perhaps all) of the scenarios are outrageous, they are all described in a way that I could picture them clearly in my mind.

Overall, I really liked this story for its vivid storytelling and meticulously interconnected absurdity. People who like over the top stories featuring humor, mysterious happenings, and quirky, yet well-developed characters may like this story.

It's number two in a series. I didn't realize that until nearly through. I imagine that some of the things that confused me would have made more sense if I had started with the first one. Still, in my opinion, the book's good enough to stand alone. Now I have to go pick up number one.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

YA Contemporary Fantasy Review: Chasing Darkness (Unbinding Fate #3) by Colee Firman

Chasing Darkness (Unbinding Fate, #3 )Chasing Darkness by Colee Firman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Chasing Darkness is book three in the Unbinding Fate series. The story picks up a few months after Addy is sent back to Greystone without Tanner. Strange deaths plague the Akori of Greystone, a deadly tournament is kicked off, and an unknown evil threatens all that Addy holds most dear.

Friday, January 3, 2014

YA Fiction Review: Marked by Kate Flynn

Marked (Book #1)Marked by Kate Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An alright story, needs some polishing.

Marked tells the story of Bayerly, a girl with a secret that falls in with a group of teens who hunt rogue monsters (otherworlders, like vampires, werewolves, etc.). As stated in the book's description, she falls for the alpha in the group, an egotistical, yet charming boy named Will.

In general, I liked this story for it's action and for the gradual way Bayerly's secret past is revealed. For the action scenes, I almost felt like I was right in there with them, especially in the later fights where hordes of creepy zombie things were after them.

Unlike some stories where the backstory is revealed in a huge chunk at the beginning, the author of Marked reveals Bayerly's past and the origins of her talent in small bits here and there, which, in my case, kept the story interesting and made me want to keep reading to find out more. And, I must say I was surprised by the nature of her origins when they were finally revealed in total. Besides that, both her talent and how she got it are fascinating and unique, and Bayerly herself is one tough and independent girl.