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The story is fun, simple and escapist pulp sci-fi...a bit old fashioned but enjoyable. But what makes this book worth it is the excellent performance and production values. I hope the producers can do this kind of thing more often.
The performance: Wonderfully done, with multiple voices (a necessity given the large cast of players) not only reading but performing the story. Music, sound effects, and a great cast make this not just an audiobook, but almost a play or an "audio-movie." Battlefield Earth is a fun book, but the brilliant rendering makes a 4-star story into a 5-star audiobook.
Say what you like about L. Ron Hubbard [and there is a lot to say], he could write fun stories of thrills, spills and derring-do with brave heroes who laugh in the face of danger, beautiful damsels in distress and evildoers who seem to be evil because evil is fun. Deep themes? Nope. Subtle messages? Nada. Thought provoking concepts about the present and future of humanity? None here. Adventure, action, rollicking fun!
That is not to say that the story is free of blemishes. The most grating is that the (human) characters are handled via ethnic stereotype (with attitudes that seemed more fitting to the 1930's than the 1980's publication date of the book or the 2010's date of this review).
Be warned: This audiobook clocks in at just under 48 hours [the original book was over 1000 pages]. There are about a dozen places where you figure the story is winding up only to find that you are getting swept along as it continues for many more hours.
Lastly: For those who worry that Battlefield Earth is some sort of propaganda or screed for Hubbard's Church of Scientology: it isn't. Yes, there are a few minor points in there aligned with Scientology's teachings, but they appear rather late and are incidental to the story.
Notes: There is a similar multi-voice production of Dune on Audible (Dune being a much richer and more complex source text than Battlefield Earth). And if you like Hubbard's pulp writing style, you might want to check out Ole Doc Methuselah.
27 of 32 people found this review helpful
I'm honestly not sure what I think of this book, and I've had a ridiculous amount of time to think it over. It is almost fifty hours long, which translates into over a month of listening time on a commute.
Okay, let's start with the obvious bit. First off, it's fully cast and produced. That means tons of different voices, a soundtrack and cool sound effects that do a great job creating atmosphere. The voice actors are clearly putting a lot of heart into it, and the narrator does a terrific job. A lot of money went into this recreation by a lot of people who really respected the work and it shows.
Next comes the unpleasant part. The story is ridiculous. The naming conventions are awful (Psychlos? Johnny Goodboy Tyler? Snowl?) and jars you loose from any immersion. The forward provided by Hubbard indicates that he incorporated economics, culture, politics and art to make the environment more real, but it's pretty clear that the author's understanding of those subjects was pretty superficial. It's made worse by the fact that he devotes so much time to it. You will get huge chunks of time where you have a group of people discussing the mortgage arrangement of Earth (yes, that actually happens).
If you're interested how the book relates to the movie, I will tell you that the movie only covers the first third (or so) of this book. The book does clarify some of the plot holes (like why the Psychlos on Earth are so lax and incompetent), but it generally makes about as much sense as the movie does. The title of this review is actually a scene that occurs in the book, and when describing it to a friend he asked, "So what's the punchline?" The one problem is that, while you could laugh at the movie for its flaws, it would be much harder to laugh at if you needed to be subjected to fifty hours worth of it to complete the story. And at least in the movie you had a good amount of mindless action to keep you entertained. In the book, the action sequences are very brief or only told in abstract after the fact.
Granted, Hubbard wrote books in another time, the 1930's, and the audience expected different things from science fiction back then. Tragically, this book was written in the 80's, right in the middle of a science fiction revolution, so it is weirdly anachronistic. If this book was one third the length, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a creative adventure story you don't have to think that hard about. As it stands, I would only recommend it to people who really enjoy very old (note I didn't say classic) science fiction. Or can marathon the entire black and white Frankenstein movies in a day.
17 of 21 people found this review helpful
I don't normally like dramatised audio books but this one is so good , I'm very pleased I took a chance!
If you read the book but hated the awful film version, rest assured, this audio version does justice to this Sci fi classic!
The performances are outstanding and is a must for any Sci fi fans library ! The story is brought to life by the fine performer's and you easily find yourself drawn into the world of L Ron Hubbard's classic!
At over 47 hours in length this is a mega offering from Audible but that time flies by as you are drawn into the narrative. There are no dull sluggish parts, so be prepared for the audio equivalent of a page turner!
I won't go into the story as I feel a short synopsis can't do this book justice, let me just say if you love Sci fi, you will be missing out on a true classic if you don't put this in your library!
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
I read this when it came out and thought it to be a long and undemanding pulp sci-fi novel harking back a way to the 50's golden age from whence the author emerged. Great for whiling away hours at sea without putting too much strain on the brain.
This 'production' tries to elevate it into something grand and wonderful and fails miserably.
I find it's always a good thing when reading vintage sci-fi to suspend cultural sensitivities in favour of the ones prevailing at the time of writing (sexism, implied homophobia etc) else you could never enjoy the Lensmen books for instance but this writing is riddled with every kind of predjudice and stereotype presented in a way in which it is difficult to get past.
The story itself is simple enough, an everyday tale of one man's crusade to throw off the burden of Alien parasites and remake the world in his own view (A Mary Sue if ever there was one) but the production is horrid. The voice acting isn't awful considering what the actors have to work with, that no character has more emotional depth than a puddle and dialogue which might just make it into the Beano on a slack week but it's the music which really puts the tin hat on it. I seem to recall that Hubbard wrote music to accompany the original novel. If this is it, then I pity anybody involved in its recording. It is hackneyed, stereotyped, has no sympathy with the story, seems bolted on where it can be fitted in, usually at the end of each chapter and became a real endurance test as the thing continued. I took to skipping past as much as I could. That the skip function on the Audible player would also miss out some of the story was often a bonus.
In all I persevered with this as long as I could. Why? I struggle to answer that even now.. I had to go away and read an Alastair Reynolds just to get my head back on straight.
I can't begin to think who might enjoy this and if you are tempted, read the book.
5 of 9 people found this review helpful
Absolutely gripping. The most entertained I have ever been!!! Found myself totally in the story, living and breathing it!
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
I truely enjoy sci-fi from the 30s to 50s, and this has that feel to it, but its on a much bigger scale. And the full cast production, and all the music and sound effects made it really feel alive.