This book is about Johnny Goodboy Tyler… pretty much exclusively, as all other characters are nothing more than stereotyped cardboard cutouts. Johnny This book is about Johnny Goodboy Tyler… pretty much exclusively, as all other characters are nothing more than stereotyped cardboard cutouts. Johnny is your typical Mary Sue character with the accompanying (and constant) dues ex machina one might expect. Battlefield Earth starts off in a post-apocalyptic world in which Earth was conquered by a vicious alien race thousands of years ago, leaving it with a current population of perhaps thirty or forty thousand humans scattered across the globe, struggling for survival. Johnny has grown up in a small mountain village with a dwindling population. One day, restless Johnny (who scoffs at his tribe’s superstitions) leaves his home to look for the ancient cities of legend, though they are rumored to be filled with foul monsters. Johnny is soon captured by one of these beasts, an alien named Terl, from the vicious Psychlo race which conquered Earth thousands of years ago in order to mine its precious metals. Terl has a plan to make himself rich, by capturing humans and forcing them to mine out a large vein of gold and thus, avoid the scrutiny of the company he works for – the Intergalactic Mining Company. Through use of superior technology (and Johnny’s superior brain), the captive Johnny learns the Psychlo language, machine operations and quite a number of other things Terl doesn’t count on. Before long, Johnny is working towards the destruction of this alien race that exterminates or uses humans without a second thought and to rescue Chrissie – a girl from his village who follows him like a lost puppy, when he fails to return in a year and thus, gives Terl leverage.
This could have been an entertaining science fiction story in the style of 30s-40s pulp/space opera, if only the author had stopped after the first major plot resolution. That, I could have given a three or four star review, but it goes on and on… and on. I’m no stranger to 1000+ page books, in fact I usually get quite excited at the prospect of starting a lengthy novel. However, this book kept dragging on with long pages of vague technical details, which is a bit ironic, considering at one point the author specifically condemns that kind of writing. The idea itself is interesting enough to have survived the other faults, if this book had been only a couple hundred pages.
Few characters are developed, including Johnny himself, making it difficult to care about them. Johnny has almost no personality other than being determined, always right, always smarter, stronger and two steps ahead at all times. Chrissie could be replaced with a lamp without really changing the story, but I can’t even call it sexist, because you could say the same for most of the other characters. Johnny seems pretty much indifferent to his wooden love interest, to the point that I assumed he was going to save her and then let her down gently, but it turns out that’s not the case.
At one point, Johnny talks Terl into letting him persuade a bunch of Scots to work the mine, rather than Terl’s preferred method of simply pressing them into service. Johnny’s real plan however, is to start a rebellion and this plan is how he gets instantaneous, unanimous agreement and more volunteers than he can take. No arguments, no questioning… because Scots have such romantic souls. Likewise, all other human ethnicities are apparently still exactly the stereotypes we have now, thousands of years in the future. Villains are nearly always a combination of ugly, deformed, dirty, delusional addicts. There is even a bit of cannibalism, Hitler worship and public fornication thrown in, in case you missed who the bad guys are supposed to be.
I read this out of curiosity, as I had always wanted to read it as a child. I loved sci-fi and at the time I thought a sci-fi book which was over a thousand pages, must surely be one of the best books of all time. It wasn’t until much later that I realized why my parents always shooed me away from the nice people in the mall booth who kept trying to tell me about it. Despite my feelings about Scientology, I tried to keep an open mind, but this book is simply terrible. I only gave it two stars, rather than one, because it would have been an amusing bit of fluff, if it had been shorter....more
Automatthew is worried about the long and perilous journey he has ahead of him, but not for obvious reasons. He's worried about the loneliness that heAutomatthew is worried about the long and perilous journey he has ahead of him, but not for obvious reasons. He's worried about the loneliness that he may suffer and longs for a friend to share his journey with. Luckily, he comes across a merchant selling just the thing to solve his troubles - a tiny companion robot. Automatthew and his new friend set off and soon find themselves the only survivors of a shipwreck on a tiny island. Automatthew is grateful to have Alfred along, but soon discovers that he may not be the best companion after all...
Automatthew's Friend is a cute sci-fi short, that I found enjoyable to read, but fairly predictable and the satire felt a little heavy handed. Certainly not the best Stanislaw Lem has to offer, but worth a read once, should you come across it. ...more