Books

Book Review: My Italian Bulldozer

Book Review and Analysis:

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Intro

This book is not one I would typically pick up, but I have been choosing random books to read lately, I recognized the author’s name and figured I would give this one a try! I would say it is a clever idea, but may not be worth reading unless you are in to a novel that reads like a slow-paced romance mixed with a travelogue. As a result, I have included a brief spoiler-free review followed by an analysis. If you want to read the book, just read the spoiler-free section–if not, read the analysis for a good laugh.

Background

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith was published in 2017. Alexander McCall Smith is a British writer who is known for writing The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

Summary

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith is about a man named Paul whose wife left him for her personal trainer. To come to terms with his loss, he decides to travel to Italy to undergo some much needed healing and begin work on his next book. Upon arrival, a mix-up with a rental car ends in him having to rent a bulldozer instead. The story follows Paul’s adventures in Italy as he tries to write a cookbook and travels around on his bulldozer.

Spoiler-Free Version

I would describe this book as a pleasant but unexciting read. The characters are likeable but simple. The plot is clever but has some loose ends that are never tied up and apparently lead nowhere. The most beautiful things about this book are its use of language and descriptions of Italian culture. Looking at Goodreads, I found that when the book was reviewed by an Italian, they said the book did not show a strong grasp on Italian culture. The action moves at the speed of a bulldozer, taking its precious time. It surprised me that so few descriptions of food came up in this novel, considering the main character is a food and wine writer.

Pros

  • Clever and funny plot
  • Lovely use of language

Cons

  • Uninteresting main characters
  • Slow-moving action
  • Superfluous material that led nowhere
  • Insufficient research

Observations

  • Very few descriptions of food considering this is a book about a food and wine writer

Analysis

Plot

yellow and black tractor on green grass field during daytime

Paul Stewart’s wife Becky leaves him for her personal trainer. His editor comforts him and encourages him to take a trip to Italy to finish his already late next book, which is on Italian food and wine. They both hope that he will be able to get over her.

Upon arrival, he signs papers for his rental car, and like most people, does not read the fine print.

Then he goes to find it in the lot. When he cannot find it, he is accused of stealing it when he asks for another. Apparently those papers he signed included a statement that he had received the car in good condition.

When he tries to enlist the help of a policeman, he is put into jail in a cell he must share with dangerous criminal Occidilupo. Paul protects himself by pretending to be an even greater criminal and earning Occidilupo’s respect. Not sure why he was even in this book, because even though Occidilupo escapes later, nothing comes of it.

A chance acquaintance saves him from this awkward predicament and helps him find another mode of transportation, the only one that is currently available for rent in the area–a bulldozer.

Traveling around on his bulldozer, he meets an assortment of interesting but undeveloped side characters, such as a vintner who concocted an elaborate ancestry for himself, a priest who it is implied stole the bulldozer temporarily to break down a wall, etc. He does stuff like move a parking sign with his bulldozer to get free parking.

It’s a very idle book, but it was pleasant enough. The ending was neither surprising nor entertaining–but I don’t intend to spoil everything.

Language

The language was pretty and drew me in at times even though the book was rather dull. For example, here is a passage from the book:

The Madonna, set back into a wall, looked down on passersby with otherworldly slightly dreamy gaze that Marian figures affect so effortlessly. At the foot of the figure, just low enough for somebody to reach on tiptoes, was a small shelf for offerings of flowers. A tiny wilted posy, the sort of thing a child would pick, lay on this shelf along with a square of delicate printed tissue paper in which amarettini are wrapped: an offering too, perhaps, that the Madonna had discreetly consumed overnight.”

Characters

The main characters were relatable in the way that they did react in appropriate ways to what they experienced and seemed like pretty normal people. The bulldozer was the interesting part of the novel, not Paul.

Research

I got the impression Smith did adequate research, but when it came to a response from an Italian on Goodreads, it turned out the novel was not as well-researched as I had imagined. It seemed that way to me only because I know very little about Italy

Conclusion

I cannot honestly recommend this book. It was a little too bland for my liking. I don’t exactly regret reading it–I got a few laughs out of it–but there are so many better books. I hope The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a better read.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate books, check out my rating system.

Books

Navigating the Lives of Transgender and Nonbinary Individuals (Part One)

A Review of “Like A Boy But Not A Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary” A book on the nonbinary experience by Andrea Bennett (They/them)

By Finch Pierson (He/they)

Edited by P.A. Wilson and the Perusing Muse

Hello people. This is Finch again. Reviewing a book.

Like A Boy But Not A Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary was written by Andrea Bennett. I picked up this book among others on a trip to Seattle with some friends. I finally found an entire section of queer literature, something I was kept from as a child and young adult and something I had had so much trouble in finding resources – until now. As a transgender, bisexual individual, queer history and literature is very important to me. I am interested in learning more.

The book was published in in 2020 by Arsenal Pulp Press.

I will probably be writing this review chapter by chapter as each chapter is made up of a collection of essays. I also included a list of terms and the sources at the bottom of the article.

Introduction

Sets up the story well, explaining that the book is a collection of essays. It also goes into how the author wrote the book. They describe the process of writing while also working and parenting. The introduction is short and to the point, focusing on quickly setting up some background and context for the essays that follow and form the book.

Chapter One

“Tomboy”

 In the first chapter, or essay, Bennett describes scenes from their childhood and the importance of labels such as “Tomboy” (the namesake of the essay). Bennet describes the importance of labels by saying, “If I can’t describe who I am in this world—I am who I am, whether or not I can describe it—then I can’t seek out others like me” (Bennett pp. 15). This quote shows the importance that labelling can have for an individual in describing themselves and finding a community.

Bennett talks of the importance of labels such as Tomboy in helping young people to explain their identities, they express how it is important for people to speak in an affirmative way, such as ‘I am’ rather than “I’m not, I’m not, I’m not” (Bennett pp. 16). They delve into the discussion of whether or not some labels such as “Tomboy” should be abandoned for their strong connection and dependency on gender stereotypes, or whether these labels can still be used as many people may find that they identify strongly with them. They discuss how the term was useful to them growing up and that it may still be useful to other qenderqueer youths.

The term “Tomboy” is seen as a way of describing a space between masculinity or femininity that someone who is afab may use to help them in their journey of self-discovery. It is an older term that is slowly fading out of use as we begin to better understand gender and stereotypes.

“david”

This essay focuses on the life of a person named David. He is someone who doesn’t really take a label with regards to gender or sexuality. As the essay states “David doesn’t really care enough to pick a label. If he had to, he’d choose agender” (Bennett pp. 17). This idea of not necessarily needing or wanting a label in a way contrasts with the ideas expressed in “Tomboy” but also exists with it. Taking the two chapters together it can be understood that labels are important to some and should be preserved, yet they are not necessary to all. It is also interesting to note that a label is never forced on David, he is never assigned anything and his experience can be described simply using umbrella terms such as “queer”. David is described using he/him pronouns throughout the essay so that is what I will be using here.

David is someone who spent years slowly coming to terms with his identity and how that affected his relationship with his parents. He is someone who grew up in a time and place where homophobia was rampant and clearly present within his school. He is not completely devoid of some form of community, but his life leaves him feeling isolated. The essay overall seems to be a form of homage to David, something that strives to explain a person and their life. To give a reason behind their experiences and their pain. It is just a glimpse into his life, yet it shows so much and is written in a kind and almost loving way.

The essay gives life to David’s struggles and seemingly tries to put to words all that he has been feeling in his life. The essay ends on a happy note and seems to have the purpose of respecting the life of the individual without trying to fit them into a box of a label or stereotype, but just letting him exist as a human and telling his story with honesty and respect.

This essay explores how his parents treated him and tries to understand them. It gives an honest look at their past and present relationship without trying to force answers. It doesn’t give a reason for everything because it acknowledges it can’t. Overall, the essay expresses a message of the potential of healing and a chance at a better life and recovery from the past.

While reading this I realized that this is how I want someone to write my obituary or just tell the story of my life. Honestly, without trying to give answers that aren’t there or force labels on me that I haven’t given myself. I would just want the honesty of the good and the bad that has happened and has been done.

“john”

  This essay felt much shorter than the other two in this chapter, it follows the life of a nonbinary person named John (they/them). They grew up in a small town in Ontario with two brothers. The essay describes their life as they went from knowing nothing of queerness to finally being able to explore their identity.

This essay has a sadder tone, as it talks of John’s experiences with feeling uncomfortable coming out based on how they will be viewed and the judgement they receive from their siblings. John’s journey is of someone who took their time and gave themselves permission to explore and try to understand themselves.

 They often take the path of not explaining their identity and instead letting people come to their own realizations about them. They don’t really have face to face conversations about it, but instead let their identity be understood slowly by others. In some ways John indicates that they regret this and feel like they should sit down and speak with others about it.

This essay explores a different concept of queer identities. Showing a perspective where they do not necessarily need to be explained and a person can just exist. This essay explores how an individual can choose to be open about how they identify or not and how that choice is solely theirs. This essay explores both the pros and cons of avoiding speaking about one’s own identity and how that can affect them and the reasons a person might make that choice.

It also makes it clear that John may one day change their mind and have conversations about their identity with others and they are fine with that. They talk of potentially meeting an old friend in the future and how they would feel more comfortable telling the friend about their identity and see their reaction before meeting them in person.

I can understand this internal battle of whether or not I should tell someone. I’ve often had the internal battle of whether or not I should tell people how I identify and who I am, because I feared that these people, whom I cared about, would reject the real me. I have lost people since coming out and that leads me to sometimes hesitate before explaining to friends my gender and identity. I have come to the conclusion, personally, that I only want to continue friendships and relationships with people who fully love the real me, and not their idea of what they want or expect me to be. I also value openness in relationships with regards to my life. I always try to answer every question with honesty and invite people to ask any questions they might have about me. This is my personal choice though, and everyone should be free to make their own decisions with regard to disclosing their identity or sexual orientation and I appreciate that this essay seems to support that idea.  

Overall, this first chapter discusses the many ways people may choose to identify and the importance of having the freedom to choose (or not to choose) to identify oneself. This chapter explores how these choices may affect and individual and how they may or may not choose to disclose their identity to others. It recognizes the variety of experiences and how one may follow many different paths in life to come to understand themselves. There were many overarching themes, such as growing up without knowledge of the varieties of human experiences and with much knowledge of possible identities and how this affected each individual throughout their lives. This first chapter was written in an easy to understand way that also allowed for complex topics and ideas to be presented and explored. Needless to say, but clearly I’m gonna say it, this chapter has drawn me into the book and what it represents and what it will explore and do. I will not be able to read the next chapter until I sleep, but I will be thinking about what I have read until I do.

Overall thoughts on the first chapter

I am enjoying reading this book so far and hoping to finish and publish my review of the next chapter when I can. I broke the book review up like this because it would have been entirely too long a review otherwise and the collection of essays formatting made it easier to do it this way.

Thanks for reading if you got this far. Hopefully you’ll return for the next part when it comes out.

Reviewed by Finch Pierson (he/they)

Here is a link to purchase the book directly from the publisher.

ISBN 978-1-55152-821-2

Priced at $21.95 and $18.95 in the United States

I wish I could remember the name of the bookstore where I purchased this book. It was in Seattle. I will try to find it and add the name to my review of the next chapter as well as a description of the shop and my experience there.

Here is a link to Andrea Bennett’s personal website where you can find more information about them and their other works.

Full respect to the author, please support them by purchasing their book or other methods if you can, but no pressure. I highly recommend this book as it was an incredibly enjoyable read and helped me to process something of myself and my past as I was reading it.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please write them down below, or email me at finchpierson@gmail.com. I try to check my email semi-regularly, but if I miss your email feel free to resend it and I will do my best to reply in a timely manner.

My Twitter is @FinchPierson message me if you have any questions or wish to chat. I dunno.

Terms that you probably need to know

Agender: Being without a gender. A person who is agender is a person who does not have a gender. This identity is generally placed under the Transgender umbrella.

Homophobia: “The homophobia definition is the fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual” (Planned Parenthood 1).

Homophobe: A person who is Homophobic.

Transphobia: “Transphobia is the fear, hatred, disbelief, or mistrust of people who are transgender, thought to be transgender, or whose gender expression doesn’t conform to traditional gender roles. Transphobia can prevent transgender and gender nonconforming people from living full lives free from harm” (Planned Parenthood 2).

Transphobe: Someone who is Transphobic. TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) fall under this category.

Nonbinary: A person who identifies as neither a man nor a woman.

Transgender: A person whose gender does not match their sex assigned at birth.

The Gender Binary: The social norm present in some cultures of seeing gender as either “man” or “woman. The idea of their being a binary at all is not present in all cultures, but creates ‘gender norms’ where it does exist.

Gender Norms: These vary by culture, but they are what is considered “normal” behavior for a person of a specific gender within their culture. These vary by culture, area, and time period. An example would be the “blue is for boys and pink is for girls” stereotype that appeared relatively recently (this is a reversal of how it was in the past when “blue was believed to symbolize femininity and pink was believed to be associated with masculinity).

Sources

Bennett, Andrea. “Like A Boy But Not A Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary” Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020.

1 “What is Homophobia?” Planned Parenthood. Accessed Jan. 11, 2022. What is homophobia? (plannedparenthood.org)

2 “What’s Transphobia?” Planned Parenthood. Accessed Jan. 11, 2022. What’s Transphobia? | Facts About Transphobic Discrimination (plannedparenthood.org)

used my personal life as a source. So that’s a thing, just thought I’d note that down because my college professors can’t decide if I can plagiarize myself for some reason. Comment down below if you think you can self-plagiarize, because I repeat myself constantly (I have a crappy memory) so I may be guilty of that.

Who knows.

Don’t come for me.

I will run.

Books, Christianity, Life

Sensible Shoes… A Sensational Read!

A sensational story that will profoundly touch your life!

A spoiler-free book review:

Sensible Shoes … A story about the Spiritual Journey

by Sharon Garlough Brown

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

. . . we all have quite an adventure ahead of us.”

Meg p341


Sensible Shoes is the story of the spiritual journey of four unrelated women whose lives become interwoven as they walk through a three month retreat. Although the sessions are held every other week, the four become friends. They find much growth and healing as they share their dreams, desires, fears, and failures with one another.

Learn to linger with what provokes you.”

Dr. Nathan Allen, Charissa’s professor P 80

Four Pairs of Shoes

  • Meg Crane
    • Age 46
    • Widow
    • Mother died about 3 months ago
    • Recent empty nester
  • Hannah Shepley
    • Age 39
    • Associate Pastor
    • Has a compulsive desire to be needed: a “codependent pastor.” (P 81)
    • On a forced 9 month, fully paid, sabbatical.
  • Mara Garrison
    • Age 50
    • Eats to self-soothe
    • Has a sordid past
    • Unappreciated by husband and their two sons
  • Charissa Goodman Sinclair
    • Age 26
    • A married PhD student
    • A perfectionist
    • A professor wants his students to wrestle with God and have a personal experience with Him; This retreat should check that block.

. . . Restlessness is movement.”

Dawn, Mara’s therapist. P33

Mara knew the script by heart. Dawn would remind her that peace wasn’t the absence of conflict, but presence of God in the midst of the storm.”

P 33
http://www.labyrinthlife.com/free-stuff.html

Trying on New Shoes:


Retreat facilitator, Katherine Rhodes, introduces the retreatants to a passel of approaches to connect differently/better with God. Like trying on a new pair of shoes, sometimes a new way of encounter takes a little time for it to fit well. The list that follows and the descriptions are just a piece of what is fleshed out in the book.

  • Walking a Labyrinth
    • This concept totally intrigued me. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is a single path that winds about, arrives at a center point, then leads back to the original entry point. It doesn’t have any obstructions or dead ends.
    • The journey is one of prayerful walking.
    • There is no specified amount of time for walking a labyrinth.
    • Although there is no right way to pray the labyrinth, many people divide the prayer into three parts:
      • inward journey: the time to notice what is distracting/hindering/competing for one’s time with Jesus. It is this part when one takes the time to confess wrongs, let go of burdens, and look at what fears are binding one.
      • center: a time to pause, to be, to rest in God, a time to receive what scripture/insights/revelation/peace/presence God is choosing to reveal.
      • outward journey: a time to allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower, a time to ponder the insights received in the center.
  • Lectio Divina
    • Lectio Divina means sacred reading. From as far back as the middle ages, Lectio Divina is a slow, prayerful way of taking God’s Word into oneself.
    • By lingering over the Word, one is able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in order to encounter the living God.
      • Read aloud, or have another person read aloud, a passage of scripture. Listen for a word or phrase that seems to choose you. Don’t analyze it or think about it. Just listen.
      • Read the same passage aloud a second time, or have the same person as before read it aloud again. While listening this time, ponder that word or phrase. Ask why it speaks to you at this time. What is God saying to you? What does it have to do with your life right now?
        Do not be afraid to feel and think!
      • After pondering/wrestling with the word or phrase, begin to converse with God about it. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s prodding and reassurance as you talk with God.
      • Finally, just rest in Him. Don’t worry about using words, just be in His love.
  • Reading the Bible devotionally as prayer
    • Allow God’s personal Word be precisely for you! For example: change the name of the person being addressed to your name!
    • Focus on God’s graciousness and power instead of your personal fears and worries.
    • Remember this type of reading is not reading the text historically, but instead, focusing on God’s promise of love. Allow God to draw you into intimacy with Jesus.
  • Praying the Examen
    • This form of prayer was developed in the 16th century by Ignatius of Loyola. It is a way of talking through the details of one’s day with Jesus. The examen helps one quiet oneself in order to recognize the work of the Spirit and God’s presence throughout the day. It allows one to pay attention to details of the day.
    • It is a prayerful replay of the details of the day, both the life-building and the life-draining moments.
      • As one ponders the day, there are moments that seem to invite lingering/pondering. That is the Spirit’s invitation to notice those moments.
      • Some possible questions to help get into focus: (from p 178)
        • “When were you aware of God’s presence today? When were you aware of God’s absence?”
        • When did you respond with love, faith, obedience …. resistance, avoidance?
        • When did you feel most alive, energized, drained, troubled, agitated?
      • Once the day has been reviewed, confess the things that need confessing and allow the Spirit to bring forgiveness and grace.
      • Consider how you can choose better and live more attentive to God’s call to love tomorrow.
      • “Ask for the grace to recognize the ways God makes His love known to you.”
  • Palms up/Palms down prayer
    • This form of prayer is simple … but not easy! It uses physical movements to help focus the praying person on letting go and receiving.
    • The person begins by thinking of all the worries, troubles, concerns, anxieties, distractions etc and faces the palms of the hands downwards releasing those things to God.
    • When ready, the person turns the palms upwards to receive what gifts God has to give.
    • Release and receive as many times as needed.
      • note: sometimes it is hard not to pick one’s troubles back up, so it may take many times of releasing to let go … and vice versa, sometimes it is difficult to accept God’s blessings and it may take receiving them over and over before one truly takes ownership of the gifts.
  • Wilderness Prayer
    • Read prayerfully and slowly Genesis 16:7-10 – the story of Hagar in the wilderness.
    • At this is a major decision-making moment in Hagar’s life, a crossroads, the Angel of the Lord asked Hagar 2 questions:
      • Where have you come from?
      • Where are you going?
    • Ponder these same questions. Journal your responses after asking the Spirit to bring to mind those people, places, things, and events which brought you to this crossroads.
  • Self Examination
    • Self Examination is not about perfecting oneself. It is about listening and responding to the Holy Spirit.
    • It is a time to allow God to nudge so that one can recognize where there is resistance to Him.
    • It is cooperating with the Holy Spirit by saying YES to God’s movement in one’s life.
    • Several texts and suggested sets of questions are listed in the book to accompany this
  • Rule of Life
    • This is an intentional structure – likened to a trellis – designed to free one to respond to the Holy Spirit’s nudges. It helps a person orient and grow towards Christ along that structure.
    • The focus is to deepen intimacy with God. It is not a resolution. It is not a focus on fixing or controlling a behavior. It is not a list of dos and don’ts or obligations.
    • A Rule of Life is prayed about and developed after prayerful listening.
      • A Rule of Life is meant to reflect who a person is becoming in Christ.
  • Praying with Imagination
    • By putting oneself in the scene of a Bible passage, using the senses to create the scene in one’s mind, and being a person in that passage the scene becomes alive and exposes things God may want to reveal.
    • There is no worry about being historically accurate: ie no need to know how the people dressed or what the accent sounded like … it’s about being in the moment as part of the story.

The Spirit of God is always speaking to us, but we need to slow down, stop, and give more than lip service to what God is saying. We need to get off autopilot and take time to look and listen with the eyes and ears of the heart.”

Katherine Rhodes: Retreat Facilitator. P 51

Pros & Cons

I loved this book and have recommended it to a number of people already. It is one that caused me to think differently about how I relate to God. It gave me examples of where to begin and how to progress. I truly found it to be life altering! The cons are essentially non-existent, and the pros are so strong that I give the book a 10 out of 10.

  • Pros
    • Great characterization. I fell into each of their stories and felt their joys and pains. The struggles were real.
    • Easy for multiple age groups to connect to the story.
    • Rated PG-13 . . . clean language, no steamy details.
    • The spiritual exercises are described through the journeys the characters take, AND are many are described in one page like a handout the retreatants received so anyone interested could try the exercises at home.
    • some of the topics introduced through the lives of the characters make for great conversation openers with a teen audience.
    • This book is Christian, not denominational. I could not tell, by reading the story, what sect the author is.
    • It ends satisfactorily. Although it is the first of a series, the story stands alone. And I want to read more, for sure!
  • Cons
    • I don’t have any cons for this book, but I do have a caveat: Although these spiritual exercises could be shared with a younger audience, the stories are sometimes explicit and would need to be edited out for younger kids.

While it is essential to read God’s Word, we must allow God’s Word to read us.”

P 102

Final thoughts

Read this book with an open heart! Enjoy it. Enjoy the journey with the protagonists! It will stay with you for a long time.

Perhaps God wants to reveal something to you . . .”

Dr. Nathan Allen, Charissa’s Professor. P 81

Books

A Blast to the Past! Battlefield Earth

A Blast to the past! Spoiler-Free Book Review:

Battlefield Earth: a saga of the year 3000

by L. Ron Hubbard

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

A quick summary:

Our hero, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler is sure there is something wrong in his village. The people aren’t populating, and when they do happen to have babies, they are born deformed. He doesn’t believe in the monsters the villagers claim are out there. He decides to go find another place for them to live. While he’s at it, he thinks he will also search for one of the ancient cities he has heard exists.

In the meantime, one of the inhabiting aliens, a Psychlo named Terl, has discovered a vein of gold that is inaccessible to the Psychlos. But, if he had some humans, he could train them, get that gold, and be very rich. He goes hunting in the ancient man city.

It is there that Terl captures Jonnie. And it is there where Jonnie realizes his people were right… The monsters do exist!

Really cool stuff about the author and this book!!

  • L Ron Hubbard started writing Science Fiction around 1938 – at the dawn of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction.”
    • After writing for 50 years, he decided that he wanted to write a “PURE”  Science Fiction noveL.
    • Battlefield Earth is his attempt at writing that pure Sci Fi novel.
    • Battlefield Earth is the only book he ever wrote just “to amuse himself.”  (xxi)  It is one of the best-selling Sci Fi books of all times.

The setup of the book

Battlefield Earth was written in the early 1980s. As it was published, in 1982, it is 1050 pages. It’s a wonderfully satisfying read with only a few cons. That being said, some readers – but definitely not this one! – might find that length to be daunting. Had it been written/published today, I believe that it would have been set out as a trilogy. The following chart is how I could see it divided.

1st Third – The beginning of the adventure. Our introduction to the hero and the villain. Most of the action takes
place in the Psychlo compound. It is fast paced, full of action, and introduces the reader to things of the
past and things of possibility, ie: Sci Fi.
2nd Third – In this part, the action begins with our hero in the African Rainforest. Most of the story happens here,
but the final part of this section ends in Scotland and the dubbing of a Knight. It is slower paced, very
likely a technique the author used to demonstrate how difficult it was for Jonnie and his gang to
progress through the rain forest. Its feel is more serious and heavy than the first third of the novel.
Last Third – This final part of the book focuses on Earth’s outer atmosphere and begins with the planet under
surveillance. It is action packed, not as fast paced as the first third, and because it is a little slower, it fills
the reader that sense of urgency our hero must feel. This section contains many funny moments – I
know that this reader laughed aloud a number of times.

L Ron Hubbard’s thoughts on Science Fiction:

  • The science/inventions in a story occurs before  a scientific discovery, development, or invention exists.
  • The fiction part of Sci Fi is the actual tale being told; however, the science part is only partly fictional – ie:  to be credible, some degree of plausibility has to exist.
  • Science Fiction can be used to tell any type of story except Fantasy. 
    • Fantasy is its own genre and is different from Sci Fi.
    •  A Sci Fi story could be enclosed in a story of adventure, economics, air war, detective, spy, medicine, love, sociology – and that’s precisely what he tried to make Battlefield include  … ALL OF THOSE types of stories. …

It is not prophecy … It is the dream that precedes the dawn when the inventor or scientist awakens and goes to his books or his lab saying ‘I wonder whether I could make that dream come true in the world of real science.’ ”   

L Ron Hubbard p xvi

… Did he succeed?

Using the L Ron’s previous list of stories that could support Science Fiction, I will now touch on each alphabetically:

  • Adventure:  Absolutely!  This book is full of action.  The action did slow down a little in the 2nd 1/3 of the book when the good guy, main character,  Jonnie Goodboy Tyler was traipsing the rainforest of Africa at an extremely slow pace. Mostly though, the story had me turning the pages quickly.   What I do want to say, however, is that moving through the rainforest is a laborious job with the thick jungle plants, the wetness, and the need to be alert to one’s surroundings.  The fact that this section seemed to slow down to a point that I had to re-read some paragraphs and pages to re-determine what was happening, makes it feel like this was an intentional device he used so the reader could feel Jonnie’s frustration – because, if you didn’t realize already, the progress through the rain forest was so slow.
  • Air War:     YEP… many types of aircrafts and flying machines were used throughout the entire story from beginning to end.  They included aircraft that was real from the “past”  such as Russian MIGs to aircrafts that were inventions of the author.
  • Detective/Spy:   another YEP.   …
    • The bad guy – TERL, the Psycho’s Security Agent on planet Earth used the skills a detective uses to manipulate people/Psychlos, such as using/paying informants and using hidden cameras.   He also used blackmail, lies, and torture both mental and physical.  
    • The difference in the two’s useage of many of the same techniques was that one used some deception in order to blackmail others into cooperating so that evil/bad could happen and the other used deception in order to protect the greater good.  …
    • The good guy – Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, used many detective skills also.  His goal was to figure out what Terl was up to, so he could get to other members of the planet in order to get them organized so humankind could fight against the Psychlo regime.  … Jonnie used informants and hidden cameras.  He also used listening devices and cloak and dagger strategies to con Terl into thinking one thing was happening when it wasn’t.  
  • Economics:  Although there are some  mentions of Intergalactic credits and the value of ores and gold in the first 2/3 of the book, it is the last third of the book deals much with economics… from minting new money to deflation and setting up values for money. 
    • The earth bankers McAdam and Baron von Roth play a huge role along with Dries Gloton, of the Selachee Alien race , who is the Branch Manager of the Galactic Bank and Lord Voraz, the Central Director, CEO and overlord of the Galactic Bank who is also a Selachee.  
    • Together, they bring about an interesting twist in the way the battle for earth plays out in the end.
      • I would also like to touch on Mathematics at this time. 
        • Although this was not a “type” of book L Ron Hubbard said he wanted to write to show that it could be written as Science Fiction, he did include some interesting mathematical issues/concepts/concerns for the readers. 
        • The primary math concern was the use of Psychlo math, which is based on 11  (called the undenary system  as opposed to our decimal system which is based on 10)   …
        • Without spoiling the story and the mathematical moment of discovery for the reader, as well as an interesting complementary concept, I will just say that Jonnie needs to discover how to work Psychlo math in order to learn how to rig motors for Psychlo vehicles as well as for transshipment rigs. 
  •  Love:  L Ron Hubbard did have love running throughout this book, but I felt that the better example of love was of Jonnie to the planet and the people as a whole rather than as a love story.
    • The reader knows that Jonnie loves Chrissie, but his thoughts about her weren’t of the romantic type.  The author didn’t even mention if/when the two ever got married – though we assume they did by things stated in the latter end of the book
    • The regard for women in general as well as a woman’s viewpoint was lacking.  Did it hurt the story?  Not really.  However, I don’t think that L Ron Hubbard met this goal of writing a love story that  was Sci Fi very well.
  • Medicine:  Psychlo medicine was a theme in the last third of the book … It was interesting to discover how Jonnie and gang tried to figure out how to see inside a Psychlo as well as hear the earth doctor, MacKendrick, get excited over exploring their anatomy.
  • Sociology:   Well, this book is full of the exploration of other cultures… L Ron Hubbard definitely met his goal with this department. 

Sociology of the Aliens of Battlefield Earth

RACEPlanet/System of Origin
if given
Physical Description
if given
Sociology
if given
Balfan
blue colored, can breathe Psychlo breathe-gasare slaves on the planet Psychlo
BoxnardUniverse Sixsupposedly stole or invented teleportation, Psychlos destroyed them by the time of the story.
Boldodbigger than Psychlos, shapeless bodies, “hands” always in fistsStrong, considered stupid by the other races
Chatavorian5 feet all, flat heads, buck teeth, orange tan color, webbed handsfast nimble workers, best defense builders, work with stone, architects, eat wood.
ChinkoGalaxy Twoas tall as Psychlos, but “thread thin and delicate,” air breathers, old race, cheap, knew the cultural arts, were the recorders of information, wiped out by the Psychlos by the time of the story.
HawvinDuraleb Systemoval head, ear antennae, long noseless face, no teeth but are blade-gummed
HocknerDuraleb SystemNo nosesRumored that Psychlos defeated & wiped them out a couple hundred years ago.
Jambitchowgold scales, eyes where the mouth would be expected to be.
SelacheeSelachee Systemsmall grey people, rough grey skin, dull gray-blue eyes like the sea, heavy eyelids, round hairless heads, upturned noses, gills for ears, 4 fingers & thumb on each handBankers of the universes, can eat anything – and lots of it!
Tolnep1/2 the size of a Psychlo, body density like iron, fangs, bad eyesight: see in infrared only.Pirates & Slave Traders, deadly poison in fangs which takes 6 days to regenerate after biting, immune to Psychlo breath gas, enjoy interrogating, blind when subjected to short wavelength light, can only be killed with ultraviolet weapons, have mastered time control & can hold it frozen.

But what’s a Psychlo?

Psychlo Sociology
Physical Description: height: 8-9 feet tall width: about 3 1/2 feet wide weight: about 1000 pounds
* Body is covered in hair.
* Have eye bones – not eyelids, brow bones, and lip bones.
* Have amber colored eyes.
* Have 6 digits on one hand, 5 digits on the other, (hence the use of the undery – base 11 – system of mathematics) * Have talons at the end of the digits on their hands.
* Their brain is located low and in the back of their head.
* Life span of about 190 years.
* When they get old, their hair turns blue.
* When they die, they do not suffer from rigor mortis.
* Cannot breathe air. They breathe what they themselves term as “breath gas.”
* Uranium is deadly to their breathe gas – even a few bits of its dust would explode the breathe gas.
* They have green blood
* Are composed of viral strands – they have viral metabolism, not cellular like humans. This makes their body
denser than humans.
* Cannot eat cows/horses/ or animals with that kind of metabolism
* Along with whatever food they do eat, they chew or drink a substance called Kerbango which affects them like
alcohol consumption does to a human.
* The female births a litter of babies, usually 3 or 4 at a time.


Other information
* They are from the planet Psychlo
* They are sadistic, vicious, and enjoy being cruel, though there is no word for cruelty in the Psychlo Language.
* The Psychlo Language is actually a conglomerate from many other languages around the universes.
* They have a monopoly on Transhipment consoles and on the motors of many vehicles. They refuse to share their
technology for making them with others – so much so that if someone tries to take apart and examine any of the
aforementioned items, the console/motor is rendered incapacitated.
* Although their math is based on the number 11, it is not logical. Other races have tried for years to understand
how it works. None have been successful. If a Psychlo is asked about their math, the Psychlo goes into a coma
called ‘lapsin.’ It is illegal to cure lapsin, and the Psychlo suffering from it dies or is euthanized.
* Psychlo females are not taught math.
* The Psychlos have wiped out many races.

Man is an endangered species.”

Terl p 1.

The Villain: Terl

  • Terl is the epitome of a Psychlo as listed above.
  • He is on a 10-year tour of duty to earth
  • He is greedy, cruel, always looking for “leverage” so he can manipulate others.
  • He is the Psychlo Chief of Minesite Security for the Inter Galactic Mining Company to Planet Earth.
  • He is obsessed with getting off the planet and going back to Psychlo as a rich Psychlo.
  • He calls humans “animals.”
  • He is rather insane – and gets more mad as the book progresses.
  • He has a weapon which will totally destroy a planet. He plans to use this weapon on Earth when he leaves so all his devious deeds are not discovered.
  • He never calls Jonnie by name.
  • He is an all round BAD GUY!

The Hero: Jonnie Goodboy Tyler

  • 6 feet tall, 20 years old, bronzed skin, yellow corn-colored hair and beard, ice blue eyes.
  • Jonnie lives in a place called High Peak … what was Colorado in the years of the 2000s.
    • Jonnie is sure there is something wrong with the place where his people live;  The animals above and below his village mate, but the people don’t.
    • Not only are the people not populating, but when they do have babies, many are born deformed. 
    • Deformed babies are tossed out as the people are afraid of monsters, though Jonnie muses that he has never seen a monster.
    • When Jonnie’s dad died, his dad’s bones were crumbling away.  Jonnie insisted on having a proper burial.
  • Jonnie rides an extremely well-trained horse named Windsplitter.
  • He uses pointed rocks b/c there are no knives
  • He uses a kill club – there are no rifles.
    • He has slain a puma and wears its pelt.
    • Even after he learns to use modern weapons, Jonnie still keeps his kill club handy.
  • Has a girlfriend named Chrissie
    • Chrissie is 18
    • She has a sister age 7 named Pattie
  • Jonnie is intelligent.
  • He is patient.
  • He is charismatic, a true leader.

You can’t go very wrong putting your chips on Jonnie.”

Baron von Roth p 976

So … What about the story? Pros & Cons …

I love this book! This is about the 4th time I have read it over the past 20 years. That being said, I do have a couple of cons which is what makes this only a 9 out of 10 for me. (I used Paige’s rating scheme so that you would have consistency here on the blog.)

  • PROS
    • It’s 1050 pages. I love that I am able to visit these characters and their lives from the start of the story to the finish.
    • Most of the characters are extremely well developed. The good guy is one we love from the moment of the start of the book, and the bad guy is one we love to hate.
    • Although the ending is a little cheesy, the story is wrapped up in the end.
    • I loved the little hints, clues, and cues given throughout the book that were like puzzles that we could guess towards as we were reading. Especially fun were the little descriptions of items Jonnie didn’t understand which are daily items of our time.
    • I also loved the juxtaposition of the things that were from the year 3000.
    • I liked that we are introduced to some of the Psychlos who we like and that even though they are a cruel people, we find some who don’t fit the mold.
  • CONS
    • It’s 1050 pages. Although this is one of the pros for me, I can see that for a not so avid reader, this would be a daunting undertaking.
    • Above, I said that most of the characters are well developed. One of the things that niggles at me is that Chrissie and Pattie are pretty much cardboard popups when they appear. We could give a list of many of the characteristics about many of the other characters, even ones who don’t stay in the story very long, these two remain pretty much unknown to us.
    • The ending is cheesy. It works. The story is wrapped up in the end, but I would have been more satisfied without it being a ‘legend’ type ending. All the way through the book Jonnie is real to me and in the end I feel like now L Ron Hubbard doesn’t really have a satisfactory way to finish Jonnie’s story so he ends it abruptly. (To be fair, maybe he was just finished and didn’t want to explore any more.)
    • Without spoiling some of the specific things that happen, I wonder why the author didn’t explore cloning. The process was being explored by the time he wrote this book and just 2 years later Dolly the sheep was ‘born’ out of that process. With this thought and the cheesy ending being fleshed out, so to say, we could have had a 4th part of the book and another 250 more pages to read!!

The version of the Book I used was Battlefield Earth: A saga of the year 3000 by L Ron Hubbard (c) 1982 Published by Bridge Publications Inc.

Here is an excellent, thorough, and fairly spoiler-free website I found. https://galaxypress.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Meet-the-Characters-of-Battlefield-Earth.pdf