Thursday, May 05, 2022

Book Review: "Beyond All Weapons" by L. Ron Hubbard

Beyond All Weapons by L. Ron Hubbard (Galaxy, 2012)

This slim collection—121 pages—is part of Galaxy Press’s Stories from the Golden Age series. The collection of 80 books and unabridged audiobooks compile more than 150 stories written by L. Ron Hubbard, with subsets focusing on air adventure, far-flung adventure, sea adventure, tales from the Orient, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and western stories. This volume comes from the science fiction sub-series and collects three stories.

The title story, “Beyond All Weapons,” originally appeared in Super Science Stories (January 1950). “Strain” was published in the April 1942 Astounding Science Fiction, and “The Invaders” appeared in the January 1942 Astounding. In the first story, during a rebellion on Earth, several rebel ships break a blockade in order to travel past Mars to Alpha Centauri. After establishing a colony on a habitable world, they return to Earth only to find that more time had passed than expected; they did the math later.

In “Strain,” a military commander changes his plan of attack after two soldiers are captured and questioned as prisoners of war. And in “The Invaders,” a nebbishy member of the Extra-Territorial Scienticorps, a technician—a troubleshooter of some note, apparently—is able to rout the attack of an increasingly formidable force despite every effort to thwart him by the very people he’s working to save.

The stories are a fun read, though the foreword and endnotes are even more fun. If one reads Kevin J. Anderson’s foreword and the brief essay “L. Ron Hubbard in the Golden Age of Pulp Fiction” at face value, Hubbard effectively invented or perfected pulp fiction and science fiction—in fact, any genre he put his hand to. “He could write on any subject, in any genre,” Anderson writes, claiming that Hubbard is the most enduring writer of the era. The end piece suggests that Hubbard’s character-driven stories ushered in the golden age of science fiction. Apparently, Robert A. Heinlein was a protege of his.

In the end, these are fun stories, but nothing earth-shatteringly important, and it’s a risk to believe Galaxy’s own press. Hyperbole aside, Hubbard is interesting, but were it not for Dianetics and Scientology, would he be important? Regardless, I hadn’t known that Hubbard scripted the serial The Secret of Treasure Island, so that might be worth checking out. And I do look forward to reading other volumes in this series, despite my misgivings. Old stories can be good stories, after all. (This review was previously published in slightly different form in the LASFAPA apazine Faculae & Filigree #11.)

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