Title: Battlefield Earth
Author: L. Ron Hubbard
Narrator: Multiple narrators
Length: 47.5 hours
Publisher: Galaxy Press, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Battlefield Earth was first published in 1982. I remember seeing the huge book sitting in the local bookstore's window display. Its girth was the main reason I decided not to read it back then. But I'm a real push-over when it comes to audio, especially audio drama. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review the new audiobook production of this title, I jumped at the chance.
This is the story of Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, one of the few humans left on Earth after its conquest by the Psychlos, a cruel alien race interested only in exploiting the planet's natural resources. The Psychlos consider humans to be nothing more than animals, a level to which they have almost succumbed since the arrival of the aliens hundreds of years before the current year, AD 3000.
When one of the aliens captures Jonnie, he is exposed to the barbaric culture of the Psychlos and decides he must do whatever he can to rid the world of these merciless tyrants. Jonnie's tale moves back and forth like a hyper-tense game of chess, with aliens and humans trying to out-manuever each other for control of the planet.
While this back and forth flow of the plot is effective in providing tension for the story, it can also have the effect of making various outcomes somewhat predictable. This might have been irritating if I was reading the text, but the audio production was so well done that it really didn't matter. All I wanted to do was keep listening to see what would happen next.
From the deep, rumbling voice of the sadistic alien Terl to the sweet, adoring voice of Chrissie (Jonnie's love interest) the narrators' interpretation of the characters are spot-on. Told through the voices of 67 actors performing 198 different characters, along with sound effects and music, I cannot imagine the amount of coordination and technical expertise required to create an audio production of this magnitude. It's an exceptional combination of old-time radio adventure, stellar voice acting, and cutting-edge audio technology.
As with any recording of an older title, hearing the words seems to highlight differences in writing style and use of stereotypes that the passing of years will inevitably emphasize. Here, women are not strong characters. They need to be rescued or they are secondary, sexual objects. In the case of the aliens, if Psychlos females are asked to do math, they immediately fall into a deep coma. Maybe I should be upset with this, but how can I be offended when math triggers the very same reaction in me?
Producing a quality audio drama is not easy, but Galaxy Press has been doing an exceptional job for years with their Golden Age series of short stories. Now, they've taken everything they learned to produce an audio masterpiece. If you enjoy the audio drama format, break out the good earphones and listen to this one - you'll be amazed.