Freed of the arbitrary constraints of the magazine format, L. Ron Hubbard rolled out a story of 428,750 words—the biggest single-volume science fiction novel ever—and called it Battlefield Earth.
With a swift surge of action, the novel opens in the year 3000 A.D., when man is at the mercy of his cruelest tormentor—an “endangered species.” For a thousand years Earth has been ruthlessly ruled by a space-plundering race of nine-foot high, gas-breathing conquerors from the planet Psychlo. One of these creatures, the villainous security guard Terl, plans to find and enslave a man-creature, force him to mine Earth gold, and teleport the gold to Psychlo so he can then return in stolen comfort to his home planet.
The slave emerges in the form of Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, a member of a dwindling community of human survivors—there are no more than 35,000 left on Earth—hiding in the mountains near Denver. Terl captures Jonnie, cages him, teaches him to use advanced Psychlo technology, but does not share with Jonnie the secret of teleportation, which is the tool Psychlo has used to dominate civilizations throughout the universe. (Unbeknownst to Terl, however, the “man-animal” he is teaching is using the advanced technology and information he is being taught to set in motion plans of his own.)
Jonnie, under Terl’s direction, recruits a band of Scots to mine the gold, secretly enlisting their help to overthrow Terl and the oppressive Psychlo empire. After an exhaustive search, Jonnie discovers how to exploit a weakness in the alien’s armor. He finds deposits of uranium in the Rocky Mountains that have been enfeebling his people, and that uranium is unstable and explosive in the presence of the gas the Psychlos breathe. When Terl finally prepares to teleport gold in coffins to Psychlo, Jonnie and his band of Scots replace the gold with uranium, which utterly destroys Psychlo upon transmission. The multi-galactic empire they had built is irretrievably broken. Terl, and the other Psychlos left on Earth are subdued and imprisoned.
Then, in an audacious financial transaction to blackmail himself out of captivity, Terl “sells” Earth to Jonnie’s bitter competitor, and—unaware that Psychlo no longer exists—blasts off haplessly into oblivion, leaving his teleportation apparatus behind. Things get even stranger when an interplanetary banker appears, claiming Earth as collateral on a multi-trillion dollar Psychlo loan, now in obvious default.
Realizing that Earth is in dire jeopardy, and defenseless against a galaxy of alien civilizations ready to take over the “bankrupt” Earth, Jonnie rapidly learns economic, social and political skills, which turn out to be more powerful than any weapon Earth could wield against these potential foreign invaders. To this end, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler uses Psychlo’s former subject planets and gets them accepted as an alternate settlement of the loan, saving humanity once again. The story closes as Jonnie gathers a vast congress of planetary emissaries, and gets them to agree to universal peace.
List of Characters:
A young adventurer who has deputized himself as Jonnie Goodboy Tylers’ squire.
Brown Limper Staffor
Raised in the same village as Jonnie. He is clubfooted and has harbored a hatred for Jonnie that has festered over many years. Climbs the ranks from village council member to the Council of Earth, much to the detriment of the human rebellion.
Secretary to the Psychlo security chief Terl. Acquired for her decorative looks, ability to shuffle off callers, and a mental incapacity which prevents her from being a menace to Terl.
Emotionally devoted to Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Leaves her village in the mountains to find Jonnie after he leaves on a quest to find a great ‘man village’.
Colonel Ivan Smolensk
A descendant of the Red Army detachment. Combines forces with the Americans and Scots in a strategic alliance.
Selachee branch manager of the Galactic Bank for the sixteenth universe, which includes Earth.
A daredevil and fierce warrior. One of the expert combat pilots of the human rebellion.
One of the first members of the human rebellion, and ace fighter pilot.
Jonnie Goodboy Tyler
The protagonist, a young man of twenty who was raised in a small dying village in the mountains near Denver. He leads the human rebellion against the alien Psychlo invaders.
Small Psychlo that befriends Jonnie and teaches him how to use Psychlo machinery. Termed a “geysermouth” for his incessant chattering, and has no Psychlo friends.
Emissary from the Tolnep race. A formidable enemy against the human race.
Central Director, Chief Executive Officer and Overlord of the Galactic Bank located in the Gredides System. His power spans sixteen universes—including Earth.
Chinese advisor to Jonnie. Educates him in the art of politics and diplomacy
Psychlo Planetary Director of Earth. A seemingly bumbling and incompetent leader that Terl manipulates to accomplish his ends.
Younger sister to Chrissie. Captured and used as leverage against Jonnie to get him to mine gold for Terl.
Sir Robert the Fox
A veteran of many war raids and scouts, he plays a major role in advancing the human rebellion.
Psychlo security chief on a planet without insecurities—Earth. Terl captures Jonnie, and uses him to perpetrate an underhanded scheme to mine gold for his own personal wealth and power.
Here is a listing of terms that will be found in the story to aid your students as some words may be new to them.
A common Psychlo weapon used for self-defense and hunting. Comes in a hand-gun and rifle-like size.
Flying Mine Platform
With rudimentary controls, the flying platform serves miners in difficult positions, such as near cliff tops or in ravines and valleys.
A juggernaut of a ship, the gas drone is used by Psychlos during heavy offensive attacks. Requiring no pilots and equipped with 15 giant canisters of lethal gas, it has the capacity to wipe out entire cities within minutes.
Popular with Psychlo workers and executives, Kerbango is the favored drink of their race. Similar in effect to the alcohol consumed by humans.
A wooden cudgel, effective in hunting wild animals for food, stunning predators and in ground combat. Used by Jonnie.
A machine that uses a system of cross-association drills, composed of symbols, sounds and words to create an incredibly fast method of straight picture learning.
Mark II Ground Car
With minimal armor and firepower, the Mark II serves as a low-cost solution to short-range personnel transport needs of Psychlos.
Picto-recorders are small camera-like tools that are used to record motion pictures onto discs for easy playback.
Home planet of the strongest alien force across the universes. The Psychlo inhabitants are physically large about nine feet tall, weigh somewhere near a ton and have sharp talons and fur on their bodies.
The single most valuable tool in the Psychlo empire. Using a secretly guarded system of teleportation, the transshipment rig is able to move materials, equipment and personnel across vast distances virtually instantaneously.
Discussion & Comprehension
a. The Psychlo Chamco brothers describe how Psychlo discovered our planet-from a probe launched into space that had precious metals on it and directions to Earth. It was this incident that led to the invasion of Earth, something obviously unforeseen by scientists. Can you think of other cases where science has not realized the full potential of its inventions, and possible drawbacks that could result?
b. Why did the Psychlos invade Earth? How did they orchestrate the attack? Why did they attempt to wipe out humanity instead of capturing us as slaves?
c. Jonnie grew up with the legend that monsters under the command of god drove the last of humanity into the hills and secret places to test them. What function do these legends serve? Do you think they helped or hurt Jonnie’s village and why?
d. Jonnie decides to leave the mountains and find a big village where man was said to live. Chrissie warns him not to go. Why does she warn him? What is Jonnie hoping to find out in the plains?
e. Terl secretly plots to capture a human to mine gold for him so he can go back to his home planet as a wealthy Psychlo. Why can’t Terl mine the gold himself? How does Terl manage to hide his true intentions from his fellow workers at the minesite?
f. Terl captures Jonnie and imprisons him in a cage. Terl tries to get “leverage” on Jonnie to make him do what he wants. What does he finally discover and use as leverage to control Jonnie? Why is Terl always trying to get leverage? Give some other examples of leverage Terl exacts on other characters on the story.
g. Jonnie is a great warrior and fighter, but even at 6’ tall is no match for the 9’ Psychlo aliens. What is it that he discovers from the Chinko learning machines that gives him an advantage over Terl and the other Psychlos?
h. While addressing a tribe of humans in Scotland, Jonnie tells them: “Our race is growing fewer in numbers. In the coming years we may be gone forever. But even though the odds are against us, at least let it be said that we took this small last chance and tried.” He gets more volunteers than expected to travel with him to Colorado to mine gold for Terl, even though the dangers are high and many may die. Why do you think so many willingly risk their lives to overthrow the Psychlo tyranny?
i. Terl discovers that the Planetary Director, Numph, has been secretly embezzling money from the Planet Psychlo by spying on him. How does Terl use this to his advantage? How does Terl react when the tables are turned and he thinks he is being spied on by the former IBI (Internal Bureaux of Investigation) Psychlo employee Jayed? What was Jayed really doing on the planet?
j. What effect does Kerbango have on Psychlos? How does this compare to the effects drugs and alcohol have on the people of Earth?
k. Jonnie and the Scots manage to transport uranium to Psychlo and destroy it, and to take over the Psychlo minesites on Earth. All of mankind rejoices, Jonnie, however, is not happy, feeling instead that he has failed humanity. What makes him feel this way? What new threat faces Earth now that Psychlo has been destroyed?
l. In the book, Psychlos are portrayed as vicious and cruel. They revel in seeing others in pain and appear to have no compassion whatsoever. One character in the story, Ker, a Psychlo, appears to be different and befriends Jonnie and helps forward the cause of the human rebellion. Jonnie discovers that male Psychlos have been implanted with a metal object in their skull as babies that makes them cruel. Ker, through a stroke of luck, escapes having this object put in his skull. Why did the Psychlo scientists implant these objects? What were they trying to protect, and what came of their society as a result?
m. In the story, Chirk, Terl’s secretary, goes into a coma when Jonnie questions her about Psychlo mathematics. Why were Psychlo females not allowed to learn mathematics? What other steps did the Psychlo medical scientists take to protect their teleportation technology and mathematics?
n. How does Jonnie finally unlock the mystery of Psychlo mathematics and teleportation? How does Terl help him do this? What power does this give to humanity? Give examples of how technological advances have helped other nations rise above each other in history.
o. Who are Dries Gloton and Lord Voraz? What is the Intergalactic Bank? How do the methods of banking compare to those on Earth? Why does the Intergalactic Bank really want Earth?
p. Why does Brown Limper detest Jonnie? How does Limper use the Brigantes to exact his revenge upon him and how does Bittie protect Jonnie from this? At what sacrifice? What point is being made about human nature here?
q. The Scots decide to stay in Edinburgh as it is the center of Scottish nationalism instead of going to Cornwall, even in the face of alien attack. This proves to be a disastrous mistake. Why?
r. What price must Glenncannon pay to protect Earth? What motivates him to do this?
s. Mr. Tsung gives Jonnie some advice when the alien emissaries come to Earth to decide its fate: “It is one thing, to be a mighty warrior…but although you have won every battle…and driven the enemy to rout…from a field of slaughter…the entire war…can be lost…at the conference table!” What does Jonnie learn from this? How can a conference table be the same as a battleground? Give examples of this.
t. In the end, Jonnie is able to bring peace throughout the universe, without the use of the brutal force and savage genocide that has been the Psychlos’ stock in trade. Does this ending change your understanding of how battles can and should be fought? How does this compare to past wars that have occurred between nations? Based on this story, what actions do you think our governments today should take to maintain peace?
Different Activities for Students:
a. Pretend you are going to join the human rebellion with Jonnie. Write an essay on what your character would be, what you would look like, the types of skills you would have, and how you would help aid the rebellion against the Psychlo tyranny.
b. Nominate one of the characters in the book for an office in local, state or national government. Write down which office they should run for. What are the qualities that would make them suitable for that office?
c. Pretend that you can spend a day with one of the characters. Which character would you choose? Why? What would you do? Discuss this with your class.
d. Interview a character from the book. Write at least ten questions that will give the character the opportunity to discuss his/her thoughts and feelings about their role in the story. The format of the interview is up to you.
e. Review current events in the newspaper and on TV, and note any similarities you find to current events occurring throughout the book. Keep copies of clippings and your findings and discuss them with your class.
f. Write a new chapter for the ending of the book, making up what you think would happen after Jonnie disappears.
g. Write an essay comparing and contrasting some of the ways our current world, and the world described in Battlefield Earth are similar and different.
h. Choose a quote from a character. Write about why it would or wouldn’t be a good motto by which to live your life.
i. Make a drawing, timeline or other graphic depiction of an event or character in the story.
j. Read the “Declaration of Peace” by L. Ron Hubbard from the soundtrack he composed for the book. Compare and contrast the message that it delivers with current events, and how it can help you understand the world in a deeper sense.