Battlefield Earth and The Lord of the Rings: Timeless Heroic Adventure
Guest blogger Grant Bremner
Without a doubt L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring are classic epic science fiction and fantasy stories that have stood the test of time and are a must-read for all fans of speculative fiction.
With The Lord of the Rings’ new movie series, The Rings of Power, I took an in-depth look at these two favourites. The new series is not a remake of the Peter Jackson film but is set thousands of years before The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
A Hero’s Journey—The Beginning
At the beginning of all great books of fiction, readers must be drawn in and captivated by the theme, setting, or characters. The world-building in these stories is so rich that you are transported into the story.
As Battlefield Earth starts, you find yourself in the year 3000. There are no countries, no cities, and Earth is a post-apocalyptic wasteland dominated by the evil alien Psychlos—a powerful beginning to the story. The surviving humans don’t actually realize their oppressors are alien, as they have not seen any in living memory. But the superstition of ‘monsters’ keeps them isolated and in fear. You can read the first 13 chapters free, but I warn you that it is addictive.
The Lord of the Rings brings to life an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory, and fell to ruin. We start in the tranquillity of Middle-earth, where the peaceful Hobbits reside, one of whom is destined to become a hero. However, it is not long before an ominous threat to the Shire and civilization is made clear, and a grand adventure begins.
Heroes and Villains
Great classics always have characters you learn to love and hate. The villains and heroes in these two fantastic stories are quickly introduced. The concern for the heroes will move you.
Our main villain in Battlefield Earth is a giant Psychlo alien (9 feet tall, weighing a ton). He is the evil, sadistic, despotic, and cunning Security Chief of Earth called Terl. He cares only for personal profit at any cost. The protagonist is Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, whose heroic adventure starts with the hope of finding somewhere better to live for his people. The birth rate in his village is slower than the death rate—man is an endangered species.
However, Jonnie is soon captured. He is a strong character whose perseverance and integrity set him apart with more than just muscle. What I love about Jonnie is that while he has drive and integrity, he is not possessed of magic or superhero strength. You feel his losses, uncertainties, and his triumphs. In this overwhelming crisis for mankind, L. Ron Hubbard manages to bring a hero to life that could exist, that could unite humankind. I found myself rooting for him from the beginning.
In The Lord of the Rings, the continuation of civilization is thrust into the hands of Frodo Baggins, a young Hobbit who inherits the One Ring (the ring forged by Sauron as the One Ring to rule them all—the 20 rings of power). He is swept into the epic fantasy adventure as an unlikely hero at first. He must travel to the fires of Mount Doom to destroy the Ring before it lands in the hands of the Dark Lord of Mordor. Frodo is aided on his perilous journey by the fellowship of nine companions: the hobbits Samwise Gamgee and his cousins Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took, Gandalf, Aragorn, the dwarf Gimli, the elf Legolas, and Boromir, a man of Gondor.
Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, has awakened and threatens to conquer Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien describes him as “an image of malice and hatred made visible,” and he has powerful forces of evil doing his bidding, including the massive army of orcs.
Twists, Turns, and Cliffhangers
With over 1,000 pages in paperback format, Battlefield Earth is a massive book. Every page grabs your attention, as one would expect from such a renowned classic science fiction writer. There are engaging twists and turns with unexpected cliffhangers that are technically superb and emotionally gripping. The aliens don’t have it all their way, even though they possess advanced technology and alien weaponry.
However, when the remaining humans are unexpectedly threatened by the betrayal of their own people, the story takes us down another path of greed and loyalty—or the lack of it. The rebellion explodes across the cosmic expanse of the Psychlo Empire, and its effect on Earth brings a surprising new twist to this enthralling masterpiece.
The Lord of the Rings is an epic story that spans three books. At the end of the Second Age, Men and Elves join in the Last Alliance to resist the evil Sauron’s growing power. The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces are unrelenting in their search for it. Destiny has placed it in the hands of the young Hobbit Frodo who inherited the Ring from Bilbo Baggins (the original Hobbit hero). A daunting task lies ahead for Frodo when he becomes the Ring bearer. He must destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, where it was forged, while being tormented by the power of the Ring itself and relentlessly sought after by the many evil minions of Sauron. The story is riveting with unexpected twists, fantastic characters, and adventure that keep the pages flying.
Science and Magic
Of course, the most significant difference between Battlefield Earth and The Lord of the Rings is that Battlefield Earth is right here on Earth and is dependent on science, including advanced alien technology. The only strange ‘creatures’ are aliens from 16 Galaxies.
Whereas The Lord of the Rings is high fantasy with wizards, strange creatures, both good and evil, elves, dwarves, and Ents.
Some of the sci-fi technologies that I hope inspire the likes of Elon Musk are teleportation, allowing travel between galaxies almost instantly, and the vocorder that translates in real-time the languages of multiple alien and Earth languages. This would eliminate the confusion and the resulting hostilities because people don’t understand one another. Imagine!
And, of course, no less entertaining is the fantastic power Gandalf and the elves wield.
If Tolkien had thought of the vocorder, it would have saved him hundreds of hours in creating the intricate LOTR languages. However, his passion for language started in his teens. He greatly enjoyed the study and structure of language, and creating fictional tongues was an aesthetic pleasure for him.
While these may seem like vast differences, a well-told story in a believable setting carries you through. In fact, it is the characters you care about, that you love and hate, the ones that move you, that give stories visceral impact.
Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy at Their Best
These superb novels have stood the test of time and have been made into feature films.
Battlefield Earth is, without a doubt, a must-read classic science fiction story. I have read this epic novel many times and always thoroughly enjoy it. Not only has it sold millions of copies worldwide, but it also continues to be relevant—timeless.
The movie John Travolta created and Roger Christian directed has become a ‘cult classic.’ It was shot using Dutch angles to bring out the ‘pulp-adventure’ feel and is a lot of fun.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an epic tale of friendship, heroism, and betrayal. It has earned colossal success over the years. For some, the story is complicated with so many different characters, but for me, it is a thoroughly absorbing tale that will continue to endure.
The universe created by J.R.R. Tolkien has now inspired The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Prime Video. This should be another exciting twist in the Second Age of Middle-earth (thousands of years before Tolkien’s adventure begins). Here is The Lord of the Rings’ new trailer:
While I appreciate movies, I have yet to watch a film that measures up to the book. So don’t cut yourself short—read the books.
I also recommend the audiobooks.
The Battlefield Earth audio was created with 67 actors, led by Josh Clark as the narrator (excellent), and the introduction is read by the incomparable Stefan Rudnicki. The unabridged performance is one of the best sci-fi audiobooks. I love to read, but this audio created another experience. It was like watching a movie in your mind. You can listen to the first hour for free (download here).
Here is a short video that shows what went into this production.
The audiobooks for TheLord of the Rings trilogy were redone last year by Recorded Books. Andy Serkis narrates it and does a fantastic job bringing the story to life.
In writing Battlefield Earth, L. Ron Hubbard created an epic masterpiece in one book, a science fiction classic that has already endured since its first publication in 1982. It will continue to do so, as great classic books always do.
This ambitious, thoroughly absorbing story has heroes fighting against seemingly vast, overwhelming aliens with futuristic technology. These are real honorable men and women using their own determination, mental abilities, and fighting spirit no matter the gravity of the odds stacked against them.
A true epic science fiction adventure that transports the reader somewhere else, scary and exciting, and makes reading so enjoyable and worthwhile. It is one of the best sci-fi novels and stands up to the best sci-fi of 2022.
J.R.R. Tolkien was a brilliant writer, and The Lord of the Rings is a great example. However, you must know that it takes patience and diligence to get through these novels. I first read them during my teens and did not fully comprehend the complexity woven into this epic story. However, years later, I discovered he pioneered the genre of epic fantasy and created a universe in the genre that is loved by thousands of dedicated fans.
Therefore, my first choice, as it is a book that can be read and thoroughly enjoyed by all on their first reading, is Battlefield Earth. While Tolkien’s Middle-earth books are fantastic stories, they may not be for everyone.
Grant Bremner was born in Scotland and spent his entire working life with the BBC in London. Starting in radio at the Broadcasting House before moving over to the Television Centre where he held a variety of positions in film and television. Due to a physical condition, he took early retirement and settled in Spain with his wife Sue. There he took up writing seriously. He won several prizes for his short stories, and began to write novels, including science fiction, mystery, and suspense. His first novel, The Quest for the Holey Pail, is set within the boundaries of Chaotic Space where you can expect the unexpected. Since returning to the UK he has self-published many books, which are available on Amazon.
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