Star Wars and Battlefield Earth: Classic Science Fiction at Its Best
by Mike McCrory
When you think about some of the greatest science fiction books of all time, a few come to the top of the list. I can not even begin to list them as there are so many amazing stories.
However, one of the genre’s most well-known and marketed classics is Star Wars.
But what about the timeless novels? How would they measure up? Battlefield Earth, Dune, The Foundation Series, and Enders Game are just a few of my favorite sci-fi books.
While the movie franchise has a marketing budget that does not compare, I will look at the Star Wars and Battlefield Earth stories to give a sense of what makes them stand out. You can download the first 13 chapters free if you haven’t read it.
Books and Novels
Star Wars was a screenplay written by George Lucas, who hired Allan Dean Foster to novelize the early drafts of the scripts. So when you ask yourself, what book Star Wars is based on, it was actually the other way around. There are hundreds of stories in the Star Wars book series (Star Wars novels), but I am talking about the originals when Star Wars came out.
Battlefield Earth has been at the top of the book charts many times and is a beloved science fiction favorite by L. Ron Hubbard. The first edition was a New York Times bestseller for 8 weeks and hit numerous international bestseller lists (like the London Times). I can’t wait to read more novels in this universe.
You first realize that Star Wars is not in the galaxy we think of as our own.
As the beginning of the movie states, the story is set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
One of the fantastic things about Battlefield Earth is that it happens in our galaxy, but in the far future (the year 3000!). Most of the story happens on Earth, but ultimately the action explodes across 16 galaxies.
You meet a variety of wild aliens among the Star Wars cantina characters. This is the Mos Eisley creature cantina where Hans Solo was recruited to help the rebels. That is just the beginning. Throughout the series you meet as many alien races as there are human races on Earth.
In Battlefield Earth, there is a conference with alien emissaries that, instead of laughing at the crazy alien species, you are on the edge of your seat. The entire battle for Earth could be lost in that conference room. Epic in scope while totally riveting.
Good Vs. Evil
In the Star Wars universe, the special powers of the Jedi Force are at the root of everything that is happening—good and evil.
You have your heroes and your traditional bad guys, like Darth Vader, who battle for control of the galaxy.
You have the rebels and Jedi battling for good and to protect all the people in that same galaxy.
And, of course, there is the ultimate evil—the evil dark side of the force—trying to control the universe. I don’t mean to oversimplify. The Star Wars universe is very complex on multiple levels.
In Battlefield Earth, the hero is Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Like on Luke Skywalker’s home planet, you first meet him in a desolate area off the beaten path. Their beginnings give them both a feeling of a Western (that is why the term “space western” is sometimes used to refer to both of these stories).
Jonnie must rally the scattered remnants of humanity to fight for their freedom against the alien might of the Psychlo Empire. You come to realize as the story unfolds that the advanced alien technology and weapons, and their wickedness, make freedom all but impossible.
While Battlefield Earth is science fiction, many aspects will make you wonder what part of it is fiction as it is so realistic.
It is all written from a “what would you do if this really happened” frame of mind.
The tactics Jonnie uses to battle the Psychlos (the aliens who invaded Earth 1000 years before he was born) can be used today. It is mind-bending because you can’t find fault in his tactics. If this were a real story, this would be required reading at any military Academy (maybe it should be anyway).
Imagine being one of just a few thousand people on Earth, and you have to deal with an invading alien force. A force that has taken root for hundreds of years, dominating and mining your natural resources. And they are evil, like they enjoy inflicting pain and hunting humans for sport evil. Even Jabba the Hutt is not as crazy as these Psychlos. And guess what? You don’t have an army to fight with because the world’s military that previously fought it was decimated. You have no weapons available but your mind.
As a fun comparison, here is a Jabba the Hutt quote:
“Here’s a little something for your trouble, heh heh heh.” —Jabba the Hutt
As you can imagine, any “payment” is to the recipient’s detriment.
Similarly, the sadistic Terl says this when speaking with Jonnie about the delivery of the gold he has been forced to mine:
“But never fear, animal. Come Day 93, you will be paid off. With interest. Compounded. I promise you very faithfully!… You’ll get everything that’s coming to you, animal!”
Only his “payment” is intended to wipe out the remaining human survivors.
How can Jonnie cunningly extract information from this kind of warped enemy in order to use it against them?
Let’s further compare the real evil in both stories.
The face of the dark side of the Force is Sheev Palpatine, the evil Emperor. He will not let anything stand in his way. But you KNOW he is wicked.
Now take Terl, the Chief of Earth’s planetary security. From the viewpoint of the Psychlos, he is just ordinary. Of course, he considers himself to be clever.
However, as the story unfolds, you see into his soul and just how wicked he is, yet believable.
And, not until the very end, do you learn why the alien race itself is demented and the real evil behind it.
Another interesting comparison is the sci-fi weaponry.
You can’t think of weapons in Star Wars without thinking about the Lightsaber. But I am referring to the most destructive weapon, the Death Star, capable of destroying entire planets.
In Battlefield Earth, there is a planet-buster bomb that starts a chemical reaction that can literarily turn a planet into a massive ball of gas. I hope no one is inspired to produce something this destructive.
Battlefield Earth is one of the best science fiction books ever written. It stands at over 1000 pages. It takes you through what it would be like to battle an alien race that wants nothing more than to kill us for sport and mine our planet for the wealth of resources.
The aliens are so advanced that they do not consider humans more than mere animals.
There are many levels and details to it, but I won’t spoil the book’s outcome.
Every character is realistic. You learn to love them and care about them. And you develop an intense dislike for the aliens. Mr. Hubbard gets into the mind and viewpoint of the characters so you know them.
If there were an invading force today, I hope and pray there is a man or woman who has the intelligence of Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Someone with the strength, vigor, and intelligence to deploy survival tactics. And the charisma to pull us all together, protect humanity, and take back the planet!
There are so many aspects of humanity represented in the many characters and situations of Battlefield Earth. That is why it speaks to so many people.
Read Battlefield Earth! Especially if you are a hard-core Star Wars fan. You will not be disappointed (except when you finish the book because you want to keep reading).
Here are a few reviews that make the comparison:
“Battlefield Earth is one of the great classics of space opera science fiction, with all of the swashbuckling energy and wonder of Star Wars. With great heroes, battles, wonders, and interstellar intrigue, this is a book that you won’t want to put down.” —Dave Wolverton (Star Wars: The Courtship Of Princess Leia)
“Star Wars-ish.” —Brandon Sanderson (Way of Kings)
“Think of the Star Wars sagas and Raiders of the Lost Ark, mix in the triumph of Rocky I, Rocky II, and Rocky III and you have captured the exuberance, style, and glory of Battlefield Earth.” —Baltimore Evening Sun
“It is Rocky Jones, Star Wars, Flash Gordon, and Battlestar Galactica all rolled into one—and then some.… Battlefield Earth is vintage hard science fiction, done by a master storyteller.” —Buffalo Evening News
So how do Battlefield Earth and Star Wars compare? I think they are both fantastic and entertaining—epic adventure. And there is something in them for everyone in both galaxies.
Perhaps people love Star Wars so much because they don’t want to be reminded of the reality of the state of the world. Star Wars is considered science fantasy because of the force—it blends space opera and fantasy. The world-building and suspension of disbelief are powerful. I respect that because sometimes we need fantasy to give our minds a break from the realities of the world.
The easiest way to recap my feelings is that Battlefield Earth is based on reality, not fantasy.
How would you compare Battlefield Earth and Star Wars?
Please share your comments below.
I grew up in Mobile Alabama. I am a father of four. I have spent 30 years in retail management.
I enjoy science fiction, model building, writing, and spending time with my family.
I first read Battlefield Earth in 2000. I am the self-proclaimed biggest Battlefield Earth fan there is and I enjoy anything associated with Battlefield Earth and L. Ron Hubbard.
I first read Battlefield Earth in the year 2000. I have personally read it over five times and I have listened to it on audiobook three or more times. One of the reasons I read it so much is that there are very few authors who come close to L. Ron Hubbardʼs way of writing. It is so very vivid.
I consider myself an expert on Battlefield Earth and enjoy doing anything that I can to encourage new readers to enjoy and explore the world of Battlefield Earth.
My goal is to have my own books published in the near future.
Other resources and articles you may be interested in:
Dune and Battlefield Earth: the Heroes, the Force That Drives Sci-Fi
Science Fiction Classic Books: Battlefield Earth and The Foundation Series
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