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To the Stars
L. Ron Hubbard
Galaxy Press, 219 pages

To the Stars
L. Ron Hubbard
Lafayette Ron Hubbard was born March 13, 1911, in Tilden, Nebraska and died January 14, 1986 in San Luis Obispo, CA. In the 1930s and 40s, he produced a large number of westerns and science fiction stories and novels, some under the pen-name René Lafayette. Among these, some were well regarded, including the fantasy Slaves of Sleep (1939), the novel Typewriter in the Sky, the well-regarded militaristic post-apocalyptic novel Final Blackout (1940), and the horror novel Fear (1940). In 1950, he published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and in 1954 he founded the Church of Scientology to promote his "applied religious philosophy." Between 1954 and the early 80s, Hubbard published no further science fiction or fantasy. His Battlefield Earth was published in 1982 and eventually spawned the movie of the same name. The ten part ultra-pulpish Mission Earth series was published largely posthumously, and as with Battlefield Earth received rather poor reviews. Further biographical information can be found on the official L. Ron Hubbard website and in Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard by Russell Miller -- I'll let you decide what to believe.

Publisher's website
BOOK REVIEW: To the Stars: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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The implications of relativity theory in terms of time dilatation suggest that when someone travels at near light speed and then returns to his point of origin he/she would have aged less than those who remained at home. This theme has been taken up in a number of science fiction novels, including Joe Haldeman's Hugo/Nebula winning The Forever War (1974), George Turner's Beloved Son, and Stanislaw Lem's Return from the Stars (1961; 1982 in English), as well as some others (1a, 1b, 2). However, L. Ron Hubbard's "Beyond all Weapons" (Super Science Stories Jan. 1950) and the novel reprinted here, To the Stars (Astounding Science Fiction, Feb.-Mar. 1950) are among the earliest works of science fiction to deal with the implications of time dilation.

For all the controversy surrounding L. Ron Hubbard, the fact remains that much of his pre-Dianetics science fiction and fantasy is quite entertaining, and in most cases as good or better than much of the pulp literature of the era. To the Stars, besides being among the earliest hard science fiction works to consider time-dilation effects in long-distance near-light-speed space travel, is a pretty entertaining story. Alan Corday, engineer-surveyor 10th class, is shanghied on to the long passage ship Hound of Heaven under the orders of cantankerous Capt. Jocelyn. Angry and frustrated, he eventually learns how the ship operates, but upon his return to Earth, his girlfriend is long dead, and the world entirely different from the one he left, so he can never go home. He becomes part of a community of de facto outcasts who live on the ship: the drunkard doctor, the curmudgeonly captain, a sweet but mysterious young girl, and an assortment of motley crew members. Each trip the ship takes, its crew become more and more anachronisms on the worlds they land on, technology, language, entire worlds evolving while they live mere weeks or months, and the farther they go, the more impossible the return to planetary life. When Jocelyn dies on some god-forsaken planet controlled by a warlord, Corday must mop things up, and then assume command... and soon the cycle which brought him into the fold will be repeated.

Hubbard strikes a good balance between the crew members' evolving despair and acceptance of the situation, between the heroism of these people who keep the lines of long distance communication and commerce open and their growing irrelevancy and need to relearn everything at every port of call. At first Corday is perhaps a bit too much of the matinée idol hero, intelligent, principled, physically strong and attractive, and perhaps even a bit pompous at times, but in the end Capt. Jocelyn has chosen wisely. While the gender roles and some of the expressions used in the dialogues are clearly of the 50s vintage, overall To the Stars has aged well, and at 210 pages of wide-spaced text Hubbard hasn't stretched the story out beyond what the premise can withstand. Whatever else Hubbard might or might not have been, he could spin a good yarn.

Copyright © 2005 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.


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