Critical Acclaim for Final Blackout

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Final Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard
Hadley Publishing Co., Providence, Rhode Island

Few serials in this magazine have had the immediate impact of L. Ron Hubbard’s memorable account of the British officer known only as the Lieutenant. It appeared in 1940, when it seemed to some that the final blackout of Western civilization which he described was more than possible. Now that this war—or stage in the war—has passed, the grim fact remains that the story is one of our own near future.

In the author’s words, the Lieutenant “had seen, in his lifetime, the peak and oblivion of flight, the perfection and extinction of artillery, the birth and death of nuclear physics, the end product of bacteriology, but only the oblivion, extinction, and death of culture.” He was born and bred in and for war; he lived to be exiled in a ruined Europe by the quarantine against the dreaded soldiers’ sickness; before he died he had increased his command to include all England, and had successfully defended it against a greedy America which has licking up the crumbs of broken nations. He is one of the remembered characters in the years Astounding Science Fiction has been published, and rightly so.

Final Blackout was written in 1939. Its author has since served through the war he seemed to describe. He disclaims, in a preface, any prevention at realism in his story. But—he has not changed it, nor should he have done. This will probably be the most lasting volume Hadley has yet published.

P. Schuyler Miller

Astounding Science Fiction

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Final Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard

Hadley Publishing Co., Providence, Rhode Island

When this story first appeared as a magazine serial in 1940, it was widely hailed as a magnificent story—but that actually the subject was not really science-fiction at all; the only aspect that placed it in this field is that it is laid in the future in the last stages of devastating world war.

Two reasons for the popularity of this story are to be found in this present book version; the magnificent depiction of the protagonist, the Lieutenant (one of Hubbard’s neat touches is never giving him any name, so that while he is an extremely well-drawn individual, he also becomes a symbol of a class of mankind); and the realization missed by so many other science-fiction authors that any future war, no matter how great a technological level it begins on will ultimately reach a state wherein infantry once more resumes it role as the queen of battle. This latter aspect of warfare, though not apparent at first becomes obvious when it realized how much of a drain the tremendous technological development must be to keep planes in the air, precisely-built artillery shells in the cannon, and all the other intricate apparatus of modern warfare functioning. As soon as the atomic weapons have done their damage, this technology must break down. This is Hubbard’s thesis, and granted that enmity persists, the war will continue on only the most primitive of levels. In this set-up then, the field officer of junior rank becomes the important figure, and it is through his excellence that the company, or regiment, will survive.

Final Blackout is a completely realistic and definitely “off trail” book, and is one from which the reader will derive much thought-provoking material, if but barren comfort for the future.

Amazing Stories

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Final Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard

Hadley Publishing Co., Providence, Rhode Island

The opportunity to describe a science fiction novel as moving or sincere occurs but rarely; not because there is anything basically insincere about science fiction, but because its basis is usually so purely intellectual that the question of sincerity does not arise. This grim and not yet falsified prophecy of the outcome of World War II, which caused something of a furore when it appeared in Astounding Science Fiction early in ’40, is in many respects untraditional: it is both sincere in its philosophical analysis of the crisis of civilization and, in its climax, deeply moving. It is written, too, at a level of craftsmanship which Mr. Hubbard has not since approached, except perhaps in “Fear” (Unknown, July ’40); and this is not particularly to decry his later work. Though he is himself inclined to doubt the verdict of those enthusiastic Astounding readers who voted it “one of the ten greatest stories every published.” It is, he insists, “just a story.”

It is the story, told with touches of sardonic humor against a background of devastation, of the far-sighted, enigmatic Lieutenant, a strange mixture of ruthlessness and altruism, leading his pathetic but ferocious band against the last of the reactionaries and incompetents; the story of the Odyssey and martyrdom at American hands of an Englishman—which was not only extravagantly praised but attacked as political propaganda, as alarmist and despondent, and as almost libelous towards big business and the big battalions.

Now, in dedicating his story “to the men and officers which whom I have served in World War II, First Phase, 1941-45,” the author defends his work as the product of a young man’s idealism. But it does not need his defense. That he appears in his Preface to retreat from his idealism, to abandon his extreme opinions and assert calmingly that, anyway, it can’t happen now, is perhaps regrettable. The idealism that inspired the story was good, the opinions sound—and who says it can’t possibly happen? But the extent to which, in his recantation, Mr. Hubbard keeps his tongue within his check, we leave to the reader.

For this is a book that must be read, especially by those who were not reading Astounding in ’40. It is a book that one should be glad to own, and one ought to be anxious to lend.

John K. Aiken

Fantasy

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