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Death Quest may be where L. Ron Hubbard's interminable Mission Earth series reaches its nadir, where it plumbs the depths of author Hubbard's depravity and can't sink any lower. By this time, the reader has had to put up with Hubbard's prose style, as he does his best to describe every "perversion" and twisted sexual kink he can imagine, while using a light-hearted (and impossibly tedious and slow-moving) style to describe these nauseating scenes.
But then again, maybe not. There are scenes in the upcoming books (especially book nine, Villainy Victorious) that may even outdo this.
Other classics of science fiction and satire give us characters that entertain us, delight us, and romance us…the Stainless Steel Rat, Jerry Cornelius and Jherek Carnelian, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Hiro Protagonist and Y.T., and so many others. What do we get with L. Ron Hubbard and book six of the seemingly endless Mission Earth series? We get Teenie Whopper, a genuine underage teenage nymphomaniac who exists solely to have sex with Soltan Gris and provide the reader with some sordid sex fantasies. And that's the highlight (if you could call it that) of Death Quest, as Hubbard drags his subplots across yet another few hundred pages while we wait and wait and wait for something interesting to happen. All right, I'll admit Teenie is supposed to be an archetype…seriously. She's meant to be the embodiment and representation of all the sick and disgusting sexual perversions of Earth, all focused into one single individual. She's there for us to point at as an example of how society (using its tools of psychiatry-and-psychology) corrupts humanity from the beginning, and how something as "innocent" looking as Teenie is actually a personification of the evils of Earth. What's more, in the later books Teenie's perversions are released on the entire galaxy…but that's yet to come. Right now, we have to bear witness to Soltan Gris' excruciating descriptions of her "education" as he attempts to continue his mission to stop and destroy Jettero Heller.
This book also presents Torpedo Fiaccola, a hit man hired by Soltan Gris to kill Countess Krak (the so-called "quest" of this book is Gris' misadventures as he stumbles about trying to bring about her death), and it's not just any hit man: he's a necrophiliac hit man who learned the only way he could get an erection was to screw the corpses of his victims. How did he become such a degenerate being? Why, through psychiatric programming, of course. Yes, we still have to witness Hubbard's fantasies of "psychology and psychiatry" being the most dangerous and evil science in the entire universe, and he gives us yet another example of this here. Of course, Gris screws up this "quest" and ends up with the same perverted hit man hot on his own trail.
Meanwhile, Jettero Heller fights back against the plots of J. Walter Madison and his idiotic "Whiz Kid" PR campaign, who is now using his machinations to file fake paternity lawsuits against Heller. (Once again, this mirrors a commonly used Scientology tactic: attack your chosen enemy with the legal system and bury him beneath a pile of lawsuits.) It's up to the Countess Krak to once again demonstrate herself to be a remorseless person as she comes to Heller's rescue, while discovering the long-lost son of the evil Delbert John Rockecenter – a redneck pig farmer. (I'm still trying to understand the "satire" aspect of this subplot.) Oh, and of course we get more Hubbard ranting against psychology and psychiatry, as voiced by Dr. Crobe.
One action sequence in this book, involving an attempt to murder the Countess Krak, demonstrates Hubbard's pulp-style, juvenile writing form that never really left him, even fifty years after his career as a writer of pulp Westerns and action stories:
(As you've seen by now, Hubbard uses more exclamation points for emphasis in any one of his fiction stories than most other writers do.)
If you've managed to survive the first five books of this series without slipping into a coma, then you might enjoy the sex and occasional violence that permeates this book. Lord knows there's little else to recommend it…but at least we're past the half-way point of the series. Only four more books to go…