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Literature / Mission Earth

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The Mission Earth "dekalogy" ("a series of ten books") was presented as L. Ron Hubbard's greatest work, the last story he completed before his death, and is possibly his second-most controversial work, with Dianetics probably taking the number one spot.

Soltan Gris is a member of the Voltar Confederacy, an expansionist alien empire of over a hundred worlds that regularly conquers new planets according to its ancient Invasion Timetables. Specifically, Gris works for the Coordinated Information Apparatus, Voltar's supposed intelligence section that consists of the worst self-serving scum and murderous villains in the entire Confederacy. One day Gris screws up and lets a Fleet survey report slip through unedited, bringing the planet Blito-P3 to the attention of Voltar's government. They learn that this "Earth" is a world under threat by its inhabitants' reckless pollution, which would render it unsuitable for conquest in a hundred years.

Voltar's solution is to send the renowned and decorated Combat Engineer, Jettero Heller, on a covert mission to save Earth by introducing green technologies, a mission that Gris joins as Heller's handler. But the head of the Apparatus, Lombar Hisst, has his own sinister interest in Earth, and wants to maintain the status quo there so he can use Earth's resources - specifically its drug supply - to take over the Confederacy. Will the duplicitous and conniving Gris succeed in undermining Heller's mission to fix Earth and help his boss take over the Confederacy, or will the heroic Fleet commando manage to save both worlds?

Also, did we mention all the murder, torture, and rape? The mobsters, the demolition derby, the necrophiliac hitman, the vast Nazi-psychologist conspiracy, or how public relations nearly destroys a planet? The fact that it takes Gris and Heller six hundred pages just to leave Voltar for Earth, and the plot regularly comes to a halt as Gris loafs around in a Turkish villa or on a luxury yacht?

At some point in the second half of the 1980s, the first book was adapted into an eponymous Rock Opera by American rock musician Edgar Winter. Hubbard himself provided a template for the album in the form of various voicemail memos, and some of the album's lyrics are directly quoted from the book. Exactly when the album released is a matter of debate: its official release year is listed as 1986, but press coverage of it didn't start until 1989.

The Mission Earth series provides examples of:

  • A God Am I: A delusion shared by both Lombar Hisst and Rockecenter.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Mob boss Babe Corleone's above-average height is consistently remarked upon.
  • Ancient Astronauts: It's implied that Atlantis was founded by exiles from the province of Atalanta on one of the planets in the Confederacy, and the island sank when their power plant blew up, so they relocated to the Caucasus Mountains, which were presumably named after their leader Prince Caucalsia.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Soltan Gris is the narrator and viewpoint character up through book eight, when a completely new first-person narrator, Monte Pennwell, briefly takes over before the story focuses on Jettero Heller through a traditional third-person omniscient narrator. In the final volumes, the POV can move multiple times each Part, but ends up with Monte again writing in first-person.
  • Author Tract: You betcha.
    • Psychology is the root cause of all of Earth's problems, and is even part of a Nazi plot. Pretty much every antagonist is either a psychologist, supporting psychology, a product of psychology warping them into their present twisted villainy, or trying to use it to further their own evil ambitions.
    • The mass media and public relations are also controlled by psychologists, and deliberately print falsehoods to assassinate the characters of anyone who opposes them.
    • Rock and roll is part of psychology's effort to turn everyone gay.
    • Flamboyant fashionistas deliberately create hideous clothing for women so that their boyfriends will go gay.
  • Bad Boss: Lombar Hisst to everyone else in the Apparatus, Gris to everyone ranked lower than him, Rockecenter to his employees...
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Midway through the series Gris is given a medically-enhanced superpenis, which does wonders for his sex life. It can even cure women of lesbianism!
  • Blackmail: The linchpin of the Apparatus' workings. Employees get each other to do things based on what blackmail material they have on each other, and a lot of the agency's efforts are on acquiring leverage over the rest of Voltar's government.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Hisst and Gris share a contempt for "riffraff" despite both being as common as muck.
  • Chronoscope: Voltar uses "time-sights" to look ahead for obstacles when traveling at faster than lightspeed. Later, Heller has the bright idea to use one to cheat the stock market. These are the only uses of these incredible devices.
  • Cliffhanger: The individual volumes of Mission Earth were chosen to conclude along these lines, which leads to some cases of weak end-of-book suspense - will Heller win this gratuitous car race?
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Heller is temporarily stopped when the Rockecenter monopoly uses the media to portray the "Whiz Kid" as a corrupt bigamist.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Rockecenter, natch.
  • The Coup: Lombar Hisst is building up for one, and finally goes through with it in the last couple of books.
  • Doorstopper: Mission Earth was delivered to its editors in one million-word manuscript before being chopped into a "dekalogy."
  • Drugs Are Bad: America is in the grips of a drug epidemic as they are being used by Rockecenter's business interests to pacify the population, and Lombar Hisst hopes to do the same on Voltar. The refusal to push drugs is also what distinguishes the heroic Corleone mafia family from their rivals.
  • The Empire: The Voltar Confederacy, more or less. It's ruled by an Emperor and a wealthy and powerful nobility and regularly and aggressively conquers more worlds.
  • The Engineer: As a Combat Engineer, Jettero Heller's job is to go on dangerous missions behind enemy lines and make critical repairs or use some fantastic technology to solve problems.
  • Female Misogynist: The Countess Krak is violently protective of her boyfriend, and has a dismissive opinion towards nearly every other woman in the story.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: It's pretty rare for Heller or Krak to use a gadget that the bad guys use too, even if they both have access to it. The best case may be the "blueflash" used to knock out people, which the Apparatus utterly fails to employ during crowd control.
  • Framing Device: Nested - the bulk of the story is Soltan Gris' prison confession, which forms the basis of Monte Pennwell's exposé on Earth a hundred years later. As such, each book has prefaces from the series' translator and the official Voltarian Censor.
  • FTL Travel: "Will-be Was" engines project an artificial mass against where Time thinks such a mass shouldn't be, hurling the ship through space as Time rejects this impossibility.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Volar's Coordinated Information Apparatus. This was actually deliberate in-universe.
  • Green Aesop: We need to protect the environment, so aliens will want to conquer our planet instead of just writing it off as a lost cause.
  • Hidden Backup Prince: A case in which neither the "prince" nor the "royalty" is aware of it - Mr. Bury has secretly stuck his Rockecenter's presumably-killed son in a rural orphanage, so when his boss croaks he'll have junior inherit his vast fortunes with Bury as his executor.
  • Human Aliens: People from most worlds in the Voltar Confederacy can pass for natives on Earth without any trouble.
  • I Fight for the Strongest Side!: After several failed attempts on Heller's life, Mr. Bury pledges allegiance to "Rockecenter Jr." once his boss gets killed.
  • I Love the Dead: "Torpedo" Fiaccola is a hitman whose prison psychologist couldn't properly turn into a pervert, until he suggested trying out necrophilia.
  • Just One Second Out of Sync: Voltar uses a captured black hole to shift its capital city thirteen minutes, which somehow renders it immune to enemy attack while still enabling ground and air traffic to come and go as it pleases.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: Lombar Hisst and Soltan Gris both admire the deviousness of Earth's intelligence services and the efficient corruption of the Rockecenter monopoly
  • Kudzu Plot: Suffers terribly from this. The first book alone sets up a good dozen plot details that come into play over the rest of the series, and each subsequent entry adds more. Around the end of book seven the good guys take a chainsaw to the story and cut through all the problems on Earth, only for the remaining threads to come together on Voltar.
  • Love at First Sight: Jettero Heller and the Countess Krak. Specifically, he says "Hello hello hello!" and she bursts into tears for being unworthy of his attentions.
  • Mad Bomber: "Bang-Bang" isn't gibberingly insane, but he is a mob bomber, and that's his suggested solution to most problems.
  • Mad Doctor: Dr. Crobe, the Apparatus' expert on creating surgical freakshows. Later he picks up psychology and multiclasses into Psycho Psychologist.
  • The Mafia: Almost immediately after arriving on Earth, Heller gets caught up in a mob war and gets in deep with the Corleone outfit. This doesn't have a tremendous impact on the story.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Earth's supposed overlord Rockecenter is being played by both Mr. Bury, his chief lawyer, and Dr. Morelay, his personal psychologist.
  • Meaningful Name/Punny Name: Endemic among the aliens - Apparatus characters have names like Muhck or Stabb, while a selection of female Voltarian names includes Krak, Tayl, Cun, Twa, and Hora. Some Earth characters also qualify, such as the slimy Oozopopolis, drug-dealing Narcotici, demolitions expert "Bang-Bang" Rimbombo, and bank representative Forrest Closure.
  • MegaCorp: Rockecenter's Octopus Oil, which controls drug companies, media networks, and more.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Heller accidentally wipes out the Soviet Union while trying to hit Earth with a comet at just the right angle to adjust its wandering poles. Everyone who mentions the event says how wonderful it is that the Cold War is over.
  • The Millstone: How the Rockecenter cartel utilizes publicist "J. Warbler Madman" - he's so creatively inept in how he tries to help his clients that he ruins them, so all they have to do is hire him to work on their target's behalf.
  • Mind-Control Device: The Apparatus has "hypno-helmets" used for speed-learning, implanting people with subliminal commands, or programming captives into super-assassins.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: Those hypno-helmets? Have nothing to do with the Apparatus plot to take over Voltar's government. Instead Lombar Hisst wants to use a drug monopoly to get the Grand Council to do what he wants.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Despite all the other objectionable content in the books, any curse words stronger than "damn" or "hell" are literally "(bleeped)" out of the text, because the Robotbrain in the Translatophone is editing them in accordance with the Machine Purity League. Racial slurs like "nigger" pass unedited.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Babe Corleone inherited the leadership of her outfit when her husband "Holy Joe" was assassinated. She's actually losing the mob war until Heller shows up, and all her subsequent successes are due to his actions.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Given the age of one ex-Nazi character, Mission Earth takes place somewhere around the turn of the millennium, but was published in the mid-1980's. The music is weird, pollution is a major problem, and mobile phones are cutting-edge gadgets.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Delbert John Rockecenter is a thinly-veiled stand-in for John D. Rockefeller.
  • No Dead Body Poops: Used by one character to argue why the sphincter muscle is the "muscle of life."
  • No Heterosexual Sex Allowed: "Psychiatric Birth Control" is being pushed by Rockecenter to bring about human extinction, part of an old Nazi plot to destroy America. This is only relevant in certain parts of the books, and has no impact on the rest of the story.
  • Older Than They Look: Much is made of the fact that Heller is 30 in Voltarian years but looks like an 18-year-old on Earth, which makes it hard for him to get a drink there.
  • Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: Gris is so distraught after being strong-armed into marrying Candy and Pinch that he doesn't notice that he gets married to Candy and Pinch.
  • Platonic Prostitution: In book two Heller shacks up at the Gracious Palms, a high-class brothel in New York City, yet despite the obvious interest of the ladies there remains faithful to the Countess Krak.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Miss Pinch and Miss Candy, a lesbian "husband and wife" who torture Gris with truncheons, antique blackpowder firearms, hot peppers, and cheese graters.
  • Psycho Psychologist: They're either trying to kill their patients, rape them, or turn them gay.
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: For the crime of introducing horribly psychology to Voltar, Lombar Hisst is sentenced to a lifetime of psychological treatment from fellow criminal Dr. Crobe.
  • Rags to Royalty: The fact that this is possible on a planet like Earth is part of the reason Hisst is so interested in imitating it.
  • Rape and Switch: Candy and Pinchy try to use this on Gris as part of their adherence to "psychiatric birth control" by including him in some extreme BDSM sessions, only for Gris to turn it around and rape them in a later book. This not only cures them of their lesbianism, but makes them bring all their lesbian friends over for Gris to cure as well.
  • Rape Portrayed as Redemption: For a given value of "redeemed," Candy and Pinchy only become accidental obstacles after Gris rapes them.
  • Serious Business: Voltar has two.
  • Starship Luxurious: For his mission ship, Jettero Heller picks Tug One, an absurdly high-powered tugboat with an absurdly lavish, gilded, gem-encrusted suite installed by its former owner, a retired admiral. The tug spends most of the series sitting in a hangar.
  • Start of Darkness: Apparently all this nonsense started when Lombar Hisst saw some survey reports about Earth and got interested in the circus freaks in some photos. This led to learning about Earth's intelligence agencies and how some of its rulers started out as commoners, inspiring Hisst to use those intelligence techniques to make his own bid for Voltar's throne.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: In order for Gris to monitor (and narrate) Heller and later Krak's activities, he secretly implants them with bugging equipment that sends information from their optic nerves and ears to his remote viewscreen. When the plot requires that Gris miss out on some information, the signal gets drowned out by local energy emissions... or else Gris simply doesn't feel like checking the viewer certain chapters.
  • Temporal Paradox: The actual Voltarian mission to Earth takes place about when Mission Earth was published, then a century later Monte Pennwell found out about it and published his expose. At the end of book ten, it's revealed that Monte's work will be published on Earth, which means that the book we're holding in our hands came from the future?
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Teenie Whopper is a prepubescent, very sexually-active scam artist.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The narrative is split between Gris observing Heller's activities and trying to thwart them, and Gris getting bored of that and getting into trouble during his own misadventures.
  • Un-person: The official line from Voltar is that the planet Earth does not exist, because thinking otherwise would mean that they would have to invade it as per the Invasion Timetables, and after the events of Mission Earth they want nothing to do with it.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: They're "suction whirlpools of magnetic force," for starters.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Gris' belly-dancer slave "Utanc" turns out to be a Soviet spy named Boris Gaylov.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Late-series narrator Monte Pennwell is a pampered aristocrat and aspiring writer, not good for much more than producing terrible poetry.
  • Uriah Gambit: The Apparatus gives Heller the cover identity of "Delbert John Rockecenter Jr.," the nonexistent heir to the vast Rockecenter fortune, specifically to paint as big a bulls-eye on him as possible.
  • Villain Protagonist: Soltan Gris is one, without being remotely sympathetic.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Monte Pennwell's "envoi" serves to check on the main characters some hundred years after their adventures on Earth, confirming that Heller and Krak lived happily ever after and the villains all met sticky ends.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Voltar's mass media is controlled by the nobility, and newspaper stories seem to consist of announcements of civic buildings being opened and reports on who brought what at some lord's party.