cover image A Very Strange Trip

A Very Strange Trip

L. Ron Hubbard. Bridge Audio, $25 (300pp) ISBN 978-1-57318-164-8

Everett Dumphee, the descendant of a venerable line of West Virginian moonshiners, joins the army to avoid prison, only to accidentally activate a time machine while transporting a truckload of experimental Russian weapons to Denver. He then tries to return to 1991, enduring several stopovers, including in the Ice Age, during the height of Mayan civilization and at a train station under Indian attack in 1870. Joining Dumphee at the latter are a cowardly lieutenant and four Indian ""squaws"" who display an incongruous facility with modern armaments. Attempts at humor come from two angles: poorly executed slapstick (an experimental weapon manifests a gigantic phantom of Joseph Stalin to terrorize Mayan warriors; a mis-aimed cannon destroys a henhouse) and anachronistic pop culture references to Star Trek, Star Wars and Rambo (a ""squaw""'s cleavage is her ""silicon valley""). Characterization isn't a strength, either: Dumphee's primary ethical qualms come from concern over the Indian women's gold lust, which is awakened by Mayan riches, and his cheap moralizing over whether to remain in the past as a god. Despite the fact that the late Hubbard (Battlefield Earth) gets top billing, Wolverton (Beyond the Gate) wrote this novel, based on an unpublished story by Hubbard. He's done much better on his own--and so did Hubbard. Simultaneous audio; author tour. (June)