Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If I Were You by L. Ron Hubbard

While L. Ron Hubbard's name has lost some of its luster with the general populace, there is no doubt that he was certainly a capable story-teller. While bloated books such as his novel Mission Earth (ten volumes long) add far more quantity than quality to his canon, Hubbard's early pulp work still holds some power. With Galaxy Press' massive release of Hubbard's golden age works in their Stories From the Golden Age series, much of Hubbard's most engaging and, for lack of a better word, truly fun works are appearing in print once again.

My first dip into this vast reissue of tales was with this volume, If I Were You. The title story is about a circus dwarf named Tom Little, who desires nothing more than to be big, like the feared ringmaster. Tom gets his wish, and far more than he bargained for in the process. Very much the cautionary story, this tale epitomizes "be careful what you wish for," yet it also lets Tom grow in spirit, and realize what is truly important to him.

As an extra bonus, this book also contains the short story "The Last Drop," co-written with L. Sprague de Camp, who is sadly uncredited anywhere except on the copyright page. This story is also about growth, although in a slightly different manner. In this quick tale, one man grows and grows while another shrinks down to miniature size, all while combating gangsters. While not as deep as the title story, it too is a fun romp.

This book makes no claims to be great literature, and in all honesty it isn't. It is not the next great literary epic, and it won't be studied in school (unless there is a class on pulp era literature, which would be an amazing thing of itself). However, that isn't the point of this. It is to have fun. To read a story (or two) and have a really neat, intriguing yarn laid out for your enjoyment. And in that, If I Were You succeeds brilliantly.


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