LondonAs the great World War grinds to a halt a force sinister than Hitler's Nazis has seized control of Europe and is systematically destroying every adversaryexcept oneIn the heart of France a crack unit of British soldiers survive, overcoming all opposition under the leadership of a hardened military strategist highly trained in every method of combat and known only as The LieutenantOrdered to return to British Headquarters, the Lieutenant is torn between obeying the politicians in London or doing what he knows is right for his country, regardless of the price

10 thoughts on “Final blackout

  1. Timothy Mayer Timothy Mayer says:

    It's a little hard to be objective about anything written by L. Ron Hubbard. Founder of his own religion, he was also a pulp writer in the 1930's and 40's. Most people think of him today as that Scientology guy. His last multi-part novel, Battlefield Earth, was everywhere to be found in the last century, especially in used bookstores. He published over a hundred novels and short stories during the pulp years, under a variety of pseudonyms.
    Final Blackout began as a three-part serial in the April 1940 edition of Astounding Science Fiction (it was later published as a hardback in 1948). It's important to remember this date when discussing the novel, because it was very much part of it's time. Although the war had been waging on for over a year, Germany and the UK had not undertaken major operations against each other. British troops were in the continent of Europe, but France had not yet been invaded. This would soon change. The United States had a neutrality policy.
    Hubbard's premise in Blackout was that the war in Europe would drag on and on. In the opening of the book, the war has been going on for over twenty years. Taking the stalemates of WWI as a model, he envisions a state of continuous conflict where allies shift and boundaries change. New technologies have allowed humans to become more effective killers, but no one has achieved a victory. The blitzkrieg was still over the horizon and a lot of people assumed another global war would resemble the last one.
    Blackout begins with the remains of the Fourth Brigade of the British Expeditionary Force trying to outmaneuver a detachment of Russian soldiers. They're somewhere in France, but the officer in charge of the brigade, a charismatic thirtysomething man only known as The Lieutenant has had no word from his command in four years. Thus they are surprised when a captain from the BEF shows up and orders them to return to general headquarters. Because of biological weapons, no British soldier has been allowed to return to England in years.
    The focus of the novel is on the lieutenant. He's only known war, but has survived so many engagements that his men look on him as some sort of divinity. He doesn't talk much, plays solitaire between engagements, and looks after his troops. But he doesn't hesitate to order an execution if he deems it necessary. He was born in an air raid shelter, reads the first line of the book.
    Eventually, the lieutenant and his troops reach the BEF headquarters. They discover the latest government in England has been taken over by communists, who are ordering soldier's councils (soviets) to be organized in each detachment. The lieutenant is relived of his command and his troops turned over to officers who are more in tune with the new government. This, naturally, provokes a revolt in the enlisted men who seize control of the officers and put the lieutenant back in power. With his troops restored, he takes control of the GHQ and organizes a mass flotilla of soldiers back to England. It turns out a vaccine has been developed against the bio warfare germs which kept them out.
    Most of the remainder of the book has the lieutenant sailing into England with his army and seizing control of the country. Hubbard spends a lot of time detailing the king of tactics which an army short on modern weapons and ammunition might have to use. The opposing force on the coast has converted their modern cannons into muzzle-loaders since shells are hard to find. England has been depopulated by war and pestilence. The lieutenant executes the leader of the communist fraction which had been in charge and begins to rebuild England.
    His work continues uninterrupted. One day a ship from the US is sited off the coast. The Americans have been out of touch for years and now want to resume contact. The same day an American reconnaissance plane soars over the lieutenant's HQ in the old Tower of London, scaring everyone. They haven't seen any aircraft in years. Suddenly, the lieutenant's kingdom is threatened.
    The biggest criticism aimed at this book is that it is fascist. I suppose you could call it a fascist novel if you define fascism as the use of violence to bring about political change, but then Superman falls in that category too. The book seems to be advocating a restoration of a military-based aristocracy; Cesarism, if you will. It's well-written, if a little simplistic, but a good example of apocalyptic science fiction.

  2. Callie Callie says:

    I read this book at least 3 times when I was a kid at my local library. Definitely a captivating story! As other reviewers have mentioned, it has some very interesting ideas in it.

  3. Angela Angela says:

    If I could, I'd give this book 3.5 stars.

    Let me make one thing clear: I'm not a Scientology nor a Dianetics fan. I think L. Ron Hubbard was nuttier than a fruit cake. But crazy people have wild imaginations, making him a most excellent sci fi author.

    The only reason I'm not giving it 4 stars is due to my own tastes. I'm not a fan of books about war. Yawn. I get bored just thinking about war books. I do, however, love me some good dystopian fiction. With this book (like many others, I might add) my dislikes and likes are at odds. It's a real pickle of a situation to be in.

    If I understand the timeline, Hubbard wrote a magazine version of this book in 1939, before he fought in WWII. He then updated it to this version in the late 40s. The book is set in a post World War apocalyptic future where nuclear warfare and a plague called soldier's sickness has wiped out most of humanity. The story follows a character known only as Lieutenant as he guides his rag tag group of soldiers from humble beginnings to rulers of what's left of England. I was impressed that Hubbard was able to create such a story line before WWII even broke out and before atomic warfar was ever used. Maybe his future Scientological powers gave him the ability to see into the future.

    I can see why this book is a classic work of science fiction. The plot is interesting, the characters are fun to follow, and the story moves along at a swift pace. It was an engaging, quick read.

  4. Nick Nick says:

    The concepts contained in this book are what make it above-average. It is not brilliantly written, but it is outstandingly thought-provoking.
    The basic premise is that the United States quit partway through a World War that continued on for many years after, turning into a devastating stalemate that blanketed most of the rest of the world. As a result, the dwindling armies of the European powers fought over ever-diminishing scraps, as their governments fell and their populations plummeted.
    The central character, remembered to future historians as The Lieutenant, a British officer, eventually found himself in charge of a brigade of surviving soldiers. His actions at that point changed the downward spiral of history...or did they? The very existence of future historians suggests so, but the story is in no way a happy fable, and the isolationist United States is far from being the land of good guys in this grim tale.
    The writing was good for 1940s pulp, but may seem a bit forced to modern readers, and that's okay. This book was a rough attempt at the kind of thing George Orwell wrote, and is a credible attempt that is a quick read.

  5. Tracy Tracy says:

    This is not the normal type of book I read. But I've enjoyed a lot of other books by this author and thought I'd try this one too. This story is a futuristic war novel.

    This particular group of soldiers are English and have basically been kicked out of England. They aim to retake their homeland and make it safe again.

    I definitely understand the pull of The Lieutenant as a character. He's a leader worth following. He cares about his men and he cares about people in general, that they can lead good lives.

    I enjoyed his motley crew of men who are charming in their own way, especially because of their willingness to protect him. They have funny quirks about them all.

    The Lieutenant does succeed in taking back England and in setting it back up as a safe, productive country. I was surprised at the end. It still has me thinking. I would've liked it to end differently but I can think with why the author did it that way, a bit....

  6. Steve Joyce Steve Joyce says:

    Let's give credit where it is due. This was a satisfying read and The Lieutenant a thought-provoking character.

    I couldn't help feel that much of the happenings in Final Blackout might well have occurred within the world created by H.G. Wells in the 1936 film Things to Come:
    _ decades of war with civilization blasted halfway back to the Stone Age.
    _ the wandering sickness in the film / soldier's sickness in book form
    _ mutual respect between opposing military men (film: Cabal leaves a gun for the dying enemy pilot / book: The Lieutenant's respectful treatment of his Russian opponent)
    _ 2 Bit power-grabbers (The Chief vs General Victory)
    _ after the passing of years, surprise at airplanes overhead.
    _ etc., etc.

  7. James Resch James Resch says:

    A good idea finely executed. Largely overlooked. Check this book out for sure.

  8. James Mourgos James Mourgos says:

    Others have already synopsized the storyline but there are other aspects of the story that are quite timeless.

    Story and Plot:

    Considering the fact the author wrote this before World War II suggests an uncanny attempt to ask what would happen if World War I never ended and just ground on for generations. It was an attempt to see what happens to men and women when the horrors of war become a way of life; the only way to live is through strategy rather than being out-gunned. It’s the smart soldier who lives rather than the brave one.

    I really liked the characters in this tale. The Lieutenant (we never know his real name) leads a ragtag band of what’s left of regiments and battalions. It’s a mix of different races and countrymen whose real purpose is just survive. Loved the battle with the Russian commander who was outsmarted in a raid. The leaders meet and are quite mannerly and respectful.

    Contrast that with the armchair admirals and colonels at GQ (General Headquarters ) in Paris where men are called back from the field to be locked up and stripped of command. These communists want nothing better than to retake Europe and spread their philosophy of death. The Lieutenant has other things to say about that.

    Characters: My favorite was the sadist Markey, with his chain covered with spikes, trips up his enemy and laughs about it. It sounds gruesome but was quite hilarious.

    The end of the tale takes place in England. Outnumbered and outgunned, their wit gets them through to the main Communist camp. I won’t spoil it for you, but learning of the Americans coming to colonize their land is a bit much.

    Great ending, a heroic if sad one.

    Conclusion: Final Blackout asks the question that has been asked for hundreds of years. War, what is it good for? We were still asking this in Vietnam, in Iraq and other lands. Final Blackout’s answer is a compelling one.


  9. Billy Roper Billy Roper says:

    I'm re-reading this classic, one of the first true dystopian alternate history novels by a well-known author. It tells the story of what Europe might have been like by the 1930's, had the U.S. remained neutral in the first World War and that stalemated conflict drug on for two more decades. Fascinating reading for all What If? book lovers, as well as those enjoy history and military adventures, as well as political intrigue.

  10. Luke Luke says:

    There's a paternalist, anti-democratic streak running through this entire book, which glorifies war through fighting and continually upholds cold strategic genius as the best kind of governance. The Lieutenant, a nameless oracle protagonist, is leading a rainbow coalition of dedicated soldiers back toward the United Kingdom through France, a landscape mucked and diseased by a World War Two (or… Three maybe?) which is still raging in 1975. A Bondlike immortality and dashing ability to swiftly win battles keep the pace of the action up, and the company sets free POWs, wins a girl in an underground village, and eventually mutiny at a foreword command post before returning to London to invade a socialist government there. The battle-hardened avengers come up against peasant soldiers scrabbling together defenses, but it's easy to roll over them:

    Maybe there are so few of the officers' corps left that we have a feeling we ought to preserve ourselves. Maybe it's because all officers have been taught the necessity of exalting their rank and being as above that of civilians. Civilians started this mess anyway, didn't they? Bungling statesmanship, trade mongering, their 'let the soldier do the dirty work' philosophy, these things started it…pg63

    Later, when the day is won, The Union Jack was absent and in its place was the standard of the Fourth Brigade (pg102) over the city and a happiness of dry, stilted propaganda sets in:

    The happiness of a country is directly dependent on the business of that country. And here everyone had seven times more projects to accomplish than he could ever hope to complete in his life time, and there was the grand goal of making a destroyed county live again. Everyone, therefore, was happy. And there was no worry whatever about politics.pg137

    Such a character makes sense for someone who would later develop the Church of Scientology. And then, in the book's best sequence, the Americans arrive on the Thames. The overbearing perseverance-through-dread and stiff-upper-lip and pure militarism is jolted awake by a more contemporary version of the military: an instrument of the sinister fog of imperialism. Out come the marines, and here, crucially, in a book written in the early 1940s, they are the BAD GUYS . Our only wish is to see your country blossom, (pg151) is the mission they bring. In war, these are your two alternatives.