NewsWire: What Makes a Great Book Great - Dateline Communications

In my search for Tolkien-related news, I came across an odd little press release in which a Literature professor finds parallels between The Lord of the Rings and... Battlefield Earth?

But, as you can tell from the mistakes he makes in describing the books, this is one professor who could use a refresher course in Tolkien.

What Makes a Great Book Great?

TOWSON, Md., Dec. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was written by Dr. John Flynn, Professor of Literature, Towson University:

The reader's poll choosing the top 100 English language novels of the 20th Century was conducted in October 1998, by the Random House Modern Library, following publication of their own editor's choices -- which caused a stir with readers and media alike. Among the top 10 titles in the reader's poll were books by Ayn Rand, L. Ron Hubbard, J.R.R. Tolkien and George Orwell. I whole heartedly agreed with the choices, since most of them were on my own personal 100-best list of authors and titles. Two emphatically stood out, particularly in their genres: Hubbard's Battlefield Earth and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (which, of course, includes The Hobbit).

In both of these novels, there exists a compelling and well thought out story of overcoming insurmountable odds through the selfless achievement of a noble objective by a very strong character. In L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth, the hero, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, leads a battle with the remnants of humanity against an army of intergalactic conquerors, the alien Psychlos. Despite 1,000 years of domination by the Psychlos, Jonnie is able to prove himself by an indominatable determination to make mankind survive. The result is storytelling gold: an action-packed science fiction adventure that you just can't put down.

Likewise, in Lord of the Rings, the heroic Frodo battles many evil creatures, including the sinister Gollum and his master Sauron, to save his fellows from the menace represented by the ring. In these times of cynicism and an evident lack of heroes, these two books make clear that the striving for and the attainment of a noble purpose, however daunting the obstacles, is a trait to be admired and, indeed, emulated.

This was strikingly reaffirmed when a recent issue of USA Today ranked these same two titles -- Battlefield Earth and The Hobbit -- at the top of their list of bestselling science fiction and fantasy novels for the year 2000.

All of which serves, again to prove my point -- that a great book is great when it is irresistibly captivating and carries you swiftly and with a noble objective, from its opening line to its closing statement.

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