Book Thoughts: Spy Killer by L. Ron Hubbard

(***I received this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Kurt Reid may be innocent of the murder he’s charged with (and of grand larceny, for that matter), but he’s got no time to be thrown in jail and defend himself. Instead, Reid flees to pre-Communist China and Shanghai, the exotic city of mystery and death.

Reid takes refuge in a tea house where he meets White Russian Varinka Savischna, whom he manages to rescue from certain death. As beautiful as she is smart, she recruits him in her crusade against Chinese intelligence services. Unfortunately, Reid manages to get himself captured by the Chinese and blackmailed into pursuing and assassinating a Japanese spy.

Now Reid must enter the cloak-and-dagger world of espionage and intrigue, where everything and everyone is not who or what they appear to be.

As I was making my way through Book Expo of America, I ran into a little booth that held Galaxy Press publishing. Before this event, I had never even heard of Galaxy Press before. The titles they had displayed were different; short novels with older style illustrations on the covers. It wasn’t hard to find out that this publisher was re-publishing stories by L. Ron Hubbard from the Golden Age. Hubbard’s stories sounded cool, so why not?

I went into Spy Killer feeling pretty clueless.  All the novels I read (except for school) have been published within the last few years and focus on modern issues, topics and trends. I didn’t know what to expect from a book from a different era with people with a different mindset. When I finished Spy Killer, I decided that I had only read it for entertainment purposes.  Throughout the text, I didn’t analyze the characters or their motives more than they were written or think of all the possible symbols each person or place could stand for. Spy Killer is a short book that you can just sit and finish without thinking too much into it because there is enough going on to keep you entertained.

On the other hand, I felt indifferent towards the protagonist Kurt. He’s running away from being falsely accused for murder, but throughout the story he goes and murders other people like it’s no big deal. I know Kurt is supposed to be the hero and the guy that everyone is rooting for, but I just couldn’t feel that way about him. At the same time, I couldn’t hate him for being so nonchalant about the ‘enemy’ because I did want things to work out for him.

This book is short, with just over a hundred pages. I wasn’t sure how all the action would span out, but it was done decently. Truthfully, I had no idea where the story was going to go. Kurt meets Varinka, Kurt finds himself cornered, Kurt wins, and what do you know? Kurt meets Varinka all over again. It was a cycle (that I didn’t realize was a cycle until after the book was finished) that kept going without a specific direction. Once I got to the end, a nice little twist in the story shocked me. The truth comes out about a certain character, and I do have to say that I did not see it coming. For me, the ending of Spy Killer is the highlight of the novel.

Overall, Spy Killer is a true entertainment story. The constant action, scene changes and fast-paced words gives you the same feelings as a movie would. The illustrations throughout the book give the story a nice touch and are pretty cool to look at. Still, this book just wasn’t for me. I suggest you check out Spy Killer or Galaxy Press if you’re into action books or stories from the Golden Age!

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One thought on “Book Thoughts: Spy Killer by L. Ron Hubbard

  1. I read a collection of Hubbard’s stories after BEA and enjoyed them, but part of it is that I went in expecting old-style pulp fiction, which focuses more on the adventure than on developing characters or themes.

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