Sunday, February 25, 2018

Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me by Ron Miscavige * * *

Ruthless is about Dave Miscavige, as seen through the eyes of his dad. In some ways it’s an interesting book. It’s not solely about Dave, as Ron calls him. It’s actually about a couple of things.

First of all, it’s about Ron himself. You do have to understand where he comes from, to understand his parenting, and his marriage. His first marriage was a tumultuous one. They fought a lot, and sometimes it turned violent. From his description it was the fault of both of them, but he does point out that maybe he saw it wrong. His wife, Loretta, died some years ago. I do applaud that he says that, because it could be easy to blame it on her, maybe her Italian temper, or that she wanted a kind of a man that he just wasn’t. However, he came from a place and an era when people often didn’t have the tools to resolve their marital problems. It’s partly in an effort to find a better way to communicate with his wife that he got into Scientology.

Another aspect of this story is what Scientology used to be like. It doesn’t sound all that bad. LRH, while in many ways a conman, seemed to be actually building something that may not have been completely what he said it was, did have positive aspects. Strangely, in all the talk about Scientology, there is no mention of Xenu, thetans, or anything like that. Ron seems to be more interested in the communication and self-help aspect of Scientology. He does admit that most of it was really pencilled together from earlier sources and sold as LRH’s own ideas. I do see the draw though. He also writes about how Scientology changed after LRH died and Dave took over. Dave only seems to treat the whole organisation as something to serve him in the moment. His own little kingdom to rule, with no regard to the future.

The third subject is Dave. What he was like as a kid, and that he’s really a sociopath. Which is not that much of a surprise. As a kid he had much of the classical signs. A bully, but also charming, and demanding attention. He did leave home right after his 16th birthday to join the Sea Org. While this could be a sign that he just wanted to get away from his parents fighting, the fights didn’t make him what he is. On the one hand, Ron swears that the violence was only between the adults. Also, the positive aspects of Scientology should have taught him better techniques to communicate with people. The real reason that Dave is so violent and awful, is because that’s just the way he is. From every description, it’s apparent that he completely lacks empathy. He can mimic normal people, pretend to be nice and sweet, but that’s exactly what sociopaths are like. Once you get near them, once they have power over you, they can stop pretending.

While I wish there had been more details in the book, I did enjoy it. Ron’s writing is easy, quite enjoyable. He paints colourful pictures of places and people, while being down-to-earth and no frills.

Overall, it’s a good little book. While it does feel a bit less about Dave, and more about Ron, the person who just wants to know more about Scientology will be satisfied. Is it a complete study of Dave? No. Ron seems like the old-fashioned father, who was mostly focused on bringing home the bacon, teaching his kids to ride a bike, than the day-to-day of parenting. He never seemed to have too deep a connection with his son, which is normal for his generation. However, while this book may not be exactly as promised, it’s worth reading. I did it in a day.

The Kingdom of Gods (Inheritance Trilogy #3) by N.K. Jemisin * *

I really wanted to like this book, but it was a major disappointment. Let me tell you why.

The setting is the same as the previous books, mostly taking place in the capital city. The difference is that in this case the main character isn’t a mortal, but actually one of the godlings, Sieh. He is the oldest and the first. I was actually excited to read from his point of view, because I liked him a lot in the first book.

It’s hard to talk about this book without spoiling the major plot point, but I’ll try. He meets two children by chance, a brother and sister, both Arameri. He meets them several times, at a few points in their lives, until an incident happens that changes his life forever. Now, you may think this is a start of a great adventure of self-discovery. Herein lies my problem with the story.

Things do happen. Here and there. In between those sporadic events though are lots and lots and lots and … did I mention … a lot of thinking. And talking. Then more thinking and talking. Then an event, and then some more thinking and talking. It’s mostly philosophical contemplation on gods, eternity, and probably a whole lot of things I don’t remember, because I was so bored I couldn’t pay attention to it. I’m not a big fan of philosophy, frankly. I took two classes at university, and I almost failed both of them because I completely misunderstood most of the material.

The first book had a good amount of action, and some thinking. The next book had more thinking, less action, and while I found it hard to get through sometimes, I managed. This, I couldn’t. I was at 60%, and I just couldn’t go on. I turned to the ending, read it, and I’m finally done with it. They did mention some interesting events that I didn’t read about, but frankly, I don’t feel like digging through all that thinking just to get to the more interesting bits.

There lies the problem, well, at least, for people like me. The world is interesting, but it feels like the author fell in love with it too much. They contemplated all these things while writing the book, and just had to put all of their thoughts on it into it. Some of the ideas are interesting, sort of, to a point. However, often the same subject is mulled over ad nauseam. I didn’t set out to read a philosophy book, and frankly, I felt cheated. What I wanted to read was an exciting adventure with colourful characters that were modern and with a wide range of personalities, sexualities and backgrounds. Also, some contemplation. Similar to the previous books. That’s not what this is. Seriously, if 1/3 of the book was taken out, it would be much easier to read.

I usually tell you about the characters in my review. In the 60% I read it was mostly about Sieh. While he was colourful and interesting before, in this book he was mostly annoying. Moaning about his lot in life, things he couldn't do, ... Not his usually bright self.

Overall, if you are the kind of person who reads non-fiction books mostly on philosophy, you’ll like the book. If you’re not, then you’ll probably have a hard time getting through this one, and frankly, the ending wasn’t that cathartic. It was an okay ending, but didn’t give me a thrill. It’s sad, because I really enjoyed the first book, and I wanted it to be one of the best trilogies ever. It just made me feel disappointed.

I also know that this review is not up to my usual standard, but I don't have much to say about the actual content of this book. I could never remember much of things that didn't interest me, and most of this book falls under that category.