My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Fair Game was a really informative book and it’s set off a chain reaction of interest in the subject of Scientology.
I listened to the audiobook edition that was read by the author and I felt that the narration by the author was quite good and added a level of depth to the writing that would not have been achieved had someone else narrated. I have seen comments from other reviewers relating to the audio narration being a little monotonous and I can definitely see where those comments originate, but my issue with the narration was the odd emphasis Cannane places on pieces of dialogue, they get oddly animated for a non-fiction book and it got a little annoying by the end of the book.
If you want a basic explanation of the history of Scientology in Australia, this is a really good place to start. It’s not super in depth, but it gives good overall coverage of the movement between about 1950 and 2016 as well as it’s impact on Australian spirituality, the Australian population, Australian government and lawmaking, Australian media and prominent Australians both in Australia and abroad. The downside of this being a more general book is that it almost felt like Cannane ran out of facts to use as he repeated a whole lot of content multiple times. Facts mentioned at the beginning of the book were repeated in the final chapters and on occasion facts from the beginning of a chapter were repeated at the end of a chapter. It was a noticeable flaw.
The thing that made this stand apart from the majority of other Scientology research books is the Australian aspect of it. It is a mostly complete history of Scientology from its beginnings here and it provides researched and referenced evidence of the complete lack of religious aspects to Scientology as a whole. I am a firm subscriber to the school of thought that this is NOT, in any form a religion. Scientology had a rocky start here, eventually leading to a world first ban on Scientology in its original incarnation, and as at the 2011 census had slightly over 2000 members in Australia, much lower than their claim of 150,000 members, Cannane discusses this in more detail in the book.
I believe my three star rating is reasonably fair, I wasn’t totally blown away by this book, it didn’t bring me much of anything I didn’t already know about Scientology but it has awakened a need for more knowledge on the topic, I’ll be continuing my reading with titles like Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me and Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky as well as Leah Remini’s biography Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.
There was one thought travelling through my mind the whole time I was reading this though. Surely people can’t truly believe all this rubbish? Why are they putting up with what amounts to torture and imprisonment? Why are they giving their entire lives, everything they own and all of their money to a maniacal figurehead?
As a person who is opposed to all forms of religion but believes firmly that people can live their lives how ever they choose; I cannot conceive of how people can do this, but understand that some people will for reasons known only to them. I was particularly struck by the undocumented, or more accurately, the off the record interview with L Ron Hubbard where he says quite candidly, that he cannot believe that so many people, including his own wife, fell for his plot to make money, that anyone could believe any of this stuff that he was preaching. He also was quoted at one stage as saying that the quickest way to make money is to start a religion. He has mentioned in the past as well that Scientology was not a religion.
What I took from this book was a lot of contradiction. From all angles. Its an area of modern spirituality that is shady, secretive, combative and driven by power, greed and money. But isn’t that what Catholicism and Christianity are guilty of as well? Scientology is a modern religion and while the ancient religions boast the crusades and the crucifixion etc, it just seems that with Scientology, the blood on their hands is entirely more visible.