NB: I received a finished copy of this book as part of a marketing campaign, but that has not affected the content of my review.
This book was disappointing and pretty poorly written, but not worthless. There are far better books about Scientology out there, so don’t make this your first stop. But there are a few interesting glimmers here I haven’t read in any other Scientology books, so if the subject matter is something that really gets you going, you may want to check Ruthless out anyway.
The title (and subtitle) may have clued you in, but just in case, this book was written by Ron Miscavige, the father of David Miscavige, who currently heads up the “church” of Scientology. RM (as I will call him) ostensibly decided to write this book after an incident in a parking lot, where the private investigators RM’s son had following him thought they saw RM having a heart attack, and when they checked in with David, he reportedly told them not to offer any assistance, letting him die if that’s how things went. RM took this inciting incident, which occurred about a year after he left Scientology, and uses it basically as an excuse to tell us his life’s story, when the book is marketed like it’s all about his son.
I’ll be honest, most of this book was dull as turds. RM has led a more interesting life than most people, and yet reading about it is about as exciting as watching said turds dry in the sun. That combined with the beyond basic writing style, and an emptiness of content, meant that most of this book was not engaging at all. It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that it became interesting. Then again, it really is very difficult to make the abuses one suffers under a cult uninteresting*, so I don’t think RM should get much of that credit.
*I remain completely fascinated by the fact that what pushed RM out of Scientology at last was not the violation of privacy, terrible working conditions, literal physical abuses and deprivations, emotional terror, and essentially being a prisoner in his own mind. No, it was that RM lost his job composing music and no longer felt useful as a man, so when he asked David to intervene for him and help him have a purpose again and David didn’t, RM wanted out.
Overall, this book as a whole feels like RM wanted to examine how his son turned out the way he did, but didn’t actually want to place any blame on himself. He makes nods towards examining his own role in his son’s life, but there’s no meat in it. It just ends up feeling like a big mea culpa, that in the end accepts no responsibility at all. I also think ex-Scientology members maybe need to spend a little more time outside of the cult before they write their books. He was still fresh as a daisy when he wrote this, still professing to believe a lot of the tenets of the religion. He needed more time. This out-in-a-physical-sense, but still-inside-in-his-head mindset, actually dovetails with the book acting as more of a defense, an apologia, than honest reflection, though he does have some really interesting things to say about the meaning of freedom, and allowing others to take away your basic human rights in exchange for, well, anything. Safety, security, salvation . . .
I think this book would have been better with more time on the author’s part reflecting, more hard facts, and a better ghostwriter. I’m disappointed that there wasn’t more to be found here, though I’m not unhappy I read it.