I’d read some of Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker pieces on the Church of Scientology that were the basis of this exhaustive account of that group, its founder L. Ron Hubbard, and its current leadership, but even still, this was packed with shocking moments. If you saw the HBO documentary adaptation, you got a lot of the juicy stuff, but with its broader scope, the book goes deeper and paints a more vivid picture.
No one comes out looking good here. Not L. Ron Hubbard (who looks to have been mentally ill and surprisingly aggressive). Not Tom Cruise (who ends up seeming delusional and bizarre). Not current founder David Miscavige (who is depicted as basically a sociopath). Not even most of the people who defected from the church over the years. It’s a strange and scary group.
I challenge anyone who reads this that has seen Scientology as a bunch of rich, weird, basically harmless Hollywood types to see the group as so anodyne after turning the final page. A tremendously interesting, entertaining, and troubling account, but well worth your time.