Well this was quite different to my usual Scientology reading material. I wasn't really looking forward to this memoir mainly because Marty Rathbun has been the "villain" in many other memoirs I've read. He has been accused of some nasty stuff.
He was, according to Lawrence Wright's "Going Clear", involved in the recapture of Annie Broeker who was fleeing the Church to be with her husband. After her recapture her husband never saw her again (she died in 2011). When I first read that my heart broke a little. He was also involved in a "gang-bang sec-check" of Jeff Hawkins. Of course others have also been part of the unhealthy practices of the church and finally come to their sense so it is perhaps unfair to hold such things against him.
Another difference is that Marty Rathbun is still a believer. He may have left the Church of Scientology but he still believes in the efficacy of Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard's "tech". This makes him an unusual animal (if no longer a rare one as other people like him, such as Mike Rinder, are adding their voices to the criticism of the church itself whilst maintaining a belief in the benefits of LRH's teachings) as so many who have been hurt by their time in the church have given up their faith along with their church.
Rathbun was the sort of person Jeff Hawkins described, in his book "Counterfeit Dreams", as a seeker. The ideal candidate for Scientology proselytizing. His youth was troubled by the early death of his mother and dealing with the psychological troubles of his two older brothers (these, no doubt incredibly painful, incidents can be seen as yet more reasons that Scientology would appeal to him). He sought ever greater spiritual understanding from various traditions until one day he finally agreed to take the infamous Communication course offered to so many people who've encountered a Scientologist "body router".
With some personal "wins" (i.e. spiritual moments) and the hope he might one day learn how to cure his older brother Bruce he fell deeply into the church, eventually signing up as a member of the Sea Org. A traumatic event, a murder of a fellow Scientologist by her deranged husband who he was escorting home, which he valiantly tried to stop brought him to the attention of L. Ron Hubbard himself and he went "over the rainbow" which is Scientologese for heading to the bases LRH had based himself in.
What follows is a fascinating account of the internal workings of Scientology's legal troubles towards the end of LRH's life as Rathbun moved up to one of the highest positions in the church. Though much of it was things we already learnt, we hear more about the motivations and emotions of the key players in events such as the Battle of Portland. But the narrative ends with the death of LRH and the more interesting stuff (the slow death of the church under Miscavige) is sadly not covered in detail.
And I was expecting Rathbun to offer some insight into the mentality behind some of his angry or morally suspect actions whilst in the church. Though he does give a little insight into his belief that he was a "warrior" for Scientology and that he did have reservations about how the church was run, he doesn't really get into this much. And his leaving the church is given little more than a paragraph when it warrants far more illumination. This he may well have done on his blog or in one of the other books he has written but it was deeply annoying to hear how, whilst assaulting Mike Rinder, he finally realised he needed to leave when Rinder plead: “Marty, I don't want to play this game anymore.” without much further elaboration. I wanted to know more, how Rathbun really felt, was he ashamed? Did he regret his actions in the church? It was hard to tell.
But it was another piece of the Scientology puzzle and a worthy addition to the historical record. And Rathbun writes well and keeps you engaged as he spins his tale. But I can't help feeling it was missing that little bit extra.