Book cover says “Winner of the 1978 Prix Apollo”. First published in Galaxy Magazine in 1973 as “Project 40”.

cover
NLB Call. No: HER
ISBN: 0765317729

After the first few pages, my immediate reaction whether Frank Herbert published this before or after Dune (it was after, ‘cos Dune was published in 1965). I suppose one can’t compare this with the scale and complexity of Dune. But inevitably I did and found that this novel doesn’t convey that dark menace feeling i got when i read about the Harkonnens, for instance. Maybe i was more impressionable then and had watched David Lynch’s 1984 film. Dune (the novel) had greater level of sophistication to it’s writings. But i digress…

The plot (WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD)

America is a police state. A clandestine agency uncovers something called “Project 40”. Agents are sent in. They don’t return. We learn that the whole setup is a human hive (which I think is an allegory of another sort of police state). The story ends with a truce/ standoff. You’re left to speculate what might happen in the end.

It’s not a bad read. I didn’t have to force myself to finish it or anything. But I can’t say it’s excellent.

Maybe back in the 1970s, the concept of a Hive society making an attempt to take over the world was more novel. But by today’s standards, it’s not that shocking.

One thing I didn’t get was how the US was a police state. My impression was that the clandestine agency was one that spied on its citizens but strangely still operating within the confines of the law. I thought as a police state, the government would simply bash their way in. Instead, the plot had the agency agents sneak about, only to get killed.

I liked how the novel speculates on the possibility of a human society evolving into one modeled after insects (and it’s not an absolutely perfect society if one thinks about it… not at the expense of free thought and actions). Also like bits of ecological information thrown in, like on p.259 — a reminder that our ecological food chain is ultimately based on plants.

On p.332 (which was the ending) one of the character, Merrivale, leaves us with two possible outcomes:

      1) Destroy the Hive with no regard to the risk of the Hive unleasing their weapon that could destroy the entire world
      2) Stall for time by making a secret pact with the Hive, keeping them from the public, but at the same time researching into how to destroy them

In both cases seems the Hive cannot be left as it is. Which is pretty logical.

Come to think of it, this would be an excellent book for a bookclub discussion.

Advertisements