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Forgotten SF Novels – The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert

Like Leonard Nimoy who despite everything else he has done or tried to do, will still be known as Spock to the day of his death, Frank Herbert was known primarily for one thing, Dune. Nevertheless Frank Herbert authored a variety of other novels, all reflecting his preoccupation with the idea that the environment shapes humans, an idea that also underlay Dune. For the most part these novels such as The Dosadi Experiment, The White Plague or Whipping Star never enjoyed much public attention.

Paradoxically some of Herbert’s novels such as The White Plague or The Santaroga Barrier were far more mainstream than the exotic frank herbert the santaroga barrierenvironments and characters of Dune. The Santaroga Barrier in particular is a fairly mainstream thriller with the usual 60’s preoccupation with mind expanding drugs and cloyingly isolated small towns. Herbert of course overlays this premise with his own preoccupation with ecology, but though ecology shaping humanity is a major factor in the premise, it is rarely spelled out in any way that makes sense.

The basic plot of The Santaroga Barrier involves Dr. Gilbert Dasein, a social scientist and psychologist hired by a network of mall operators to find out what is going on in Santaroga and why no one there will do business in their stores or with outsiders in general and why no one from the valley permanently leaves. Several previous investigators have already died on the job, but Dr. Dasein has an advantage, his recent ex-girlfriend Jenny is a resident there.

Naturally as in most of these thrillers, Dasein makes an incredible pest of himself even as the residents there attempt to bring him into the fold. He winds up unconscious almost a dozen times in the fairly short novel and repeatedly finds his way to hospital beds. The secret turns out to involve a special fungus referred to as Jaspers’, being added to all the food, which fosters a kind of collective consciousness that includes a limited form of telepathy or empathy and clarity of thought along with the occasional psychedelic hallucination. Meanwhile accidents by a kind of communal collective consciousness continue stalking Dasein. By the end Dr. Dasein has undergone a Big Brotherish metamorphosis on taking a sizable amount of Jaspers and himself participates in the ‘accidental’ death of Dr. Salvador, his teacher.

By the end Frank Herbert has failed to explain much about Jaspers or even the condition of the people in the Santaroga Valley or the dark monster that Dasein occasionally sees within his subconscious. Instead he leaves us with the mildly haunting image of Dasein looking forward to his beautiful life with Jenny in the Santaroga Valley.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson unveil “The Sand Dunes of Dune”

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have brought you such fascinating backstory prequel tales of Dune, before you cared about Dune, with novels such as “Paul of Dune”, “The Road to Dune”, “The Sandworms of Dune”, and “The Winds of Dune”. Now finally comes the Dune novel you have all been waiting for that explores Dune at its most elemental element, its dunes. Its dunes of sand. Its sand dunes. Coming in 2010, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson bring you the Dune prequel novel to end all Dune prequel novels, “The Sand Dunes of Dune.”

You’ve all noticed the sand dunes of Dune. Dune is nothing is not filled with sand dunes. But what is the story of these sand dunes. What fierce passions shaped them? What mortal struggles shook them to the core? And what terrible secrets still lurk deep beneath the feverishly hot sand dunes of Dune?

Award winning writers Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson continue their quest to solve the world’s energy problems by making Frank Herbert turn a full quarter mile inside his grave, with “The Sand Dunes of Dune”. Go back in time to a time before Dune was full of sand dunes. Where did all the sand in the dunes of Dune come from? What is its history and what hopeless destiny lies in its future? What are its thoughts on all the cheap tie in novels that Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have written about Dune?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Sand Dunes of Dune” coming in 2010. And hold your breath for 2011, when Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson will release Dune 9, tentative title, “The Microscopic Microbes of Dune.”

Coming soon.

Panic! A Douglas Adams Free Hitchhiker Novel

Panic or not, a new Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novel, obviously not penned by the deceased Douglas Adams is due to be released titled, And Another Thing, which is really just asking for it. It shouldn’t be all that shocking, after all how many Robot and Foundation, Blade Runner sequels and Dune novels have been released that were not written by Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick or Frank Herbert. And how many of those should have been pulped from the start? The honest reality is despite some decent moments, most of them. A series that people genuinely enjoy is an author’s personal vision and not really everyone’s playground. And if that is true for series like The Foundation and Dune, which took place on an epic scale, it is all the more true for the Hitchhiker novels which were erratic, eccentric and personal. They can’t be duplicated except as a thin copy and there is no reason to try. And even Douglas Adams had run out of steam writing them, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish was a radical detour into a more personal intimate realm and Mostly Harmless was mostly empty. I don’t think anyone but die hard fans really took Salmon of Doubt as being all that promising. And that only makes this all the more senseless. If even Douglas Adams had lost the knack for writing Hitchhiker novels, having some third party do it will not fly, even with all the jumping off high places and not looking in the world.

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