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Book Review – Frank Herbert: The Works

578089_355573387890325_1063170098_nOne of the greatest science fiction epics of all time was written and published back in the 1960’s and it still has influence today. Frank Herbert’s Dune series is one of those great foundational stories that every one who enjoys science fiction or fantasy should read. But what went into Herbert’s making of this epic story? What went into all of his stories? What inspired him? However, Bob R. Bogle’s book Frank Herbert: The Works examines from a unique perspective some very interesting influences that went into Frank Herbert’s writing of Dune as well as a study of his other works. One thing readers will find is that many of Herbert’s shorter works were precursors, conscious and unconscious, probably, to the epic Dune series.

One interesting thing that I didn’t know that Bogle brings out was that the novel Spice Planet was an early precursor to Dune. Frank Herbert was working on his concepts in that book before he got around to writing the ultimate book with those concepts fully realized years later but even though Spice Planet  is not as complex or deep the ideas are all there and bear a striking resemblance to characters in Dune. Yet, Spice Planet is its own unique and interesting, compelling work. In fact, it is more accurate to say that when Herbert wrote Spice Planet it was an outline, not an actual book. Whether he actually intended for it to be a novel is unclear. Later, his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson would turn it into a book but the author Bogle points out complications with this path they have taken. Problems such as the question of whether this changes how readers think about the Dune series because an outline that Herbert probably did not intend to be a book, but simply used to work out his story ideas, was made into a book?

Bogle points out the well known account of Herbert’s visit to the Oregon coast to study the dune ecology there, how his work is heavily influenced by environmental issues and ecology and by the work of Carl Jung, but Herbert got many of his original ideas from his experiences from psychedelic drugs and the phenomenon of ESP, or what the author calls Rhine Consciousness, which Herbert studied for quite some time before working out these ideas and experiences in his short stories and his novels. Herbert lived and wrote during times when the country was going through political upheaval and this too naturally greatly influenced his work. His distrust of politicians, certain elements of government and his peculiar take on why he thought that government bureaucracy was actually important to human freedom, all played direct roles in how he wrote. Herbert’s mind worked in astoundingly original ways when he turned these ideas into fiction. Books such as The Green Brain and Hellstrom’s Hive were influenced by social issues and world ecology and others such as the Dune series were heavily influenced by ecology and his drug experiences, political and social issues, his experiences with time dilation and Rhine Consciousness. Rhine Consciousness plays a very heavy role in many of Hebert’s works, most notably in the Dune series. One pivotal experience came years ago,  when his son was a child. He, his wife and child were driving along in his truck and they came to a huge hole in the bridge that he was driving over. He saw it too late and they were driving too fast to stop. Herbert made a split second decision that changed his life and he experienced time dilation and a hyper-real kind of consciousness during this harrowing episode. This would be one of the deepest influences on his writing thereafter.

Bogle also has interesting, and I think, fair criticisms of Herbert too, such as Herbert’s claim that one of his reasons for writing Dune was to explore the ideas of what he called the “toxic idea of the superhero”, of which Bogle finds rather disingenuous and he explains why he feels this way. He has other criticisms of some of Herbert’s inconsistencies in his books that I found surprising and interesting and has made me examine the works more closely. But not in a negative way. Not at all. This is a review from an author who is an aficionado of Herbert’s work; respectful but also able to be dispassionate. In all, Bogle examines Herbert’s work in light of the times he lived in and in light of his pivotal experiences with ESP and drug use. An excellent, if idiosyncratic review of Herbert’s work that sheds light on what drove him to write. Bob R. Bogle himself is an author and a scientist. His book, Frank Herbert: The Works is an excellent read, I can’t recommend this book enough for fans of Herbert’s work or anyone who is interested in his work.

Victoria (V. A. Jeffrey) attended Portland Community College. She loves writing and making up fantasy stories and has loved doing this ever since she was a kid. She is an author and an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy and poetry. She also loves music, art, history, cooking, baking, fermenting stuff, comic book movies and nearly anything Tolkien related. Her biggest writing inspirations are Shakespeare, Frank Herbert and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien. You can find her at: mymiddleearth.com

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One comment

  1. Personally I think that Brian had Spice Planet turned into a book was just so people could read it without having to look far for it, not for people to think that it was a different but somewhat similar story to Dune. Although having not read Spice Planet, I don’t know if Brian had added anything to it to make it into an actual book.

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