the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Frank Herbert’ Category

It’s Ok.  I saw the movie first too.

How many times have you said:

That movie was awesome! what? you say there’s a book? Dude, I can’t wait to read it!

So many times have I seen a movie, loved it to pieces, learned there was a book, loved *that* to pieces,  and went on to have a simply lovely time.  This has been going on my entire life. I give movies and TV all the credit for getting me into science fiction. A child of the 80s, I knew who Han Solo was before I knew who Isaac Asimov was,  I thought Carl Sagan was just that guy who did the cool outer space PBS show, I knew David Lynch had something to do with this weird epic scifi movie that made no sense but looked and sounded really neat, and I stayed up late to watch reruns of Star Trek (back then it was just Star Trek).

The best thing about seeing the movie first? Since you don’t know what you’re missing, you’re probably not going to walk out of the theater saying “that movie sucked”.  Well, maybe you will, but it won’t be because they didn’t follow the book.

Here’s just a few recent examples of movies that got me to finally pick up the book:


Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones’s famous children’s book gets the Miyazaki treatment. I admit it, I’m shallow.  A few minutes into the movie I was madly in love with Howl’s voice. An hour and a half later I was in love with the entire movie Sure, Miyazaki played fast and loose with the characters and put his own spin on the ending and on Howl’s “secret”, but it’s such a pretty movie, and certainly one of my favorites from Studio Ghibli.  After watching the movie a few times, I read the book, and greatly enjoyed it.

john carter of mars

Disney’s John Carter of Mars/A Princess of Mars – panned by critics, I actually really liked this movie. It was well paced, the CGI martians were cool, I liked the premise, I liked the opening. Other than a plot that didn’t make much sense, it was a fun adventure movie. (also, I’m shallow. I have no idea what color his eyes were. My attention was umm, elsewhere.) I downloaded an audio version of A Princess of Mars, and it’s awesome! I don’t agree with all the changes they made when adapting the book to a screenplay, I do understand them. Had I seen this movie after experiencing the book, I probably would have panned it too.

lord of the rings movie poster

Lord of the Rings trilogy – yes, I suck, I’d never read these until about a year ago. But I liked the movies! Nice visuals, great music, excellent cinematography, great acting, what wasn’t to like? After ten years of my other half (who loves The Lord of the Rings almost as much as he loves me) nagging me to read them, and me giving him lame excuse after lame excuse, it was my enjoyment of the films that finally got me to read the books. Doing it as part of a read along with some other bloggers didn’t hurt either.

hunger games

The Hunger Games – that was one damn good movie. my family loved the book and have been bugging me to read it for a while. I will. . .  eventually. It’s going to get me addicted to this super trendy YA post apocalyptic stuff, isn’t it?

Dune 1984

Dune (1984) – yes, that one, and you had to know this was coming, and okay, this isn’t so recent.  I was ten or eleven years old the first time I saw this on T.V., and it was love at first sight. Mind you, I had absolutely no idea what was going on, or why it was important, but I was fascinated by the imagery and the epic music.  I read the book as a teenager, and took my first step in a life long love affair with science fiction. And yes, the book is a zillion times better than the movie. But I had to start somewhere, didn’t I?

now it’s your turn.  What movies or tv shows got YOU to finally pick up the book?

Vintage SF badge

You probably know Frank Herbert from his masterpiece, Dune. or perhaps you are more familiar with his son, Brian Herbert, who has been involved with continuing  the series. But Frank Herbert did so much more more than just epic space opera involving secretive sisterhoods and sandworms.  Many of his stand alone  novels took place in the present (which would have been the 1960′s and 70′s) and could be easily be considered mainstream suspense novels.  When I’m at the used bookstore, if I see a copy of a Herbert I don’t own, I grab it, and rarely have I been disappointed.   In my mind, Frank Herbert is a little like George R. R. Martin – sure, their famous series blow my mind every time, but I’m missing out on the bigger picture if I don’t read their other works too.

SantarogaThe Santaroga Barrier, by Frank Herbert

written in 1968

where I got it: bought used












Something very strange is happening in a valley in Southern California. Or perhaps, it’s nothing strange at all, just a close knit, old fashioned community famous for its cheese production.  Doctor Gilbert Dasein of the Psychology department of the University of California has been sent to the Santaroga Valley.  It is true that he’s hoping to patch things up with his ex-girlfriend Jenny, a resident of Santaroga, but Dasein has another mission, one which killed the last two men who took it on. He’s being paid to do market research and find out what exactly is going on there. Why won’t the Santarogans allow national businesses to build in their valley? Why don’t they have a single reported case of mental illness? Why doesn’t anyone ever leave the valley for good? Are they innocent survivalists? is it a cult? is it something more?

It’s not that Santaroga doesn’t like outsiders, it’s that they don’t need them. They produce plenty of their famous cheese, and they also produce everything else their residents need, from furniture and wine, to independently sourced auto parts and canned food. Most Santarogan-made products never leave the valley, and all residents work together to make everyone has enough, newlyweds have houses, and that everyone is taken care of. And everyone sure gets excited when a wheel of Jaspers Cheese is brought out.

The good news is that Gilbert does find Jenny, and they do patch things up to the point where she’d like to get married as soon as possible. But the more time Gilbert spends in the valley, the more he wants to leave and take Jenny with him. Santaroga is an odd place, to say the least. Salespeople are brutally honest about what’s wrong with the used cars in the lot. No one ever seems frustrated or depressed or angry, words between Santarogans are never misunderstood, and the smell of the famous Jaspers cheese is everywhere. And children? There’s not a single child to be seen in the valley.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vintage SF wrap up coming soon. . . in the meantime, let’s learn a little more about one of my favorite science fiction authors, Frank Herbert.

I’ve been reading Frank Herbert (1920 – 1986) my entire adult life. I picked up Dune sometime when I was in high school, and never looked back.  Yes, he is famous for the Dune series, but Frank Herbert wrote a ton of stand alone science fiction as well.  Most of his works carry at least some of his trademarks: dialog and plots on many levels, commentaries on ecology and how society responds to it’s environment, and (mis)communications between disparate groups.

Although he’d been selling pulp adventure short stories starting in the mid 40’s, Herbert’s first science fiction sale wasn’t until 1952, and like many of his contemporaries, his earliest sales were to short story magazines. His first novel, published in 1955 was The Dragon in the Sea (also published as Under Pressure), about the crew of a submarine who suspect one among their number is a traitor. I read this novel a few years ago, and I remember it being incredible tense and suspenseful.

Read the rest of this entry »


Hellstrom’s Hive, by Frank Herbert

Published in 1973

where I got it: purchased used

There will be spoilers in this review, if only because they show up early in the novel, and it would be impossible to tell you anything about the plot without spoiling a few surprises. But don’t worry, there are many more surprises I didn’t tell you about.

If you’ve read Dune, you’ll be familiar with Herbert’s odd style of telling a story in third person, yet showing nearly everyone’s internal monologues and thoughts processes as if it were first person.  For people who have never read a Herbert before, it is a strange style, and you’ll get used to it fairly quickly.

Something very strange is going on in a rural valley in the Pacific Northwest. An unnamed government agency has a file on the documentary maker Nils Hellstrom. They know something subversive (probably communism or a religious cult) is happening on his rural farm slash movie studio, but they can’t seem to catch him in the act. And every agent they send in as a lost backpacker or hiker disappears without a trace.  When an agent finds a secret Hellstrom document partially outlining some kind of super weapon, the agency knows it’s time to up their game. We get to know a handful of agents, and in only a few pages (sometimes a few sentences), Herbert digs deeps into their personas to flesh them out into full developed characters with hopes and fears. If you ask me, Herbert has always been a master of subtle character development.

And then we get the story from Nils’ point of view. He’s not harboring communists or making dirty movies.  He’s desperately trying to save the human race. More a culture than a cult, he has helped created a utopian society, one free of fear, jealousy, hunger, and anger. A society where everyone is peaceful and happy, where everyone works in harmony to help the larger group. This perfect society, the only way to save the human race, is based on another on of Earth’s creatures, albeit on most humans find unsavory.

Read the rest of this entry »

walk without rhythym. . . .

Hi Everyone, and welcome to the final section of our Dune read along. Hope you enjoyed the ride!    Our last group of questions was kindly supplied by Grace, and she came up with some great ones!

Here are the questions, and my answers are after the jump:

1.  What is your reaction to finally learning the identity of Princess Irulan?  Do you think that her convention added to the story?
2.  Were you satisfied with the ending?  For those reading for the first time, was it what you expected?

3.  On both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus, ecology plays a major role in shaping both characters and the story itself.  Was this convincing?  Do you think that Paul would have gone through with his threat to destroy the spice, knowing what it would mean for Arrakis?

4.  Both Leto and Paul made their decisions on marriage for political reasons.  Do you agree with their choices?

5.  What was your favorite part in this section of the book?
6.  One of the things I noticed in the discussions last week was Herbert’s use of the word “jihad.”  What do you think of Herbert’s message about religion and politics?

Read the rest of this entry »

Hi everyone, welcome to part two of our Dune read along.  Part one is here, and checkout Stainless Steel Droppings for links to everyone else’s discussion.

This week, it was my turn to provide questions, and I came up with a whole bunch, but suggested that people choose whichever ones they felt like discussing. This way, everyone’s posts will be a little different.

If you have never read Frank Herbert’s classic epic scifi novel DUNE, or you haven’t finished reading the middle portion of the book, be warned, here be spoilers!

our story so far:

The Harkonnens have retaken Arrakis with the help of the Emperor’s Sardaukar shock-troops.   the few surviving members of the Atreides household have gone to ground, and after being rescued by the imperial planetologist Kynes, Jessica and Paul escape in an ornithopter. Believed dead by the Harkonnens, Paul and Jessica take advantage of the mythos planted on Arrakis by earlier Bene Gesserit sisters.  But maybe Paul is the child of the prophecy? His Mentat and Bene Gesserit trainings combined with intense quantities of Spice awaken his prescience ability. The futures that Paul sees are either brutal and bloody, or steeped in stagnation. Is there no middle ground?

Meanwhile, Baron Harkonnen is grooming one awful nephew after another to inherit control of Arrakis.

Taken in by a Fremen tribe, Paul and Jessica are tested, and then accepted into the tribe so quickly they can barely think about it before it happens.   Plans within plans, and circles within circles, this is only the beginning for those destined to live our their days on the desert planet Arrakis, known as Dune.

Of the handful of questions I put forth, here are the ones I’ll be discussing after the jump:

Was Liet’s identity a surprise?  who do you think he really works for?
What do you think of Count Fenring’s unusual verbal mannerisms? 
The center portion of the book is still pretty dialog heavy, but what I’ve noticed is the subtlety of the dialog. Things left unsaid are often more important than things that are said.  What do you think of that as a stylistic choice? does it make the dialog more interesting? less interesting?
Dune was written in the 60′s. Does it feel dated to you? How does it compare, writing style-wise, to more contemporary science fiction you’ve read?

Read the rest of this entry »

Because I just can’t help myself, you know?  Nature abhors a vacuum like my credit at my favorite local bookstore abhors not being spent. Who cares that I just got a half dozen books from the library?  Bookstores are my kryptonite! Even more so after one of the employees let slip they’d just gotten in a ton of vintage SF.

teh new goodies:


from bottom to top, we’ve got:

A Feast for Crows, by George R R Martin. I got this out of the library a few years ago, I wish I’d thought to buy it before they changes the cover art to the “new” style. now my Martin covers don’t match!  :(  I can’t decide if I’m going to buy into the hype and purchase Dance with Dragons in hardback, or just get it from the library and wait to purchase until it’s in paperback.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.  I’ve never read any Willis, but I keep hearing really good things about her.

Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg.  Another one I’d gotten from the library a few years ago, it was my first Silverberg.  After I finished it, I remember my husband asking me what I thought of it as this is one of his favorites too, and I expressly remember saying that not only did I want to learn how to juggle, but if we ever had a son, I wanted to name him Valentine.

Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch.  I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Midnight Riot, and I’ve been hearing this 2nd one is just as fun too.

Stalking the Unicorn, by Mike Resnick – it just looked fun. and the acknowledgement pages makes some reference to a friend of Resnick’s who is the “God emperor” of something, which made me chuckle. and that brings us to . . .

The Heaven Makers, by Frank Herbert.  You wouldn’t know it by skimming the review index, but I am a HUGE Frank Herbert fan.  I think I’ve read maybe a dozen books by him, and I know most of his discography by sight. But this is one I have never even heard of! Anyone know anything about this title?



Hi Everyone, and welcome to the Dune Read-along!  If you are posting your thoughts in your blog as well, please visit Stainless Steel Droppings and add your link so others can find you. If you aren’t posting related threads on your blog, no worries, you can post your thoughts in this thread, or anywhere else you’d like.  This past week, we read the first “book” within Dune, called “Dune” (wow, that was redundant!), and Carl from Stainless Steel has provided some excellent discussion questions.

If you haven’t read this book, or haven’t finished this section, be warned, spoiler ridden postings ahead. Behind in reading? no worries, come back and visit whenever you’re ready.

here are Carl’s questions, and I’ll provide my detailed answers after the jump.

walk without rhythym. . . .

1.  What, if any, preconceived ideas did you have before you started reading Dune and how has the first section measured up to those preconceptions?

alternate Question 1 for those who’ve read the book before:

Did you see anything in this first section of the book that either you hadn’t seen before or that you had forgotten about, anything that stood out to you?

2.  What did you think about the plot device of the early revelation that Yueh was to be the traitor?

3.  What was your favorite part of this first section?  Which character(s) do you find most interesting and why?

4.  Did the revelation about the Harkonnen surprise you? Why or why not? Thoughts.

5.  Finally, please share some overall thoughts on this first section of the book.  Are you finding it difficult to follow? Easy to understand? Engaging? Boring?  Just share what you are thinking thus far.

And my answers:

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a classic!  You know you want to!  Or you are least curious to see what spawned a weird Lynch movie, two scifi channel miniseries, and at least one board game (and yes, I’ve seen and played them).

Check out the post that started it all over at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Carl of Stainless Steel, Kailana of The Written World and myself will be each be hosting discussions for a different part of the novel.  I’ll be hosting the 2nd portion, which will be the 2nd week of July, and of course I’ll be posting links to their discussions as well.

so mark your calendar for this friday, July 1st, brush off your copy of Dune, be it  original cover art, your movie tie-in edition, your 40th anniversary special edition, be it well loved or barely cracked open. . . and remember to walk without rhythm!

walk without rhythm. . . .

full disclosure:  Dune is a long time favorite of mine. I read it for the first time when I was about 15, and it was a game changer for me. by the time I was 19, I’d read the entire series of six, and even sort of understood the last 2 books!   if it has something to do with this series, i’ve probably read it, seen it, listened to it, or played it. I iz a dune-head. Even more geekiness: when my other half and I got our first apartment and blended our book collections, we found we had 3-4 copies of each book in the series.

additional full disclosure: I’ve read the first Herbert/Anderson “prequel” – it struck me as an okay book, but not very Dune-ish. I do not consider the “prequels” to be Canon.

Interested in joining us?  leave a comment here, or comment over at Stainless Steel Droppings, so we can make sure you get the discussion questions over e-mail.   or just join in anyways.  :)

Just so you know, this is a super long post with a funny at the end.  Not unlike an epic quest. . . .

I describe this website as offering Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews.  But going through my list of reviews, I’m seeing far more fantasy than science.  Maybe I should just describe it as a fantasy review site?  Or a gateway to fantasy review site?

When I was a kid, I was an adamant SF fan. Much of my youth was spent building spaceships out of legos and watching PBS shows about astronomy.  I craved scientific explanations for everything.  I wanted to know how everything worked

While my friends were reading Lloyd Alexander, I was reading Interstellar Pig.  As they moved onto Tolkien and Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz, I moved onto David Brin and Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

To me, Fantasy was wizards with long beards, royals who went on quests where their soldiers and magical armor protected them, and elves and dwarves who spent the first half of the conversation telling you their lineages, and embarassingly rediculous cover art. really nothing else. I had no understanding that “high fantasy” was only the tip of the iceberg of the genre.  My limited experiences with high fantasy let me know quickly that I didn’t care for it.

And then I started reading manga, a form famous for mixing genres. Cyborg mechas using laser guns against a castle and fighting flesh and blood dragons that guarded hoards of treasure? no problem. Kids who get wisked away from their regular life to fight demons and spirits and collect magical shards? piece of cake.  Vampires, martians, aliens, dragons, time travel, often in the same series. And it worked, like magic.

Wait, wasn’t this, um, fantasy?  It sure was fantastical, and it sure wasn’t hard scifi. Read the rest of this entry »

About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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