Monday, January 11, 2010

The Godmakers by Frank Herbert (1972)

I recently read The Godmakers, by legendary Dune author Frank Herbert.

The novel explores a distant-future society which had been devastated by a galactic war, resulting in many planets becoming isolated. The protagonist begins the novel as a member of an organization charged with teaching and observing the people of re-discovered planets. If any sign of a war-like history is uncovered, the planet is "occupied," rendering the population harmless but damaging its culture and people permanently in the process. The protagonist is quickly identified as a very gifted individual, and is promoted and then given successively more difficult tasks. Eventually, the book degenerates into one of Herbert's ideological-religious-philosophical digressions, which are almost invariably indulgent, a trend which is true here as well.

I was shocked at how disjointed the whole book was. It didn't feel like a novel at all. Then I looked it up on Wikipedia and found out why: It was expanded from four short stories which had previously been unpublished. Hey, it worked for Asimov's Foundation, right? Well, in that novel it worked because the stories were only loosely connected, separated by decades or centuries of time in between. With The Godmakers, it all seems more or less sequential, and centers on two main characters, so it feels like it should hang together, but doesn't. Also, the theme from one story arc, which explores a non-human civilization, doesn't seem to fit the themes of the book. And the last story arc is the dreadful, pretentious, and faux intellectual digression into religion.

As short stories, I would have liked the first three--including the one about the aliens. I would have hated the last one. As a novel, it's barely worth the small investment of time. [The following edited to conform to my new rating scale:] I don't hate the book, which would result in a 0 star rating, but I don't like it, so I give it 1 out of 5 stars.

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