I’ve just enjoyed reading Frank Herbert’s 1973 novel “Hellstrom’s Hive”. Originally published (in 4 parts, I think) in Galaxy Magazine, the book is a written version of the 1971 film ‘The Hellstrom Chronicle’ directed by Walon Green (easily found on YouTube). Film-Book crossovers, and visa versa, are often unsatisfying experiences, but this novelisation by Herbert is an exception.
In the police-state world of this story, Dr Nils Hellstrom is the leader of a secret, (literally) underground society called ‘The Hive’. Using selective breeding, Hellstrom is seeking to manipulate human genes in order to create a new society modelled on the cooperative behaviours of insects.We learn that this process has been proceeding for hundred of years, that the Hive has nearly 50,000 inhabitants, and that it is getting ready to ‘swarm’.
A single document about the Hive’s “Project 40” is discovered by The Agency, who then send agents to the film studio that Hellstrom is using a cover for the Hive. The agents are captured, interrogated, killed and fed into the Hive’s “vats”. The book then revolves around a race against time as the Hive seeks to complete Project 40 (a weapon) before they are attacked by the State.
The story is not a dumb criticism of socialism/communism. While you can certainly find elements of that, Herbert takes his story to a higher level, treating the progression of humans in the Hive from being ‘wild’ to cooperative specialists, all working selflessly for their society. The means by which that adaptation are being achieved are horrific, but there is a relentless “why wouldn’t you do that” logic that makes the story very engrossing.
A classic read from a master author of themes like human survival and evolution.
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