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The Dosadi Experiment Mass Market Paperback – December 15, 1987
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"A portrayal of an alien society more complete and deeply detailed than any other author in the field has managed…a story absorbing equally for its action and philosophical vistas…. An astonishing science fiction phenomenon." ―The Washington Post
"Powerful, convincing, and most ingenious." ―Robert A. Heinlein
"Herbert's creation of this universe, with its intricate development and analysis of ecology, religion, politics, and philosophy, remains one of the supreme and seminal achievements in science fiction." ―The Louisville Times--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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So I came into this without reading "Whipping Star" before it. No real problems following along, understanding the characters or the universe, but the writing can be quite dense at times (much like Dune). Overall, the story is interesting and in typical Frank Herbert fashion, he digs into a lot of philosophical questions about society and government. The main character is interesting and well developed, but you wouldn't confuse him with another Muad'Dib even though they share a similar story arch. Like Dune, the universe and secondary characters are relatively well developed. I'd argue the Dune universe is more flushed out, but it's also a 6 (not 8!) book series.
The thing which really bothered me however was how often Herbert ended up "telling" rather then "showing" in order to explain something that happened in the story. This is always a risk when you go deep into foreign cultures which have rules so different from our own, but Herbert is a master storyteller and I've seen him do better (ex: Fremen culture and the Bene Gesserit). And it's not just one or two scenes, but rather almost every time our protagonist (who is a human) is talking to anyone else. To make matters worse, this flaw was turned up to 11 during the dramatic final scene where the main character (who is playing a "defense" lawyer) is making these tactical and strategic moves to box in the prosecution during the trial. This pattern of "so and so says X" and then Herbert having to explicitly explain to the reader why this was important prevents me from even considering this a 5 star book. Maybe if Herbert had watched more Perry Mason he would of done better? :)
That said, if you enjoyed Dune, then you'll almost certainly enjoy The Dosdi Experiment. There are definitely fewer characters with crazy names which can be difficult for some readers. That said, there are numerous points throughout the book where the writing does present challenges if you're trying to read while dealing with background distractions. I found myself re-reading a some passages 2 or 3 times to make sure I really got it because occasionally the writing was so dense and not always clear. Dune was also a times a dense/difficult read, but this seemed a little different. And like Dune, the "fake" quotes preceding each chapter were some of the most highlighted passages in the book.
I also got the strong feeling that Herbert was playing with some ideas in this book which ended up becoming Dune which provides the aware reader some "ah ha!" moments when you make the connection. In that way, it's another layer which to analyze this book seeing the similarities in the characters and universe. For example...
... you have the Dosadi who are confined to their world, to allow the Gowachins a longer then normal lifespan- much like how the Fremen are limited to Dune and the spice has geriatric properties. How are they forced on their own planet? Why via a contract with the Calebans- much like how the Spacing Guild controlled who was allowed to enter/leave Arrakis. The Dosadi themselves have a unique culture thanks to their environment- much like the Fremen culture is defined by the desert. There are other characters with multi-faceted eyes, just like a ghola would have. In both, the savior of this isolated world is someone from another world.
Frank Herbert was phenomenal and we lost him all too soon. The Dosadi Experiment is a classic example of the work and imagination of Frank Herbert. He presents amazing characters- some that couldn't be more alien to us, yet the stories teach us profound lessons about ourselves. Pick this up. Read it several times. You'll get more out of it every single time.
Imagine if those doorways were created, on demand, by sentient beings.
Imagine if those sentient being were represented by yellow-giant stars.
Imagine if one of those were hiding a secret experiment?
Most of the story follows one person's attempt to break free from the experiment, and another person's attempt to find and break into the same. The story covers their worlds, and the politics surrounding them, both in known and secret organizations.
There's no "Dune" feel to this, but some of the struggles parallel from a high-enough view.
The author is a bit wordy, but it works fairly well as an audiobook.
Gowachin courtrooms, where the innocent are guilty
A world sealed away from the universe, for very nefarious reasons (sorry, can't give spoiler)
A government bureau devoted solely to slowing too-efficient and/or evil organizations
I've read it at least 3 times, and may read it again. Always finding something new.