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The Dosadi Experiment (Tor Science Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – September 16, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Frank Herbert (1920-1986) created the most beloved novel in the annals of science fiction, Dune. He was a man of many facets, of countless passageways that ran through an intricate mind. His magnum opus is a reflection of this, a classic work that stands as one of the most complex, multi-layered novels ever written in any genre. Today the novel is more popular than ever, with new readers continually discovering it and telling their friends to pick up a copy. It has been translated into dozens of languages and has sold almost 20 million copies.

As a child growing up in Washington State, Frank Herbert was curious about everything. He carried around a Boy Scout pack with books in it, and he was always reading. He loved Rover Boys adventures, as well as the stories of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and the science fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs. On his eighth birthday, Frank stood on top of the breakfast table at his family home and announced, "I wanna be a author." His maternal grandfather, John McCarthy, said of the boy, "It's frightening. A kid that small shouldn't be so smart." Young Frank was not unlike Alia in Dune, a person having adult comprehension in a child's body. In grade school he was the acknowledged authority on everything. If his classmates wanted to know the answer to something, such as about sexual functions or how to make a carbide cannon, they would invariably say, "Let's ask Herbert. He'll know."

His curiosity and independent spirit got him into trouble more than once when he was growing up, and caused him difficulties as an adult as well. He did not graduate from college because he refused to take the required courses for a major; he only wanted to study what interested him. For years he had a hard time making a living, bouncing from job to job and from town to town. He was so independent that he refused to write for a particular market; he wrote what he felt like writing. It took him six years of research and writing to complete Dune, and after all that struggle and sacrifice, 23 publishers rejected it in book form before it was finally accepted. He received an advance of only $7,500.

His loving wife of 37 years, Beverly, was the breadwinner much of the time, as an underpaid advertising writer for department stores. Having been divorced from his first wife, Flora Parkinson, Frank Herbert met Beverly Stuart at a University of Washington creative writing class in 1946. At the time, they were the only students in the class who had sold their work for publication. Frank had sold two pulp adventure stories to magazines, one to Esquire and the other to Doc Savage. Beverly had sold a story to Modern Romance magazine. These genres reflected the interests of the two young lovers; he the adventurer, the strong, machismo man, and she the romantic, exceedingly feminine and soft-spoken.

Their marriage would produce two sons, Brian, born in 1947, and Bruce, born in 1951. Frank also had a daughter, Penny, born in 1942 from his first marriage. For more than two decades Frank and Beverly would struggle to make ends meet, and there were many hard times. In order to pay the bills and to allow her husband the freedom he needed in order to create, Beverly gave up her own creative writing career in order to support his. They were in fact a writing team, as he discussed every aspect of his stories with her, and she edited his work. Theirs was a remarkable, though tragic, love story-which Brian would poignantly describe one day in Dreamer of Dune (Tor Books; April 2003). After Beverly passed away, Frank married Theresa Shackelford.

In all, Frank Herbert wrote nearly 30 popular books and collections of short stories, including six novels set in the Dune universe: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. All were international bestsellers, as were a number of his other science fiction novels, which include The White Plague and The Dosadi Experiment. His major novels included The Dragon in the Sea, Soul Catcher (his only non-science fiction novel), Destination: Void, The Santaroga Barrier, The Green Brain, Hellstorm's Hive, Whipping Star, The Eyes of Heisenberg, The Godmakers, Direct Descent, and The Heaven Makers. He also collaborated with Bill Ransom to write The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect, and The Ascension Factor. Frank Herbert's last published novel, Man of Two Worlds, was a collaboration with his son, Brian.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Justice belongs to those who claim it, but let the claimant beware lest he create new injustice by his claim and thus set the bloody pendulum of revenge into its inexorable motion.
--Gowachin aphorism

Why are you so cold and mechanical in your Human relationships?”

Jorj X. McKie was to reflect on that Caleban question later. Had she been trying to alert him to the Dosadi Experiment and to what his investigation of that experiment might do to him? He hadn’t even known about Dosadi at the time and the pressures of the Caleban communications trance, the accusatory tone she took, had precluded other considerations.

Still, it rankled. He didn’t like the feeling that he might be a subject of her research into Humans. He’d always thought of that particular Caleban as his friend--if one could consider being friendly with a creature whose visible manifestation in this universe was a fourth-magnitude yellow sun visible from Central Central where the Bureau of Sabotage maintained its headquarters. And there was inevitable discomfort in Caleban communication. You sank into a trembling, jerking trance while they made their words appear in your consciousness.

But his uncertainty remained: had she tried to tell him something beyond the plain content of her words?

When the weather makers kept the evening rain period short, McKie liked to go outdoors immediately afterward and stroll in the park enclosure which BuSab provided for its employees on Central Central. As a Saboteur Extraordinary, McKie had free run of the enclosure and he liked the fresh smells of the place after a rain.

The park covered about thirty hectares, deep in a well of Bureau buildings. It was a scrambling hodgepodge of plantings cut by wide paths which circled and twisted through specimens from every inhabited planet of the known universe. No care had been taken to provide a particular area for any sentient species. If there was any plan to the park it was a maintenance plan with plants requiring similar conditions and care held in their own sectors. Giant Spear Pines from Sasak occupied a knoll near one corner surrounded by mounds of Flame Briar from Rudiria. There were bold stretches of lawn and hidden scraps of lawn, and some flat stretches of greenery which were not lawns at all but mobile sheets of predatory leaf imprisoned behind thin moats of caustic water.

Rain-jeweled flowers often held McKie’s attention to the exclusion of all else. There was a single planting of Lilium Grossa, its red blossoms twice his height casting long shadows over a wriggling carpet of blue Syringa, each miniature bloom opening and closing at random like tiny mouths gasping for air.

Sometimes, floral perfumes stopped his progress and held him in a momentary olfactory thralldom while his eyes searched out the source. As often as not, the plant would be a dangerous one--a flesh eater or poison-sweat variety. Warning signs in flashing Galach guarded such plantings. Sonabarriers, moats, and force fields edged the winding paths in many areas.

McKie had a favorite spot in the park, a bench with its back to a fountain where he could sit and watch the shadows collect across fat yellow bushes from the floating islands of Tandaloor. The yellow bushes thrived because their roots were washed in running water hidden beneath the soil and renewed by the fountain. Beneath the yellow bushes there were faint gleams of phosphorescent silver enclosed by a force field and identified by a low sign:

“Sangeet Mobilus, a blood-sucking perennial from Bisaj. Extreme danger to all sentient species. Do not intrude any portion of your body beyond the force field.”

As he sat on the bench, McKie thought about that sign. The universe often mixed the beautiful and the dangerous. This was a deliberate mixture in the park. The yellow bushes, the fragrant and benign Golden Iridens, had been mingled with Sangeet Mobilus. The two supported each other and both thrived. The ConSentient government which McKie served often made such mixtures…sometimes by accident.

Sometimes by design.

He listened to the splashing of the fountain while the shadows thickened and the tiny border lights came on along the paths. The tops of the buildings beyond the park became a palette where the sunset laid out its final display of the day.

In that instant, the Caleban contact caught him and he felt his body slip into the helpless communications trance. The mental tendrils were immediately identified--Fannie Mae. And he thought, as he often had, what an improbable name that was for a star entity. He heard no sounds, but his hearing centers responded as to spoken words, and the inward glow was unmistakable. It was Fannie Mae, her syntax far more sophisticated than during their earliest encounters.

“You admire one of us,“ she said, indicating his attention on the sun which had just set beyond the buildings.

“I try not to think of any star as a Caleban,“ he responded. “It interferes with my awareness of the natural beauty.”

“Natural? McKie, you don’t understand your own awareness, nor even how you employ it!”

That was her beginning--accusatory, attacking, unlike any previous contact with this Caleban he’d thought of as friend. And she employed her verb forms with new deftness, almost as though showing off, parading her understanding of his language.

“What do you want, Fannie Mae?”

“I consider your relationships with females of your species. You have entered marriage relationships which number more than fifty. Not so?”

“That’s right. Yes. Why do you…”

“I am your friend, McKie. What is your feeling toward me?”

He thought about that. There was a demanding intensity in her question. He owed his life to this Caleban with an improbable name. For that matter, she owed her life to him. Together, they’d resolved the Whipping Star threat. Now, many Calebans provided the jumpdoors by which other beings moved in a single step from planet to planet, but once Fannie Mae had held all of those jumpdoor threads, her life threatened through the odd honor code by which Calebans maintained their contractual obligations. And McKie had saved her life. He had but to think about their past interdependence and a warm sense of camaraderie suffused him.

Fannie Mae sensed this.

“Yes, McKie, that is friendship, is love. Do you possess this feeling toward Human female companions?”

Her question angered him. Why was she prying? His private sexual relationships were no concern of hers!

“Your love turns easily to anger,“ she chided.

“There are limits to how deeply a Saboteur Extraordinary can allow himself to be involved with anyone.”

“Which came first, McKie--the Saboteur Extraordinary or these limits?”

Her response carried obvious derision. Had he chosen the Bureau because he was incapable of warm relationships? But he really cared for Fannie Mae! He admired her…and she could hurt him because he admired her and felt…felt this way.

He spoke out of his anger and hurt.

“Without the Bureau there’d be no ConSentiency and no need for Calebans.”

“Yes, indeed. People have but to look at a dread agent from BuSab and know fear.”

It was intolerable, but he couldn’t escape the underlying warmth he felt toward this strange Caleban entity, this being who could creep unguarded into his mind and talk to him as no other being dared. If only he had found a woman to share that kind of intimacy…

And this was the part of their conversation which came back to haunt him. After months with no contact between them, why had she chosen that moment--just three days before the Dosadi crisis burst upon the Bureau? She’d pulled out his ego, his deepest sense of identity. She’d shaken that ego and then she’d skewered him with her barbed question:

Why are you so cold and mechanical in your Human relationships?”

Her irony could not be evaded. She’d made him appear ridiculous in his own eyes. He could feel warmth, yes…even love, for a Caleban but not for a Human female. This unguarded feeling he held for Fannie Mae had never been directed at any of his marital companions. Fannie Mae had aroused his anger, then reduced his anger to verbal breast-beating, and finally to silent hurt. Still, the love remained.


Human females were bed partners. They were bodies which used him and which he used. That was out of the question with this Caleban. She was a star burning with atomic fires, her seat of consciousness unimaginable to other sentients. Yet, she could extract love from him. He gave this love freely and she knew it. There was no hiding an emotion from a Caleban when she sent her mental tendrils into your awareness.

She’d certainly known he would see the irony. That had to be part of her motive in such an attack. But Calebans seldom acted from a single motive--which was part of their charm and the essence of their most irritant exchanges with other sentient beings.

“McKie?” Softly in his mind.

“Yes.” Angry.

“I show you now a fractional bit of my feeling toward your node.”

Like a balloon being inflated by a swift surge of gas, he felt himself suffused by a projected sense of concern, of caring. He was drowning in it…wanted to drown in it. His entire body radiated this white-hot sense of protective attention. For a whole minute after it was withdrawn, he still glowed with it.

A fractional bit?

“McKie?” Concerned?.


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Product Details

  • Series: Tor Science Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (September 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765342537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765342539
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.9 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #575,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Frank Herbert deserves his rep as one of the greatest science fiction writers. Dune, his most popular book (with 2 film adaptations) is an incredible epic. This book, however, is something that has stuck with me and improved with every reading. It a superior work in a lot of ways.
Some spoiler-free background:
Like a James Bond in the future, 500-year-old Jorge McKie is an agent for the government. The government in question is the ConSentiency: an amalgam of all sentient races in the galaxy worknig to keep the peace. This alone is an incredibly difficult prospect, for surly a race with a different biology and a different culture would come up with a different set of laws. How could such a thing as a ConSentiency exist? Making things more difficult are two relatively new uphevals: 1> that stars are sentent beings, and 2> stars themselves allow instant travel from place to place in the galaxy.
And now, as our story starts, the uneasy peace is threatened by an experiment: 200 years previously, a race of aliens has created Dosadi: a poison planet inhabited with kidnapped humans and aliens who have had their memories erased and been dumped on the planet to fend for themselves. How will they survive when cut off from the rest of the galaxy and not given enough resources?
The makers of Dosadi hope to learn how to improve their own race, but their creation becomes something else entirely. It is horror enough that this world exists, but what to do with the experiment? McKie, with the fate of the entire planet in his hands, is ordered to visit the planet and discover for himself.
All of this is revealed in the first few chapters, and I won't go into any more plot detail.
Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Yes, Frank Herbert wrote other novels than the "Dune" series. Of these, "The Dosadi Experiment" is by far one of the best.

Dosadi is an artificially populated planet with a dark, dark secret. Jorg X. McKie, who was introduced in a companion novel "Whipping Star" is sent to investigate the goings-on on Dosadi, an assignment that could very well lead to his destruction.

Dosadi is a toxic planet, where survivors live either in an overpopulated fortress of a city and survive on their wits, or struggle to live on the poisonous Rim, where the very soil and plants are enemies. The people of Dosadi are tough indeed, but they are a lot more than just tough survivors. They hold a desperate secret that could upset the balance of the rest of the galaxy.

McKie's struggle to survive and to discover Dosadi's secrets make for a really exciting tale. The characters are vivid, creative (all kinds of sentient species) and very interesting. If you love good science fiction, this is a must-read.
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Format: Hardcover
If you read Dune (or almost any other Herbert book) you know that one of his favourite themes is that of the sequestered/closed society in a harsh environment. No one ever did it as well.
_Dosadi_ offers a lot. It offers a very interesting alien race (well, more than one, but one that gets the most attention) that is truly alien, with a fascinating legal system that questions the basic assumptions we start with. The plot unfolds like a sunrise, letting out bits of information gradually until the reader comes to understand just what a monstrous timebomb has been created by shortsighted beings. The protagonist and other main characters are well-described and interesting, as is the interplay among them.
This is not light reading, but if you like fiction that inspires you to question your assumptions, this is one of the best examples of same. Especially recommended to those with an interest in the topic of law and legal proceedings, or to anyone who has already decided they like Herbert's style.
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Format: Hardcover
The Dosadi Experiment is a brilliant, and complicated book. The concepts Herbert indulges in here will keep you pondering for weeks, months and years after you read it. Essentially an experiment is conducted on a planet enclosed behind a created protective barrier called the 'God Wall' to keep the inhabitants from leaving. A series of hostile conditions are created complete with toxic waste, hunger and war. The inhabitants are all unknowing 'test subjects' in a grand experiment, and develop into the most dangerous people in the universe, frightening their creators with their abilities. As events unfold, the inhabitants of Dosadi actually learn how to pass through the 'God Wall' unleashing themselves on the universe and the culmination of the tale winds up in the most unusual trial you will ever read. All in all quite a facinating exploration into a broad new territory for Herbert, marking him as one of the great pioneers of the genre of Science Fiction. This book is currently out of print and the copy I have is very old, but it is well worth searching used books stores to read this one. It is actually Herbert's sequel to 'Whipping Star'.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very difficult novel for me to review. It is brilliantly written and extremely deep in a philosophical sense. Too deep, in fact, for me to simply read and enjoy. I read for pleasure and this book requires either extreme intelligence or more effort than I'm willing to expend strictly for pleasure reading.

I read and enjoyed Dune very much. One of my favorite novels of all time. This novel is very similar to some of the sequels to Dune (God Emperor of Dune, Chapterhouse Dune) which I felt got too bogged down in deep philosphical discussions that quite simply lost me.

I am a very well educated person and no idiot, however I'm definitely not smart enough to fully appreciate this novel. I read the book and followed the story line, but feel like I missed so much of the underlying meaning that it was a waste of my time. I could probably read, reread and ponder many sections and ultimately gain a greater appreciation, but I'm challenged sufficiently at work. I read to relax and decompress. This is not relaxing reading.

Bottom line: If you are very intelligent and/or a deep thinker who reads in order to broaden your mind or challenge yourself, this novel will certainly do the trick. If you read strictly for pleasure and want science fiction, read Asimov instead. This book is Dune on steroids.
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