Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of The Green Brain by Frank Herbert

Review of The Green Brain by Frank Herbert

It's been a while since I read any Frank Herbert, so I guess I was looking forward to reading The Green Brain. (Only guess because I wasn't thinking Oh, I must read this soon, but rather, Now what do I have that's genre and short?) It was OK – perhaps the weakest Herbert novel (or novella at just 158 pages) I've read, but still a million times better than Legends of Dune.

Brazil, along with various other countries, has in place a policy of exterminating all insects. Apart from genetically engineered bees that fill the insects' various ecological niches. Needless to say, the insects fight back. Specifically with giant, acid-spitting bugs and co-ordinated insect masses that impersonate humans and infiltrate the insect-free areas. All this is directed by a huge brain that lives in a cave. Yes, it sounds a bit shit and it pretty much is. There is a suggestion that the Brain, as it's referred to, was once human, but we don't really learn anything of where it came from or how it creates the insect mutants.

The two main aspects to this story are its political message and its psychodrama (for want of a better description). There is a very simple thesis here: don't screw up the environment because it's kind of important. Less obvious, but only slightly, is its pro-capitalism bias: it's only the socialist countries, with their controlling instincts, that have pursued this anti-insect plan – the US and Europe seem unaffected.

The main part of the story, the part where it seems happiest with itself, is when the three protagonists are stuck in a broken pod floating down a Brazilian river, hundreds of miles from anywhere and at the mercy of the insects – a section very reminiscent of Heart of Darkness. The narrative jumps between the points of view of the characters, giving us a near-360 degree view of their fears, hopes and schemes. This is the kind of thing that Herbert does very well, but, while it's the highlight of this book, it's not enough to raise it above mediocrity.

Categories: Literature, Reviews

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