Hellstrom's Hive, by Frank Herbert
One of my favorite Frank Herbert books and one that is not part of a series, Hellstrom's Hive is horrifying and inspiring in equal measure. I don't know why so few people mention reading it, probably because the ending is a bit weak, or maybe because of the touchy subject, but I loved it.
The idea is quite simple, although as usual with Herbert, the underlying motifs are subtle and powerful. An unnamed and probably illegal secret organization, possibly an arm of the corporate world rather than government, discovers by accident something suspicious about a farm, owned by a guy named Hellstrom. There, they discover an unnamed and probably illegal secret organization, a group of people who hide from the world their own brand of civilization, inspired by insects.
You can immediately see that the two organizations are juxtaposed for effect. Which one, if any, is the good one and which one is not? Are the relatively moral agents of the first group better than the mindless drones of the second? What about if they execute their orders without thought of consequences? Are the ecosystem aware, science and reason oriented, efficiency focused godless denizens of the hive abominations or are they the way of the future, the solution to humanity's rapaciousness? Could people accept such a radically different way to live, even if it doesn't affect them?
As many of Herbert's creations, the book touches some recurring themes: the inevitable evil of government, the importance of focusing with mind and soul towards the betterment of individuals and the human species in general, the chemical, sexual and instinctual drives at the root of behavior, the power of ritualistic fanaticism, the danger in wanting too much or getting complacent and so on. In a way, this is a revisiting of the ideas from The Santaroga Barrier, only better.
I was dreading reading this book, I have to admit, because I was remembering the big impact it had on me when I read it in my childhood and I was afraid that it would be anachronistic, that it would feel stupid and unrealistic. I am happy to report that it did not. I mean, yeah, it does portray a story happening in the 70's, but it is realistic for those times and it could be adapted to the present with minimal changes. I don't know why no one attempted to put it on a screen. It's a captivating story.