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The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert

The Dosadi Experiment (original 1971; edition 1979)

by Frank Herbert

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1,660167,267 (3.74)39
Generations of a tormented human-alien people, caged on a toxic planet, conditioned by constant hunger and war-this is the Dosadi Experiment, and it has succeeded too well. For the Dosadi have bred for vengeance as well as cunning, and they have learned how to pass through the shimmering God Wall to exact their dreadful revenge on the Universe that created them...… (more)
Title:The Dosadi Experiment
Authors:Frank Herbert
Info:London : Futura, 1979
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction, read 2020

Work details

The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert (1971)

  1. 00
    Glasshouse by Charles Stross (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: far future espionage stories where the protagonist must infiltrate an experimental world in an effort to discover its true purpose, knowing only that there is some great culpability involved
  2. 01
    Embassytown by China Miéville (santhony)
    santhony: Philosophical Science Fiction

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» See also 39 mentions

English (15)  French (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This was a book that I had thought I read in the past but turned out to be new to me (unless extreme CRS has set in). This was a solid space opera tale told by one of the past masters of this genre and was a really enjoyable story. I will need to pick up the first story with Jorj X. Mckie so I can see the past that is discussed in this one.

4.5 stars for a really fun read. Recommended for any fans of space opera especially if you enjoyed Dune!! ( )
  ConalO | Apr 23, 2018 |

The Dosadi Experimenti>'s basic problem is that the reader can’t really partake in its supposedly deeply intellectual plays. An important part of this book is courtroom drama: the main character, Jorj X. McKie, is not only a top notch secret agent, coincidentally he is also the only guy in the universe who was accepted at the bar of the Gowachin court – the Gowachin being frog like aliens who have a legal system with intricate, changing rules and high stakes, the courtroom being an arena.

Herbert tries to convey all this by passages like this:

They provide legal ways to kill any participants – judges, Legums, clients … But it must be done with exquisite legal finesse, with its justifications apparent to all observers, and with the most delicate timing.

Yet, the pocket is only 300 pages long, and these 300 pages simply aren’t sufficient to make the reader a Gowachian legal scholar too, so we can’t really appreciate or judge the “exquisite legal finesse” displayed by the characters. It’s like watching a game of cricket without knowing the rules. Or to use a review trope: Herbert tells a lot about finesse, but doesn’t show any.


On a thematic level, Herbert tries to tackle quite a lot of themes familiar to those who’ve read Dune: religious engineering, breeding systems that enhance the offspring, power, violence, mind melting. But those of you thinking you might learn something about politics or power systems, look elsewhere. It’s all pretty standard fare and poorly worked out at that too. For example, the people set on Dosadi evolve to be both extremely perceptive and quick thinkers, as their violent living conditions are ruthless to the meek and the slow. Similarly, the Gowachin are focused on individual excellence, and are outright elitists. The philosophical foundation of this novel boils down to simple social Darwinism. It might have still been interesting in the late 70ies, but in 2017 it just gets a ‘meh’ from me. Moreover, it’s unclear what Herbert’s own position on the matter is in this book.


Read the full review on Weighing A Pig
( )
  bormgans | Jun 21, 2017 |
Here's a book I looked at with interest when I was a teenager who had read and enjoyed Herbert's Dune. I believe I passed it over then because it was the sequel to a book I hadn't read (Whipping Star), and which wasn't in the public library collection where I found The Dosadi Experiment. Since then, Dosadi has gone from being the second of a series to being the fourth, in the narrative chronology of Herbert's ConSentiency novels. Still not having read the others all these decades later, I went ahead and tackled this one, inspired by praise I had read for it on LibraryThing.

It may be that I would have enjoyed it more if I had been already acquainted with the ConSentiency milieu and the protagonist (Jorj X. McKie, Saboteur Extraordinary) established in Whipping Star, but I did like it all the same. It certainly has a number of themes in common with the original Dune books, most especially the idea of a eugenic program transforming humanity. But even more it reminded me of the later Charles Stross novel Glasshouse. Both are far future espionage stories where the protagonist must infiltrate an experimental world in an effort to discover its true purpose, knowing only that there is some great culpability involved. In both cases, the world being investigated is more like the reader's world than the somewhat utopian future of the novel's larger scenario. In Dosadi, "The whole thing reminded McKie of stories told about behavior in Human bureaucracies of the classical period before deep space travel" (222). There are other interesting similarities between the books that would be spoilers to detail.

Unique to Herbert's tale is the focus on the exotic legal system of the frog-like Gowachin aliens, an important peer-race of humanity within the ConSentiency. McKie is the only human credentialed as a "legum" in the jurisprudence of their "courtarena," where both lawyers and litigants are routinely exposed to mortal hazard. Far from a crude gladiator's brawl, however, the operations of this system depend on great subtlety and creativity, demanding both a reverence for tradition and the power to upend precedents and conventions.

This book read quickly, even though there were passages that were written with such verbal economy that they became ambiguous to the reader. That style is thematically consistent with the book, which attributes it to the inhabitants of Dosadi themselves. I don't know how far in our future The Dosadi Experiment is supposed to be set, and it glances lightly over many technological details, but it has aged pretty well for forty-year-old science fiction. I'm glad to have finally read it, and I appreciate the recommendations that got me to do so.
4 vote paradoxosalpha | Sep 19, 2016 |
...My opinion that The Dosadi Experiment is Herbert's best non-Dune book has remained unchanged. It is a novel that summarizes many of the themes that can be found in his works but also highlights some of the problems with his writing. The lack of character development, the constantly changing viewpoints and the cognitive leaps that characterize the novel keep it from being a great work. Herbert's grasp of the ideas he wants to discuss is unrivaled in science fiction but the way he translates them to the plot is less so. Personally, I can live with Herbert's shortcomings as a writer though. I wouldn't recommend anybody new to Herbert to start here, but if you like his style this is certainly a novel you'll not want to miss.

Full Random Comments review ( )
1 vote Valashain | Oct 19, 2014 |
Dosadi is a planet set up for people reduced to the lowest common denominator in order to survive. They are not Happy campers. One is asked to care if they escape or improve local conditions. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jul 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frank Herbertprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alexander, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gambino, FrankCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rambelli, RobertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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1977 (Galaxy MayJuneJulAug)
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In memory of Babe
because she knew how to enjoy life
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When the Calebans first sent us one of their giant metal "beachballs," communicating through this device to offer the use of jumpdoors for interstellar travel in many, ConSentiencey covertly began to exploit this gift of the stars for their own questionable purposes.
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