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on 30 July 2009
Frank Herbert is much better known for the very many books set on his desert planet Dune; The Great Dune Trilogy: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune: "Dune", "Dune Messiah", "Children of Dune" (Gollancz S.F.)
However, Hellstrom's Hive is, at it's core, a much darker tale than anything set on the Spice World. The premise is typically Frank Herbert; create an extreme environment and explore the effects of that environment on the human psyche.
Hellstrom's Hive is just that, a hive, containing not insects but rather humans acting, living, breathing, killing, and breeding like insects.
The Agency, and no one calls it anything else, wants to know what is happening at a mysterious place they call the Farm. Agents Edward Janvert and Clovis Carr are dispatched to find out, and before long they are in the nightmare that is the centre of the hive. Escape will not be easy, and death may be preferable to some of the fates The Hive promises.
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on 16 June 2016
Quite different from his world famous "Dune" fare. In many respects its grittier and harsher, but its also more balanced. In Dune the author had over the top baddies facing flawed but ultimately noble goodies. In this we have human authority versus a "hive" human system. Its well written, albeit a little dated, and pulls no punches. It gets 4 rather than 5 stars because it is quite short and I felt that at stages it read a little rushed - many passages could have been expanded more fully realised.
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I have always liked the `Dune' series of books, and during periods between publications looked out for other lesser known books by Frank Herbert. For me at the heart of his novels he deals with radically changed environments and how humans have adapted to the challenges of that change. This story is not too dissimilar.

The Plot:

What begins in the narrative, of this novel leads like a precursor to spy novel, with secretive agency called the `Agency' discover some important papers left in a public library that show very advanced schematics, this then perks their interest in an installation called the 'farm' . However, the staging and feel of the story changes as we find that the Agency is dealing with eusocial insect-like humans, their 'Hive society' is deep underground the entrance is the farm - On the surface this place is used as a film studio that specialises in natural history filming based on all things insect related. The Agency agents are dispatched to the farm to find out what is going on there, what some of them will find will be more horrific then they can imagine, while some will never not return.

My thoughts

I really liked this book and loved the premise of a spy novel that fuses in to it's structure the realms of science fiction. The characters are interesting and the environment of the Hive and the description of the eusocial insect humans is really interesting, if not disturbing, and this is what made this book a real page turner for me.
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on 26 February 2009
I picked up this book after reading the Dune series, as I wanted to read some more of Frank Herbert's perfect writing style.

This is an interesting book based on swarming behaviour. I enjoyed the entire book, and it made me want to turn page after page non-stop. The ideas presented are fresh and interesting (I don't know many books that discusses the running of a hive in such detail). The only problem I have with the book is the ended seems very... bleh. It feels to me like the book should continue - the book comes to no conclusion really. However, do not let this put you off, I still give this book 5 stars as it contained the great writing of Frank Herbert and it is a great book overall!
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on 11 July 2011
This has a nice core idea with insects and humans being used in a different way set in an alternate earth.
The usual enemy is transformed making it seem perfectly reasonable and rational and likeable.

The mixture of a spy thriller with sci-fi works really well, the thriller aspect leading to a very fast paced book with plenty of action and the sci-fi examining a truly alternative way of life.

The characters are well developed and believable, the enemy are given some depth and behave in a perfectly understandable way as do the people in the Hive.
There are complex interactions between the various members of each group as the work against internal and external pressure and this gives the book some nice depth.

The ending is a little too simple, it is consistent and inevitable and there are no surprises, but it is enjoyable.
Certainly one of his better books.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 July 2012
This book is a gem. Frank Herbert weaves a tale of secretive humans living in a hive society beneath a rural, innocent looking farm. Note: that last sentence isn't a spoiler - the whole thing is revealed really quickly.

I've got so many good things to say about this book: the detailed structure of the hive society, the description of espionage as a heartless, lonely business and the juxtaposition of those who strive for each other and those who are essentially out for themselves.

What I liked most is that there's no real hero character and a lot of things don't get tied up at the end. Firstly - the "no hero" aspect just makes the thing that much darker - people don't miraculously escape or kill their way out of bad situations - they just die if they are in the wrong place. I won't give away the ending - but again, I think the way it turns out makes the book that much more gritty and realistic.

The most disturbing thing for me was that quite early on I found myself rooting for the hive!

If you like science fiction - this one should definitely be on your reading list.

p.s. For some reason this book reminded me of Xan by Patrick Tilley (a book I read years ago and had forgotten). Not in the story so much but in its disregard for the hero character, or the requirement to tie off all the threads before ending.
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on 21 November 2010
I think my title for this review sums up my thoughts pretty well. Hellstrom's Hive has been one of my top 5 favourite books ever since I read it first in the 1980's. Like most people I came to it after reading Dune. This is better. Starts off as a sort of typical spy story and then draws you in to a wonderfully realised alternative human society smack bang in the midst of rural Oregon.

I've bought it twice in paperback over the years, bought the audiobook read by the great Scott Brick and now have the eBook on iPad. You should definitely read this book, and also The Santaroga Barrier by Herbert as well.
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on 9 February 2013
When I turned the last page on Hellstrom's hive I was just wishing that a sequel had been written. There's a lot of really enjoyable aspects to this book, and the combination of all of them is what made it a really solid sci-fi/futuristic story.

Even though its very much a novel of its time, from the point of view of technology, Herbert's novel has aged quite well considering that it pre-dated the mass computer market, and while mobile phones are understandably absent, the references to radio links etc are comparable in terms of plot progression. Also, the technology of the hive is still advanced and novel by our standards - as well quite alien in many respects!

The other aspect that makes this a great read is the pacing of the story, and the interaction between the agency and the hive leadership. Firstly, the interaction is intelligent. A real battle of wits unfolds between both sides, and is carried well by the characters involved, who are also well differentiated.

Finally, and definitely the intriguing element which spurred me on to purchase this book, was the fascinating description of a human/insect society, complete all the way down to a caste system. Herbert shows as well as tells, and Janverts run through the hive towards the end of the story leads to one nightmarish revelation after another. While some scenes would perhaps be more shocking if they had not been alluded to beforehand, the real climax comes from the plot itself, and you are never quite sure how the story will end.

An oldie but a goodie!
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on 15 April 2015
I just loved this book. It is essentially about a hive containing humans not insects and the powers that be trying to find out about the hive. The plot is not overly complicated and the characters are really strong. It is the kind of book that you cannot put down. The ending maybe a bit of an anticlimax for sum but hey I was not disappointed.
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on 22 January 2014
The next step for human evolution - a hive culture with sterile workers, breeding queens and specially-bred scientists with massive brains! Frank Herbert's "Hellstrom's Hive" is as original as his better known "Dune" and as well thought out. The book concerns the tensions between the normal "wild" humans such as you and me, and the new world order. You'll have to read to the end to see who comes out on top!
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