Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Book of Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert

  What is man?

  What is man’s world?

  What is man’s fate?

  These three questions have engaged the minds of philosophers and scientists alike since the dawn of civilization. They are still not fully answered to any universal satisfaction. Yet, in science fiction, writers are always probing these questions, each in his own pictorially imaginative way. Leader among these is the writing of the talent that created DUNE.

  Frank Herbert presents here ten of his finest stories, each of which in its own way suggests new aspects of the three questions upon which all the future will eventually turn.

  THE BOOK OF FRANK HERBERT is a dream-box for every science fiction reader.

  Frank Herbert, a West Coast journalist, has been writing science fiction for more than twenty years. His work has been extensively translated and almost all his novels remain continuously in print. His novel DUNE has won both the Hugo and Nebula awards and is one of the all-time bestsellers in the science fiction field. His work has drawn on his studies of Oriental philosophy and undersea geology, as well as his own experiences which have included working as a professional photographer, television cameraman, radio news commentator, and lay analyst. An authority on ecology, he is currently active as a lecturer and campaigner for the preservation of the world’s resources.

  Frank Herbert








  1301. Avenue of the Americas

  New York, N.Y. 10019



  Individual stories copyright ©, 1954, 1955, 1970, by The Condé Nast Publications, Inc.; 1952, by Startling Stories; 1954, 1955, by Ultimate Publishing Co.; 1956, by Fantastic Universe.


  First Printing, January 1973

  Table of Contents











  Seed Stock

  When the sun had sunk almost to the edge of the purple ocean, hanging there like a giant orange ball—much larger than the sun of Mother Earth which he remembered with such nostalgia—Kroudar brought his fishermen back to the harbor.

  A short man, Kroudar gave the impression of heaviness, but under his shipcloth motley he was as scrawny as any of the others, all bone and stringy muscle. It was the sickness of this planet, the doctors told him. They called it “body burdens,” a subtle thing of differences in chemistry, gravity, diurnal periods and even the lack of a tidal moon.

  Kroudar’s yellow hair, his one good feature, was uncut and contained in a protective square of red cloth. Beneath this was a wide, low forehead, deeply sunken large eyes of a washed-out blue, a crooked nose that was splayed and pushed in, thick lips over large and unevenly spaced yellow teeth, and a melon chin receding into a short, ridged neck.

  Dividing his attention between sails and shore, Kroudar steered with one bare foot on the tiller.

  They had been all day out in the up-coast current netting the shrimp-like trodi which formed the colony’s main source of edible protein. There were nine boats and the men in all of them were limp with fatigue, silent, eyes closed or open and staring at nothing.

  The evening breeze rippled its dark lines across the harbor, moved the sweat-matted yellow hair on Kroudar’s neck. It bellied the shipcloth sails and gave the heavily loaded boats that last necessary surge to carry them up into the strand.

  Men moved then. Sails dropped with a slatting and rasping. Each thing was done with sparse motion in the weighted slowness of their fatigue.

  Trodi had been thick in the current out there, and Kroudar pushed his people to their limit. It had not taken much push. They all understood the need. The swarmings and runnings of useful creatures on this planet had not been clocked with any reliable precision. Things here exhibited strange gaps and breaks in seeming regularity. The trodi might vanish at any moment into some unknown place as they had been known to do before.

  The colony had experienced hunger and children crying for food that must be rationed. Men seldom spoke of this anymore, but they moved with the certain knowledge of it. More than three years now, Kroudar thought, as he shouldered a dripping bag of trodi and pushed his weary feet through the sand, climbing the beach toward the storage huts and racks where the sea creatures were dried for processing. It had been more than three years since their ship had come down from space.

  The colony ship had been constructed as a multiple tool, filled with select human stock, their domestic animals and basic necessities, and it had been sent to plant humans in this far place. It had been designed to land once, then be broken down into useful things.

  Somehow, the basic necessities had fallen short, and the colony had been forced to improvise its own tools. They had not really settled here yet, Kroudar realized. More than three years—and three years here were five years of Mother Earth—and they still lived on the edge of extinction. They were trapped here. Yes, that was true. The ship could never be reconstructed. And even if that miracle were accomplished, the fuel did not exist. The colony was here.

  And every member knew the predatory truth of their predicament: survival had not been assured. It was known in subtle things to Kroudar’s unlettered mind, especially in a fact he observed without being able to explain.

  Not one of their number had yet accepted a name for this planet. It was “here” or “this place.”

  Or even more bitter terms.

  Kroudar dumped his sack of trodi onto a storage hut porch, mopped his forehead. The joints of his arms and legs ached. His back ached. He could feel the sickness of this place in his bowels. Again, he wiped perspiration from his forehead, removed the red cloth he wore to protect his head from that brutal sun.

  Yellow hair fell down as he loosed the cloth, and he swung the hair back over his shoulders.

  It would be dark very soon.

  The red cloth was dirty, he saw. It would require another gentle washing. Kroudar thought it odd, this cloth: grown and woven on Mother Earth, it would end its days on this place.

  Even as he and the others.

  He stared at the cloth for a moment before placing it carefully in a pocket.

  All around him, his fishermen were going through the familiar ritual. Brown sacks woven of coarse native roots were dumped dripping onto the storage hut porches. Some of his men leaned then against the porch uprights, some sprawled in the sand.

  Kroudar lifted his gaze. Fires behind the bluff above them sent smoke spirals into the darkening sky. Kroudar was suddenly hungry. He thought of Technician Honida up there at the cookfire, their twin sons—two years old next week—nearby at the door of the shipmetal long-house.

  It stirred him to think of Honida. She had chosen him. With men from the Scientist class and the Technicians available to her, Honida had reached down into the Labor pool to tap the one they all called “Old Ugly.” He wasn’t old, Kroudar reminded himself. But he knew the source of the name. This place had worked its changes on him with more visible evidence than upon any of the others.

  Kroudar held no illusions about why he had been brought on this human migration. It was his muscles and his minimal education. The reason was embodied in that label written down in the ship manifest—laborer. The planners back on Mother Earth had realized there were tasks which required human muscles not
inhibited by too much thinking. The kroudars landed here were not numerous, but they knew each other and they knew themselves for what they were.

  There’d even been talk among the higher echelons of not allowing Honida to choose him as mate. Kroudar knew this. He did not resent it particularly. It didn’t even bother him that the vote among the biologists—they’d discussed his ugliness at great length, so it was reported—favored Honida’s choice on philosophical rather than physical grounds.

  Kroudar knew he was ugly.

  He knew also that his present hunger was a good sign. A strong desire to see his family grew in him, beginning to ignite his muscles for the climb from the beach. Particularly, he wanted to see his twins, the one yellow-haired like himself, and the other dark as Honida. The other women favored with children looked down upon his twins as stunted and sickly, Kroudar knew. The women fussed over diets and went running to the medics almost every day. But as long as Honida did not worry, Kroudar remained calm, Honida, after all, was a technician, a worker in the hydroponics gardens.

  Kroudar moved his bare feet softly in the sand. Once more, he looked up at the bluff. Along the edge grew scattered native trees. Their thick trunks hugged the ground, gnarled and twisted, supports for bulbous, yellow-green leaves that exuded poisonous milky sap in the heat of the day. A few of the surviving Earth-falcons perched in the trees, silent, watchful.

  The birds gave Kroudar an odd confidence in his own decisions. For what do the falcons watch, he wondered. It was a question the most exalted of the colony’s thinkers had not been able to answer. Search ’copters had been sent out following the falcons. The birds flew offshore in the night, rested occasionally on barren islands, and returned at dawn. The colony command had been unwilling to risk its precious boats in the search, and the mystery of the falcons remained unsolved.

  It was doubly a mystery because the other birds had perished or flown off to some unfound place. The doves, the quail—the gamebirds and songbirds—all had vanished. And the domestic chickens had all died, their eggs infertile. Kroudar knew this as a comment by this place, a warning for the life that came from Mother Earth.

  A few scrawny cattle survived, and several calves had been born here. But they moved with a listless gait and there was distressed lowing in the pastures. Looking into their eyes was like looking into open wounds. A few pigs still lived, as listless and sickly as the cattle, and all the wild creatures had strayed off or died. Except the falcons.

  How odd it was, because the people who planned and conceived profound thoughts had held such hopes for this place. The survey reports had been exciting. This was a planet without native land animals. It was a planet whose native plants appeared not too different from those of Mother Earth—in some respects. And the sea creatures were primitive by sophisticated evolutionary standards.

  Without being able to put it into those beautifully polished phrases which others admired, Kroudar knew where the mistake had been made. Sometimes, you had to search out a problem with your flesh and not with your mind.

  He stared around now at the motley rags of his men. They were his men. He was the master fisherman, the one who had found the trodi and conceived these squat, ugly boats built within the limitations of native woods. The colony was alive now because of his skills with boat and net.

  There would be more gaps in the trodi runs, though. Kroudar felt this as an awareness on the edges of his fatigue. There would be unpopular and dangerous things to do then, all necessary because thinking had failed. The salmon they had introduced, according to plan, had gone into the ocean vastness. The flatfish in the colony’s holding ponds suffered mysterious attrition. Insects flew away and were never seen again.

  There’s food here, the biologists argued. Why do they die?

  The colony’s maize was a sometime thing with strange ears. Wheat came up in scabrous patches. There were no familiar patterns of growth or migration. The colony lived on the thin edge of existence, maintained by protein bulk from the processed trodi and vitamins from vegetables grown hydroponically with arduous filtering and adjustment of their water. Breakdown of a single system in the chain could bring disaster.

  The giant orange sun showed only a small arc above the sea horizon now, and Kroudar’s men were stirring themselves, lifting their tired bodies off the sand, pushing away from the places where they had leaned.

  “All right now,” Kroudar ordered. “Let’s get this food inside on the racks.”

  “Why?” someone asked from the dusk: “You think the falcons will eat it?”

  They all knew the falcons would not eat the trodi. Kroudar recognized the objection: it was tiredness of the mind speaking. The shrimp creatures fed only humans—after careful processing to remove dangerous irritants. A falcon might take up a frond-legged trodi, but would drop it at the first taste.

  What did they eat, those waiting birds?

  Falcons knew a thing about this place that humans did not know. The birds knew it in their flesh in the way Kroudar sought the knowledge.

  Darkness fell, and with a furious clatter, the falcons flew off toward the sea. One of Kroudar’s men kindled a torch and, having rested, anxious now to climb the bluff and join their families, the fishermen pitched into the work that must be done. Boats were hauled up on rollers. Trodi were spread out in thin layers along racks within the storage huts. Nets were draped on racks to dry.

  As he worked, Kroudar wondered about the scientists up there in the shining laboratories. He had the working man’s awe of knowledge, a servility in the face of titles and things clearly superior, but he had also the simple man’s sure awareness of when superior things failed.

  Kroudar was not privy to the high-level conferences in the colony command, but he knew the physical substance of the ideas discussed there. His awareness of failure and hovering disaster had no sophisticated words or erudition to hold itself dancingly before men’s minds, but his knowledge carried its own elegance. He drew on ancient knowledge adjusted subtly to the differences of this place. Kroudar had found the trodi. Kroudar had organized the methods of capturing them and preserving them. He had no refined labels to explain it, but Kroudar knew himself for what he could do and what he was.

  He was the first sea peasant here.

  Without wasting energy on talk, Kroudar’s band finished the work, turned away from the storage huts and plodded up the cliff trail, their course marked by, here and there, men with flaming torches. There were fuzzy orange lights, heavy shadows, inching their way upward in a black world, and they gave heart to Kroudar.

  Lingering to the last, he checked the doors of the huts, then followed, hurrying to catch up. The man directly ahead of him on the path carried a torch, native wood soaked in trodi oil. It flickered and smoked and gave off poisonous fumes. The light revealed a troglodyte figure, a human clad in patched shipcloth, body too thin, muscles moving on the edge of collapse.

  Kroudar sighed.

  It was not like this on Mother Earth, he knew. There, the women waited on the strand for their men to return from the sea. Children played among the pebbles. Eager hands helped with the work onshore, spreading the nets, carrying the catch, pulling the boats.

  Not here.

  And the perils here were not the perils of Home. Kroudar’s boats never strayed out of sight of these cliffs. One boat always carried a technician with a radio for contact with shore. Before its final descent, the colony ship had seeded space with orbiting devices-watchers, guardians against surprises from the weather. The laboriously built fishing fleet always had ample warning of storms. No monster sea creatures had ever been seen in that ocean.

  This place lacked the cruel savagery and variety of seas Kroudar had known, but it was nonetheless deadly. He knew this.

  The women should wait for us on the shore, he thought.

  But colony command said the women—and even some of the children—were needed for too many other tasks. Individual plants from home required personal attention. Single wheat stalks we
re nurtured with tender care. Each orchard tree existed with its own handmaiden, its guardian dryad.

  Atop the cliff, the fishermen came in sight of the long-houses, shipmetal quonsets named for some far distant place and time in human affairs. Scattered electric lights ringed the town. Many of the unpaved streets wandered off unlit. There were mechanical sounds here and murmurous voices.

  The men scattered to their own affairs now, no longer a band. Kroudar plodded down his street toward the open cook fires in the central plaza. The open fires were a necessity to conserve the more sophisticated energies of the colony. Some looked upon those flames as admission of defeat. Kroudar saw them as victory. It was native wood being burned.

  Off in the hills beyond the town, he knew, stood the ruins of the wind machines they had built. The storm which had wreaked that destruction had achieved no surprise in its coming, but had left enormous surprise at its power.

  For Kroudar, the thinkers had begun to diminish in stature then. When native chemistry and water life had wrecked the turbines in the river which emptied into the harbor, those men of knowledge had shrunk even more. Then it was that Kroudar had begun his own search for native foods.

  Now, Kroudar heard, native plant life threatened the cooling systems for their atomic generators, defying radiation in a way no life should. Some among the technicians already were fashioning steam engines of materials not intended for such use. Soon, they would have native metals, though-materials to resist the wild etchings and rusts of this place.

  They might succeed—provided the dragging sickness did not sap them further.

  If they survived.

  Honida awaited him at the door to their quarters, smiling, graceful. Her dark hair was plaited and wound in rings around her forehead. The brown eyes were alive with welcome. Firelight from the plaza cast a familiar glow across her olive skin. The high cheekbones of her Amerind ancestry, the full lips and proudly hooked nose—all filled him with remembered excitement.