I'm sorry to see that the thread degenerated from a discussion of the actual book to the same old KJA-bashing. (Honestly guys, do you never get sick of it?) Anyway, I read it over the holidays, so I'll give some impressions from the POV of a Dune fan.
So, as a novel (or novella), it's not very good. It's clearly FH, but obviously an early draft of a not-very-promising book: it's noticeably underdeveloped, unfinished and unpolished. It jumps around a lot, with many "chapters" only one or two pages long (while some of the longer ones go on for more than twenty), and major developments are glossed over. But even if the storytelling and writing were improved, it would still be an odd, and very slight, adventure. There's a reason FH abandoned it.
It does have some interest for foreshadowing some motifs and themes developed in more depth in Dune
. (Spoilers follow!)
Several themes, motifs and plot points prefigure similar elements in Dune. The main character, Daniel Movius, is a high-ranking government functionary who has his rank stripped through treachery and is forced out into a dangerous world to make alliances with (and become the leader of) a group of rebels. He finds a weak spot in the current system and uses it to engineer an easy victory over government forces and make himself Emperor. So he's sort of a composite of Duke Leto and Paul. The similarities to Leto are even stronger if you look at the early Dune outline
where Linkam (proto-Leto) is a former Group Control Administrator, "a half-mad genius of project motivation," which sounds a lot like Movius's job as a Senior Liaitor (sort of an organizer, mediator and fixer between government departments), and his genius for getting others to come to a mutually agreeable decision and do as he suggests.
Similarly, the idea that civilization is headed towards a crisis that only a very special individual can do anything about is reminiscent of the race-consciousness of the coming Jihad in Dune, and the group of people looking for that individual to use for their own ends are perhaps one of the ideas that evolved into the Bene Gesserit. In this book, the Bu-Psych analysts and their predictions for the end of their civilization are pretty much plagiarized from the psychohistorians of Asimov's Foundation
series, making that influence on Dune
even more apparent. (High-Opp
also lifts liberally from Brave New World
and Nineteen Eighty-Four
.) The strict hierarchy of ranks, duties and privileges echoes BNW, but also hints towards the faufreluches caste system: "A place for every man and every man in his place."
FH seems to have reused some specific plot points for Dune, such as one of the hero's family members being taken hostage and possibly killed on the eve of victory (Alia and young Leto in Dune - in earlier drafts FH intended Alia to be killed; Movius's wife in High-Opp
). There's a scene where one of his men has gone rogue and threatens to kill either Movius (or his wife when she steps between them), and he has to talk him down, which may have been the template for Gurney's attempt on Jessica's life in Dune.
And then there's this bit, from Chapter 10:
Helmut Glass, his square face set in an angry frown, paced his office atop the Com-Burs Building. It was a sybarite's office - soft carpets, chairs with deep cushions, a bar in the corner, dark paneling. An aroma of some wood perfume mingled in the air with the smoky residue of rare tobacco.
Across from Glass, on a coffee-brown leather couch, sat Loren Addington, director of the Bureau of Control. A fat man with puffy sadistic eyes which he hid behind thick lenses. A red toupee, obvious in its false youthfulness, replaced his lost hair.
Beside Addington sat Rafe Newton, whose youth fitted the pale reddish cast of his hair. Someday he might have eyes like his uncle, Helmut Glass - hard and unforgiving - and a fat body like his fifth cousin, Loren Addington. Now he had the look of a hungry wolf waiting for one of his pack mates to stumble.
In this trio we can clearly recognize prototypes of Baron Harkonnen, Beast Rabban and Feyd-Rautha, and in the writing, the corresponding section in Dune.
Other points worth considering include whether the corrupt elite that manipulates opinion polls through clever wording (an example of FH's fascination with this topic that's also expressed in BG abilities, particularly the Voice) could be linked to "Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them." If High-Opp
is in some ways a view of the world FH envisioned pre-Butlerian Jihad, did Movius in some way influence BH and KJA to come up with Omnius? (Admittedly unlikely, given their version of what the Great Revolt was about.)
What's most striking to me about High-Opp
is how much of a straight-up power fantasy it is. Daniel Movius is a regular Übermensch, a scientifically proven genius and savior who doesn't ever seem to break a sweat overthrowing the government and getting revenge on anyone who's ever wronged him (including his ex-fiancée, in a nastily rapey scene). The fact that after overthrowing the hollow shell of a nominal democracy, he is hailed by the oppressed masses and installs himself as Emperor is presented as entirely unproblematic. The moral of the story seems to be Bureaucracies Bad, Superheroes Good. It frankly comes across as pretty fascist, or at least "severely conservative."
I don't know whether that's something FH would have addressed if he had expanded and revised his draft, or whether his skepticism toward hero-worship was developed later. (He often gave JFK as an example of this danger, and Kennedy's election fell between High-Opp