Cpt. Aramsham wrote:so I'll give some impressions from the POV of a Dune fan.
Cpt. Aramsham wrote: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.
I concur, it's at least 80% FH, but it's typical 1950s Astounding
fare. Daniel Movius is no Leto II in terms of character development or complexity. On the other hand, he wrote worse than this.
There's the occasional paragraph that looks like something KJA wrote:
They mean to kill me! thought Movius. He suddenly slashed his right hand down at the gunman's wrist, heard the gun clatter on the floor. Almost in the same motion, he brought up his left thumb, jamming it behind the other man's ear, saw him collapse. Again he thanked fate for the years spent in privileged gymnasiums, for Okashi's patient teaching.
There's a section in the middle that contains a tense standoff in a BuTrans office that, very uncharacteristic of Frank Herbert, has no internal dialogue, and sort of falls flat. I suspect this to be by KJA also. The concluding chapter has a similar feel to it.
But in summary, the influence of the editor wasn't noticeable enough to draw me out of the story, so I'd say he did a good job.
Several themes, motifs and plot points prefigure similar elements in Dune.
I would say that, of all Frank Herbert stories I've read, this one is the most Dune-like in structure and content. With some effort, you might even compare the warring Bu-Trans and Bu-Con with the houses Harkonnen and Atreides.
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.
I like the section where they suggest that Movius isn't their creation, but was produced by the forces of history. Very Asimovian, and reminiscent of sections in Dune where it is suggested that even the shrewd Bene Gesserit are merely puppets of history.
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.
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."
Which is in line with the kind of stories pulp sf magazines bought in the 1950s. Joseph Campbell, despite his reputation as a great editor, seems to have had a taste for them (note that this is the guy that gave a big platform to L. Ron Hubbard, around the same time he published Dune).
I think there's an interview with Frank Herbert somewhere in which he expresses some delight in "slaughtering one of Campbell's sacred cows" (prescience as a desireable super power. And I may have misquoted him there), and it's possible that the same streak of rebelliousness lead him to take the ascension of Movius to a ridiculous extreme.
(including his ex-fiancée, in a nastily rapey scene)
I can agree there. This story is a product of another era; the women are weak-willed, vulnerable, emotional, silly, and otherwise just toys for the Alpha-males. Which is strange; even though none of Frank Herbert's stories are feminist pamphlets, his female characters are usually
more complex and competent than here.