The Dragon in the Sea
The Santaroga Barrier

Frank Herbert

About a year ago my brother lent me an old copy of Frank Herbert's first novel, The Dragon in the Sea, and I hadn't got around to reading it, but after watching the second of the new Dune films I decided that rather than join the rest of the nerds re-reading the Dune series, I'd investigate some of his other books. Herbert's one of those authors with a major series to his name who was also busily writing other things which no-one pays much attention to.

I have a very dim memory of reading The Dragon in the Sea as a kid but remembered almost nothing about it other than the setting, which is a small cargo sub on a desperate mission to siphon oil from undersea fields belonging to the Eastern Powers during a protracted nuclear war. The sub is nuclear powered, so why the need to steal oil?

Sparrow looked astern at the set of the tow. Oil. War demanded the pure substance born in the sediment of rising continent. Vegetable oil wouldn't do. War was no vegetarian. War was a carnivore.

It's not a very good book. Neither is The Santaroga Barrier, which was published in 1968, a year before the second Dune book. The Wikipedia page describes it as an exploration of the counterculture of the 60s based on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, which promised heights of bullshit only hinted at by the protagonist being named "Gilbert Dasein", but it doesn't quite get there. It's an X-Files episode with the premise: what if your hot ex-girlfriend's weird hometown was actually a hivemind mediated by eating cheese?

A sigh lifted his chest.

Cheese would be the best carrier, he knew. It held the Jaspers essence longest. The lab...and some cheese.

Dasein rang the bell at the head of his bed.

A voice startled him, coming from directly behind his head: 'Do you wish a nurse immediately?'

Dasein turned, saw a speaker grill in the wall. I'd ... like some Jaspers cheese,' he said.

'Oh...Right away, sir.' There was delight in that feminine voice no electronic reproduction could conceal.

People talk a lot about Herbert's preoccupations with ecology and politics but he really seemed to have a thing for ambient psychotropic foodstuffs. The cheese - it's in everything here. CHEESE DREAMS.