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Hellstrom's Hive

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  3,211 ratings  ·  152 reviews
America is a police state, and it is about to be threatened by the most hellish enemy in the world: insects.

When the Agency discovered that Dr. Hellstrom's Project 40 was a cover for a secret laboratory, a special team of agents was immediately dispatched to discover its true purpose and its weaknesses—it could not be allowed to continue. What they discovered was a nightma
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Tor Books (first published September 1973)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,211 ratings  ·  152 reviews

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Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
As with most works from Frank Herbert, Hellstrom’s Hive is not only very good on the surface, it also works well on many different levels. And like most of his writing, all excellent, it is difficult to assess this work without references to his greatest work, Dune.

First published in 1973, four years after Dune Messiah and three years before Children of Dune, many themes of Herbert’s Dune series can be seen in Hive, particularly a fascination with genetics and a dynamic econo-socialization. A fa
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Three and half stars.

As I mentioned earlier, in my poor ignorance, I thought that Frank Herbert was a "one success man". That is: Dune and the sequels. Fortunately, I was curious about this novel when I found it in the prestigious SF Masterworks collection. Now I know that this author has other interesting novels that I have added to my list of pending readings.

Hellstrom's Hive is a good classic (1973). An entertaining novel about genetics and social experiments, so the novel is also a bit spec
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
It involves the encounter between normal Americans in the "modern day" and a strange, cultish society that has been secretly living among them since the 19th century, the Hive.

A lot of major Herbert themes are here, in particular science and human genetic potential, as well as encounter with an "alien" that's actually just another human culture.

While the people of the Hive may have settled down in the US since the 1800s, they've existed (in small numbers) as a secret society for at least a hundr
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
....Despite an ending that could have been better I enjoyed Hellstrom's Hive a lot the second time around. Seeing where Herbert got his inspiration did significantly change my perception of the novel so I guess it was worth watching the rather poor movie after all. I still think The Dosadi Experiment is his best non Dune novel but this one is not that far behind. It takes the ecological awareness that can be found in many of his novels to a new level and the creepiness Herbert works into it make ...more
Love of Hopeless Causes
Mar 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Audiobook sounds like someone reading Wind in the Willows. Unfortunately, this is a stakeout: lacks tension.
Daniel Polansky
I read this book.
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
1980 grade B+
2017 grade A

This is a structurally & thematically unusual novel. Structurally, there are no chapters - but there are a lot of breaks for POV changes that make good stopping points. Thematically, there are no true protagonists and antagonists. It is basically the clash between two governments that starts small and escalates. The two governments are Hellstrom's odd hidden society and a secret US government agency that I would guess is akin to the NSA. The NSA people are the farthest f
M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews
This would be one of my more favorite of Frank Herbert's oneshot novels, though I do wish that he could have expanded a bit more on Hive-life. This book was a fun and thought-provoking read, and a bold foray into various issues. Overall I felt the story was believable, though the story would definitely have benefited from more background on the Hive and just how these Hive-people came to be.

I also found myself a bit cheesed-off by the ending. It had a 'The Lady or the Tiger' feeling to it, and e
Alexander Gent
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So different to anything that I anticipated. A pacy combination of espionage and sci-fi. Redolent of those classic movies from the 70s with its themes of paranoia and conspiracy. The language at times was archaic, but it did not hurt the flow. A very different book to Dune. I might have to seek out more Herbert now.
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Noone
Recommended to Thomas by:
I listened to this book as an audio book.
The concept is good but delivered in an arcane manner that is hopefully buried in the 1950's. The book can be read as a study of that era's mindset but that is all, in my opinion.

The skill of Frank Herbert as a writer is chrystal clear and the narrator does a superb job in speaking it to us.
Unfortunately in this book Frank Herbert used that skill in what I guess is an attempt to gain a larger public, trying to write a regular spy thriller for the 50's wit
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I bought this book on a lark because we have some dear friends named Hellstrom and it's written by Frank Herbert so, how bad could it be, right? Turns out, it is quite good. I don't see the point in hashing over the story in a review. I'll just say that Mr. Herbert creates a believable work of fiction from the rather implausible concept of an insect race developing technology and genetic engineering in parallel to us on earth. He advances the story well using the point of view of multiple charac ...more
Richard Pebbleston
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An insidious, well thought out story that is well written, creepy, properly gripping and thought provoking. Explores interesting themes such as human evolution and the concept of a Human Hive and - 'wild humans' (lol). This is one of the most underrated and excellent non-Dune Frank Herbert books and proves yet again why he was (and still is) one of the all-time sci-fi greats -- and that his brilliance was not limited to the Dune series :) ...more
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I wanted to read something by Frank Herbert and I found this going cheap so why not. For me this is a so-so book. I liked the plot idea and some of the execution is excellent, but I got a bit teed off with the titillation passages sprinkled almost randomly throughout - I suspect this book was aimed at the teen boy pulp fiction market
Montgomery Webster
Jan 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
Captivating concept, but poorly executed. Still ends up being a good book, but the secret agent characters and event order detract from the insightful evolution the Hive represents.
Finding this book in the library revealed to me that Herbert has a lot more books to read: I was under the mistaken impression that he only wrote the Dune series. Hopefully, the rest are better than this.
Alan Fricker
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
A brilliant piece of pulp sci fi. Sex! Violence! Ideas!
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars, because i really liked it. more 3.5, but rounding up because Frank is the man.

Herbert nerds it up with secret government organizations, and weather underground meets 60s sex cult meets insects meets James Bond villain meets ant colony. Characters are , of course, thinking about thinking about thinking about what the other side is going to be doing. Lots of thinking - lots of narrative perspective shifting, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph. Seems like some editing could have been us
Hayley Wells
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Frank Herbert’s writing is neat and, appropriately for this novel, effortlessly efficient - it has that readable quality that allows you to quickly devour a whole book, regardless of content. So in that sense, I loved the process of reading this, especially as it feels like a while since I last read some good sci-fi.

There’s some interesting mirroring between the ‘hive’ society and the police-state that is investigating them, with both viewing individuals as essential to the whole, yet ultimatel
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-sci-fi
I am being a bit generous here with the four stars, but I still think this book deserves more than a simple three stars of 'I liked it'. Some good classic SF from a very accomplished author. There is no doubt that Herbert could write and it is great to read such a well written book which even with the dating nature of it and the not quite so believable nature of the book today, still was gripping and engaging and had real characters and a plot which I did not know for sure where it was going to ...more
My Fine Gentleman
I'm a massive fan of Herbert's Dune and thought I'd give this book a go. It's decidedly different to Dune; while one focuses on the great expanses of Arakis, the other is characterised by claustrophobia. And the differences don't stop there: while I enjoyed Dune, I really couldn't find it in myself to finish Hellstrom's Hive. I'll put part of that down to an enormous amount of work at the time I was reading it, which left me distracted, but I was just never that invested in the plot, and without ...more
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction, 2020
Take a dab of insect worship, season with the trappings of a secret cult, soak it in light science fiction, and cook it for 300+ pages of Frank Herbert until golden brown.

It's a fun ride into a weird place. What if a group of people hid away and tried to live like insects, tried to really embody the principle of an ant colony. Foregoing identity for the good of the society.

It goes from eerie and mysteries to weird and grotesque. Quite a bit of action in the important places leading up to a X-Fil
Brown Robin
I don't always enjoy Herbert's stories, but they are always written from an unexpected angle, or involve offbeat ideas, settings and characters. There is a kind of unhinged quality to his otherwise buttoned-down imagination.

This one involves indoctrination to the point of biological evolution in a human population. It is a horror story, really, but Herbert's choice of narrators keeps the reader from connecting with the action. It's like watching a wasp nest through a CCTV camera.

Despite the lack
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
A slow start but an interesting read. It seems like a blast from the past with the communist "hive" and the government "Agency." It is a very interesting commentary on the ineptitude of Agency work when everything lies in the balance. The development of an ultimate weapon and its ability to change the situation in an instant. Overall I am surprised I have not heard more about this book as it is an interesting commentary. I also like how the book ended. ...more
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2019
Frank Herbert is part of the old school camp of SciFi writers that offends me regarding their treatment of women and sex in their books. I thought this would be a funny book about insect domination of the world but it get all twisted. And this is his second book that seemed to cast entomologists in a negative light. For once I'd like there to be a book about an entomologist saving the world without twisted perverted orgies. ...more
Sci-fi as quasi-spy-thriller. A decent story idea but way too long in its execution. Several protagonists came and went. The first half of the book could have been omitted. With its alternative human society based on hive mentality and social-insect biology, H.G. Wells would have done a much better job. Can't hold a candle to Herbert's Dune. Audiobook narration was by Scott Brick whose over-dramatic style is not my favorite. ...more
Mike Whiskey Bravo
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I selected this book just by random. I'm glad I did. There is nothing to say that America is in a police state in the book, so I don't know where this comes from. But other than that, it's a good read. One of the things that surprised me, is that there is nothing in the book that dates that it was written in the 70s.

David Russell
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
One of Frank Herberts more exciting novels which really grabs you to the end. The vivid description of the hive society is convincing, fascinating and horrific. My only criticism is that the plot as such does not materially develop throughout. One could also conclude that Herbert is better in the one off novel format rather than that sandy series of his.
Jeff J.
Aug 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Unique among Herbert’s work, the novel has a contemporary setting, albeit in 1973 with America envisioned as a police state. This gives it a socio-economic foundation that contrasts nicely with the ecological threat that the protagonists encounter.
Terry Quirke
Dec 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1973 by the writer of Dune, this is a small corker of a book working on many levels. Social engineering, genetics and competing government agencies all come together in a high tension spy novel that is so much more. Well recommended.
J.C. Harker
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Like many people, I've mainly known Herbert for Dune. This story was a bit of a slow starter, and there wasn't really a huge twist anywhere. The mixed POVs and chronology sort of ruined the surprise for some of the story elements. ...more
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Well written but the pace really dragged in the middle.
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Frank Herbert was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful American science fiction author.

He is best known for the novel Dune and its five sequels. The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, dealt with themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics, and power, and is widely considered to be among the classi

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“From the Hive Manual. The relationship between ecology and evolution is extremely close, deeply implicated in organic changes among a given animal population, and profoundly sensitive to the density of numbers within a given habitat. Our adaptations aim to increase the population tolerance, to permit a human density ten to twelve times greater than is currently considered possible. Out of this, we will get our survival variations.” 2 likes
“The words of Nils Hellstrom. There is another respect in which we must guard against becoming too much like the insects upon whom we pattern our design for human survival. The insect has been called a walking digestive tract. This is not without reason. To support his own life, an insect will consume as much as a hundred times his own weight each day—which to each of us would be like eating an entire cow, a herd of thirty each month. And as the insect population grows, each individual naturally needs more. To those who have witnessed the insect’s profligate display of appetite, the outcome is clear. If allowed to continue on his reproductive rampage, the insect would defoliate the earth. Thus, with our lesson from the insect, comes a clear warning. If the race for food is to be the deciding conflict, let no one say it came without this warning. From the beginning of time, wild humans have stood helpless, watching the very soil they nurtured give birth to a competitor that could outeat them. Just as we must not let our teacher the insect consume what we require for survival, we must not launch a similar rampage of our own. The pace of our planet’s growing cycle cannot be denied. It is possible for insects or for man to destroy in a single week what could have fed millions for an entire year.” 1 likes
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