"Eye" appeared in 1985, though most of the stories in this collection are much older. Many of them form the basis for later novels, and three of them were previously included in "The Book of Frank Herbert," another collection dating back to 1972.
As much as I like some of Herbert's longer fiction, I have to say that he wrote some very silly short stories. While most of the stories in this collection are not bad, there are couple that really make no sense, and a couple others that are outright terrible. Synopses are below.
Herbert talks about the filming of the movie "Dune," difficulties in translating from novel to film, and critical responses to the movie. An interesting read, though his guarded claim that "Dune" was the inspiration behind the Star Wars films fails to convince me.
Also in "Book of Frank Herbert." Aliens are afoot in a small town, and a deputy with nearly superhuman deductive powers is out to thwart them. This is one of those stories that just doesn't make a lot of sense. Rats in a cage? And this is supposed to mean what? To whom? Couldn't they have just sent a letter?
"The Dragon in the Sea"
This story was the basis for the novel "Under Pressure," which is also - confusingly enough - titled "The Dragon in the Sea." Submarines go to war over the world's remaining oil deposits. A plausible enough concept, though the pseudo-psychological elements grow a bit tiresome.
This has to be one of the stupidest short stories I've ever read - and I've read a lot of stupid short stories. Some guy in the arctic discovers a way to explode all of the explosives in the world, bringing an end to modern warfare. Uh, yeah, right...
"A Matter of Traces"
Is this a story? I'm not sure. An interplanetary pioneer is interviewed about the domestication of a local life form. At least it's not as bad as "Cease Fire."
"Try to Remember"
A race of aliens task humanity with a new method of communication. This story brought Theodore Sturgeon to mind. It sort of makes sense, but the ending is unintentionally hilarious.
|Ornithopter illustration from "The Road to Dune"|
"The Tactful Saboteur"
This story is the cornerstone of Herbert's ConSentiency universe, which led to the novels "Whipping Star" and the unspeakably bad "Dosadi Experiment." Anyone who's read those two novels need not bother with this story. There were a lot of details in this story that could have been more fully realized, and the subsequent two novels did little to illuminate them.
"The Road to Dune"
Unique to this collection. Herbert poses as a tour guide, showing us the wonders of the planet Arrakis. Minimal text, accompanying illustrations.
"By the Book"
A technician attempts to fix a malfunctioning matter transmitter. One of the better stories here, though I fail to understand how he could communicate - in real time - with someone several light years away. Wouldn't this undermine the story's central concept?
Also in "Book of Frank Herbert." Mankind adapts to life on a new world, and some find that what works on the old world doesn't necessarily work on the new.
"Murder Will In"
An alien parasite struggles for survival in the midst of a new human society. This is easily the best story in the book. Strange and interesting.
"Passage for Piano"
Also in "Book of Frank Herbert." A family, about to relocate to Planet C, tries to appease their blind, piano-playing son. One of the most human stories Herbert ever wrote.
"Death of a City"
Herbert brings his ecological interests to bear on this story of social/urban engineering. A nice piece of short fiction.
"Frogs and Scientists"
Frogs watch a woman bathing. Frogs make comments about human mating patterns. That's pretty much the entire story right there.