The Heaven Makers by Frank Herbert (1968 and 1977) – I’m a sucker for Frank Herbert’s writing. I fell in love with the Dune series as a youngster and reread all six books every five years or so. They are classic science fiction and some of my favorites (obviously).
The Heaven Makers is typical of Mr. Herbert early work. It’s almost as if he was trying out ideas and concepts he was going to use later for his Dune masterpiece. The story is simple – immortal aliens have been manipulating Earthlings since they lived in caves. The Director (the alien who has been making humans create wars and feeding the Earthlings’ pain and hopelessness to his fellow immortals for entertainment), the Inspector (an undercover policeman who is trying to prove the Director has gone too far), a human psychologist who sees the aliens, and his comely fiancé who doesn’t make up the simple cast of characters.
In Dune, there’s a great deal of manipulation by the powers that be. Most notably by the Sisterhood who manipulate genetic bloodlines for generations to create the Kwisatz Haderach. The Heaven Makers have been intermixing with the humans for thousands of years and manipulating them to achieve high ratings in their full immersion videos. Only when the Director kidnaps the fiancé to sexually enslave the Inspector does the manipulation end.
The conclusion is a little odd, sort of a Kirk outsmarting the computer scene. The psychologist convinces the Inspector that only by being mortal can one appreciate life. Manipulating humans to experience their negative emotions is a dead end street for the aliens. They should be experiencing their own lives, including death. You’ll have to read the end of this short book (only 183 pages) to discover if Kirk causes their logic circuits to self-destruct.
A couple nice touches included the aliens wondering if they themselves are being manipulated by some higher power and the humans questioning if they are being treated by the aliens like they treat insects.
An odd thing about this book is the disclaimer at the beginning: “This novel was originally published in 1966. In the intervening years the author has found portions of the novel which he believed could be improved; and so, he had rewritten these sections of this edition.” I’d love to read the original version.