The Lazarus Effect (Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom, 1984, 393 pages) – Most of Frank Herbert’s early works are pulp science fiction sprinkled with ideas he will later use in Dune. This book, written after Dune and with poet Bill Ransom, is not pulp. It’s almost as fully realized as Dune with some important differences.
First of all, this planet is completely submerged. There are no sand dunes, even at the bottom of the sea. There is no one hero holding the mystical, political, and honorable strings of the planet’s future. Instead, there is an ensemble consisting of the two factions that live on Pandora, the Mermen and the Islanders. The Mermen are the more technologically advanced and socially stable. The Islanders are mutated humans living on organic islands that drift about the massive beds of kelp that are slowly becoming sentient.
One young mutant, a fisherman with oversized eyes, is rescued in a storm by a beautiful Mermaid. This is mainly their story although there are terroristic Mermen destroying Islander homes, a long-necked judge trying to ease tensions between the two sides, a long-armed fisherman, an Islander trying to become a Merman, and the immortal but comatose Vata who communes with the kelp and speaks for Ship, the planet’s distorted religion that says the original colony ship is still in orbit.
Each of these characters has depth and moves the story along. In Dune, all these different factions are represented in one person, Paul Atriedes, but in Lazarus effect, a cast of people strive to survive and better themselves and their planet. Not all of them survive, but through their efforts we learn more about the amazing world of Pandora.
Atmospheric as Herbert always is, it doesn’t reach the mythos of Dune, but does provide high adventure and solid science fiction excitement. I wanted all the characters to win (except for the handsome Merman trying to destroy the Islands, of course) and it ended much too fast.