01/04/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: TOR/Forge. 255 page enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US), $16.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1775-9.
check out website: www.tor-forge.com
Frank Herbert's 1969 novel 'Whipping Star' is one of those books that has a disguised spoiler for a title. The Caleban are a species that enables instantaneous travel across the cosmos through trapdoors. With only one member of its species left, such travel these days is actuated by the Taprisiot these days.
Jorj X. McKie, Saboteur Extraordinary, is called in on a case where the large beachball chamber that is supposed to house the last Caleban, Fanny Mae, arrives on a beach. As the Caleban is a transdimensional being, no one can really see her. However, Fanny Mae is caught in a personal contract to Mliss Abnethe, the universe's richest woman.
Abnethe and her team have hidden out on some planet and are systematically torturing Fanny Mae to death, as part of the contract, so that when the Caleban dies, they will be concealed forever. With Fanny Mae gone, the power source for the trapdoors will go as well and anyone whoever travelled through them will die. A normal day at the office then, except McKie has to unravel all the clues as Abnethe attacks and sometimes kills the people about him through the trapdoors.
Fanny Mae might speak English but her understanding of it is far from easy. Although bound by her contract, McKie is determined to set her free and the extensive communication is to draw out exactly what she is talking about.
Like many of Frank Herbert's stellar books, this reality is populated by a variety of alien species and each has its roles in this story. Considering the doorstop nature of his other books, this novel is a light read in comparison but still has its layered depth in setting and mood. Although the peril to the galactic population isn't as stressed in the book itself as it's more a concern with saving the Caleban, this story has lost none of its grip.
It's great that TOR has re-released this book for a new generation and if you haven't read it before then expect a treat. Frank Herbert explores communication problems that has rarely been explored since making this a landmark book.
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