The Santaroga Barrier
|The Santaroga Barrier|
Cover of first edition (paperback)
|Cover artist||Paul Lehr|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
The Santaroga Barrier (1968) is a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. It is considered to be an "alternative society" or "alternative culture" novel. The Santaroga Barrier deals with themes such as psychology, the counterculture of the 1960s, and psychedelic drugs. It was originally serialized in Amazing Stories magazine from October 1967 to February 1968, and came out in a paperback from Berkley Books later in 1968. The book has been described as "an ambigious utopia"  and Herbert himself stated to Tim O'Reilly that The Santaroga Barrier was intended to describe a society that "half my readers would think was utopia, the other half would think was dystopia."
A psychologist, Gilbert Dasein, is hired by corporate interests to investigate a town in a valley where marketing seems totally ineffective: outside businesses are allowed in, but wither quickly for lack of business. Santarogans aren't hostile toward the enterprises, they just won't shop there. Nor are they xenophobic; they instead appear maddeningly self-satisfied with their quaint, local lifestyle. Adding an element of danger, the last few psychologists sent in have all died in accidents that are (seemingly) perfectly plausible. Complicating matters further still, the psychologist's college girlfriend, Jenny, has returned to Santaroga, her hometown.
With this in mind, Dasein cautiously enters the town and quickly learns of 'Jaspers', an additive to the food and drink commonly ingested in Santaroga that seems to imbue the consumer with greater health and an expanded mind. Those who consume it don't become psychic; instead, they're simply far more lucid than the average citizen of the U.S, although there are numerous hints at a group mind operating at a subconscious level. Their newspapers are vaguely subversive with their folksy, enlightened commentary on world affairs; their dinner conversations knowledgeably reference great theories of psychology, politics, and cognitive science.
Soon, Dasein is having narrow misses with perfectly plausible accidents: a boy playing with a bow and arrow releases it; the lift under his car in a garage collapses; a waitress in a diner accidentally uses insecticide rather than sugar for his coffee. Knowing that Jaspers creates exceptionally perceptive, penetrating individual minds, Dasein realizes that he has offended a communal id that feels threatened by him. As Jenny tries to convince him to settle down with her there, he wonders whether he'll live long enough to decide.
Allusions and references
The main character's name is Gilbert Dasein. Dasein is one of Heidegger's terms which roughly translates to 'being'. It has also been suggested that the name may be a twist on 'Gilbert Gosseyn', a character in The World of Null-A by A. E. van Vogt. Jenny Sorge's surname refers to Heidegger's term Sorge, Heidegger's term for "caring", which Heidegger regarded as the fundamental concept of Intentionality. The character Dr. Piaget was named for the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget.
Jaspers, the psychoactive substance in the book, is named for Karl Jaspers, a German psychiatrist and philosopher and contemporary of Martin Heidegger who claimed that individual authenticity required a joining with the "transcendent other," traditionally known as God.
The 1985 movie The Stuff has a similar theme, and makes a reference to a Detective Frank Herbert.
- Malmgren, Carl Darryl (1991) Worlds apart: narratology of science fiction Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, page 79, ISBN 0-253-33645-7
- Gary K. Wolfe, (1979).
- Herbert, Frank (1968) The Santaroga Barrier (A Berkley medallion book, S1615) Berkley Publishing Corporation, New York OCLC 18111876
- O'Reilly, Timothy. Frank Herbert, Ungar, 1981, ISBN 080442666X (p.131-33).
- Herbert, Brian (2003) Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert Tor, New York, pages 216-217, ISBN 0-7653-0646-8
- Wolfe, G.K. "Santaroga Barrier, The – Frank Herbert", in Magill, Frank Northern (editor) (1979) Survey of Science Fiction Literature Salem Press, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, pp. 1859–1862, ISBN 0-89356-194-0