Hellstrom's Hive

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Hellstrom's Hive
Cover of the first edition
AuthorFrank Herbert
Cover artistDavid K. Stone
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages278 pp

Hellstrom's Hive is a 1973 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. It is about a secret group of humans who model their lives upon social insects, and the unsettling events that unfold after they are discovered by a deeply undercover agency of the US government.

Plot summary[edit]

Dr. Nils Hellstrom, an entomologist, is a successful film maker and influential scientific advisor with strong political ties. Living and working with a small staff on a farm in rural Oregon, he attracts the attention of an unnamed governmental organisation when documents are discovered that hint on cult like activities and a secret weapon project.

It is revealed that the farm is situated above a vast system of tunnels and caves, hosting a hivelike subterranean society of nearly 50,000 specialized workers. Hellstrom, thanks to advanced bioengineering, has been the appointed hive leader for more than a century. He is completely convinced of the superiority of the hive and its abandonment of conventional morals and ethics: Sexuality or violence, indeed any individual action, is rated strictly whether it strengthens or weakens the hive as a whole.

The story is told from various perspectives of members of both the nameless organisation investigating the farm and plotting against each other, as well as Hellstrom and several high ranking hive members collectively dealing with the threat of being discovered and probably extinguished by ‚the wild ones‘. In the end the hive's weapon project is ready to protect the hive and the upcoming 'swarming' - the gradual displacement of individual based humanity.


David L. Wolper's quasi-documentary film The Hellstrom Chronicle, released in 1971, was the inspiration for Herbert's novel.[1] In an interview with Tim O'Reilly, Herbert stated: "I said, 'In terms of what we want now, as we think of our world now, what would be the most horrible kind of civilization you could imagine?' And then I said, 'Now I will make... [the members of that civilization] the heroes of the story, by taking negative elements of the surrounding society and treating them as the villain.' That creates a very peculiar kind of tension."[2]


David Pringle gave Hellstrom's Hive three stars out of four and called it "a powerful novel".[1]


In 1978 Hellstrom's Hive won the Prix Tour-Apollo Award for best science fiction novel published in French.


  1. ^ a b Pringle, David (1995). The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction: An A-Z of Science Fiction Books by Title. Aldershot: Scolar Press. p. 170. ISBN 1859280714.
  2. ^ O'Reilly, Timothy (1981). Frank Herbert. New York: Frederick Ungar. pp. 146–148. ISBN 080442666X.