The Santaroga Barrier


The Santaroga Barrier

infobox Book |
name = The Santaroga Barrier
title_orig =
translator =


image_caption = Cover of first edition (paperback)
author = Frank Herbert
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Berkley Books
release_date = 1968
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 255 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Santaroga Barrier" (1968) is a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. It was originally serialized in "Amazing Stories" magazine from October 1967 to February 1968.

Plot summary

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, they just won't shop there; neither are they xenophobic, instead appearing 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 (singly) perfectly plausible. Complicating matters further still, the psychologist's college girlfriend, Jenny, has left him to move back there.

With this in mind, Dasein cautiously enters the town and quickly discovers '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 novel was loosely based on "Martin Heidegger"'s ideas, noticeably on his book "Sein und Zeit" [Being and Time] . There is some similarity to the Mycogen world described in The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov.

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.

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.


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