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The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma
by Brian Herbert
Tor, $25.99, 416pp
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Brian Herbert has grown up and out of the shadow of his celebrated father, Frank Herbert. For decades, Brian has co-authored Dune sequels with Kevin J. Anderson, but TLGBCR is all his own. And it’s set here on Earth, our world, this planet, a few decades into the future, when environmental radicals, in an alliance with like-minded hackers and scientists, are aggressively re-greening the American continents, in spite of countermeasures and sabotage from disaffected groups, sleeper opposition, and rival world powers. 

Two principles of politics come quickly to the fore of the story: One, every political movement carries within it the germs of its own destruction; and Two, scum rises to the top. Chairman Rahma genuinely wishes to restore balance to the planet and reverse centuries of abuse, but while he rescues endangered snow leopards and approves a program for regenerating extinct species like dodo birds (and fathers hundreds of children with the willing participation of attractive young groupies), all around him and behind his back administrative positions are being taken by men and women who are “living for the wrong kind of green.” Rahma’s fellow revolutionary and former lover Kupi Landau knows the score all too well. She sees the corruption, treachery and self-serving that has infiltrated the leadership of their green revolution, but she has about as much cred as John the Baptist did in the court of King Herod.

Rahma is not so naive as to put blind faith and trust in fellow humans - after all, it’s humans who cause all the trouble as well as providing all the heroics - nor is he a Luddite. Technology plays crucial roles in the restoration program, even supplying the hubots (humanized robots) that run essential programs as a check against human avarice, ambition, and partiality. The hubot in charge of the regeneration program is even based on Rahma’s best friend, Ganno Artindale, a martyr of the cause.

Kupi’s current lover and partner is Joss Stuart, her opposite in every way. Where she is outspoken and angry and takes solace in smoking juana, he is quiet, thoughtful, and prefers to stay clear-headed.  It isn’t just their natures that are complementary, so are their assignments. Together they operate the two parts of one of the great Janus machines that constitute the Big Stick hefted by the Green States of America: Kupi mans the Black Thunder cannon that reduces factories and weapons and anything else to a grey goo of elemental chaos; Joss is responsible for the green-shafted Seed Cannon that reintroduces a carefully tailored mixture of seeds and nutrients that will grow in the place of what Kupi just leveled. They are both dedicated to their work... so why are so many things going wrong?

Ideals and agendas collide, triggering a worse destruction than any of the instigators intend.

Herbert deftly uses shifts in perspective and narrative to convey many points of view and motivation. This was one of my favorite aspects of this book, because Herbert gives each perspective its own validity.  You may disagree with a character’s politics so much it makes your teeth ache, but the author convincingly shows that character’s reasons for his or her actions.

At one level this is a morality play, and anyone who reads it as such will probably walk away considerably wiser. At another level, it is kicker SF with the kind of original world-making  - and unmaking - that fires the imagination. The luckiest readers will appreciate it on both levels.  ~~ Chris Paige

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