The Dosadi Experiment, by Frank Herbert
Rating: better than Whipping Star, but only worth re-reading if I become a Herbert Scholar
Jorj X. McKie is called in to serve as Gowachin Lawyer over a planetary atrocity called “Dosadi”. Much like Arrakis or Salusa Secundus, the people of Dosadi are severely oppressed to the point of physical and intellectual excellence. Jorj eventually entwines his mind with a woman (much like Children of Dune which came out shortly after), escapes, and uses his brilliant grasp of Gowachin law to prove that the Gowachin shadow government is bad and that the galaxy must face evolution and the future. The legal trial is entertaining, but Herbert’s two short stories set in this universe are more entertaining.
One of Herbert’s many books about control, abuse of power, etc. I didn’t find any relevant metaphors, so if he was writing about something topical then it flew over my head.
There is really only one woman, and she is strong in a Herbert fashion (i.e., he sort of recognizes that “cold” powerful women are just working against society, but he doesn’t stress that point). Towards the end of the book, Jorj and the woman are psychically entwined and the quasi-romantic quasi-philosophical musings that occur really detracted from the novel to me.