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I've been trying to identify a book with the following plot points:

  • Humans hold part of the universe. A core group of disembodied brains in cans attempted to enslave all of humanity but only have a portion. The brain cans can fly spaceships, have robot bodies, etc.

  • Of the first brain can people, one is a huge jerk who makes people build big monuments, one is a talented tactician, one woman brain left the group…

  • There’s a planet of Amazon-like women who have mental powers and are able to liquidate the brains.

  • One of the Amazon-like women is married to a successful merchant; their daughter is not mentally talented, but is wicked smart and goes to work with another guy to build weapons.

  • Some disembodied brains rose above the fray to become wise, neutral parties; they have monk-like people who tend to them.

I read this about seven years ago when my library moved sites and borrowing history was lost! I do not remember anything about the cover. I do remember that the story takes place on the human side and the brain side, and that there are managers of the workers enslaved by brains and one of them helps revolt against them… and a hundred other little things. I do not remember when it was published, but I think it’s a fairly mainstream series; I don’t read a ton of SFF.

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  • Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this and when do you think it might've been published? Also, do you recall anything about the cover? Jan 17, 2023 at 11:33
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    About seven years ago when my library moved sites and borrowing history was lost! I do not remember anything about the cover :( I do remember that the story takes place on the human side and the brain side, and that there are managers of the workers enslaved by brains and one of them helps revolt against them… and a hundred other little things. I do not remember when published - but I think it’s a fairly mainstream series, I don’t read a ton of SFF
    – user160656
    Jan 17, 2023 at 11:35
  • Another thing I remember - the not so good looking daughter of the main mental Amazon woman goes to work for the scientist weapon maker and he steals all her ideas because he’s a Dick, and later in the books she discovers her mental powers and makes herself super hot
    – user160656
    Jan 17, 2023 at 11:47
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    Thank you for reinforcing my determination never to read a book by Brian Herbert. Jan 17, 2023 at 14:43
  • @OrganicMarble Yeah, I read all of Frank Herbert's Dune books and was excited when I heard Brian Herbert had supposedly discovered notes for the 7th book and was going to write it. But then he wrote prequels first, and managed to kill any interest I had in more Dune books within a couple of them.
    – Ben
    Jan 18, 2023 at 5:07

2 Answers 2

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This sounds like it may be Dune: the Butlerian Jihad, and/or the other novels in the Dune prequel series.

The books are set in our distant future, and the distant past of Dune. A group called the Titans converted themselves into "cymeks" - brains in canisters which could live indefinitely and be swapped between various powerful robot bodies - and conquered much of humanity, before themselves being usurped by entirely artificial beings.

Of the first brain can people, one is a huge jerk who makes people build big monuments, one is a talented tactician, one woman brain left the group…

Their number included a general (Agamemnon) and a female dissident (Hecate); the monument-builder might be the robot Erasmus.

There’s a planet of Amazon-like women who have mental powers and are able to liquidate the brains.

This would fit the Sorceresses of Rossak, precursors to the Bene Gesserit, who have psychic powers usable only by women, which can destroy cymeks.

One of the Amazon-like women is married to a successful merchant; their daughter is not mentally talented, but is wicked smart and goes to work with another guy to build weapons.

Norma Cenva is a daughter of a sorceress who apprentices to an inventor, marries a merchant, invents some of the setting's most fundamental technology, and is robbed of the credit for it.

Norma Cenva was considered a failure by her mother, Zufa Cenva, because she was born a malformed dwarf. This was partially due to the strange chemicals on Rossak, the same reason why Sorceresses like her mother were so powerful.

Norma was almost pitied by her mother while the former lived on Rossak. Meanwhile her adoptive father (and future husband) Aurelius Venport helped her continue her fascination and meddling with higher-order mathematics arranging for her to become an assistant to Tio Holtzman.

She cared little that Holtzman took credit for much of her work. Nevertheless, her innovations would prove indispensable to humanity in the war against the thinking machines known as the Butlerian Jihad.

From your comments:

Another thing I remember - the not so good looking daughter of the main mental Amazon woman goes to work for the scientist weapon maker and he steals all her ideas because he’s a Dick, and later in the books she discovers her mental powers and makes herself super hot

While on a spaceflight, the Titan Xerxes captured her and tortured her for hours while many neo-cymeks watched. The event triggered latent mental powers, and caused her soostone pendant to fuse with her. The ultimate result was that she gained amazing powers to control her molecular structure and utilize formidable new prescient abilities. With just a thought, she killed Xerxes and the neo-cymeks. With massive amounts of mental power at her fingertips, Norma found herself in connection with her maternal bloodline leading off into the far distant past. Using their forms as a template, she then transformed her body from an unappealing dwarf-like being into a woman of great elegance and beauty.

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    I tried not to learn anything about the Dune prequels, because I knew it would make me mad, but holy heck, this sounds awful. "Agamemnon"? "Sorceresses of Rossak"? Jan 18, 2023 at 14:37
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    @DougWarren wait until you find out who his son is...
    – Jontia
    Jan 18, 2023 at 22:18
  • @DougWarren they are as bad as you think; don't do it unless you are a masochist locked in a room with no other reading material.
    – bob1
    Jan 19, 2023 at 0:38
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    @DougWarren I only read them because I’m not a quitter and I believe in being thorough about with all things.
    – user160656
    Jan 19, 2023 at 1:32
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    @DougWarren how is that any different to the main line novels? The main characters are named Atreides, so why is Agamemnon surprising? Agamemnon is known as "Agamemnon Atreides" since he is the son of Atreus.
    – terdon
    Jan 19, 2023 at 11:22
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Dang it I’m an idiot… thinking of the Butlerian Jihad :( convinced myself I wasn’t in the Duniverse… the Mental Powered women were the sorceresses of Rossak, the protagonist Serena Butler, the core group of disembodied brains were The Titans led by Agamemnon. Tio Holtzmann was the jerk store of an invented, Norma Cenva is the future to be hot sorceress.

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    You could improve your answer by explaining/naming the things that you mention in the question.
    – DavidW
    Jan 17, 2023 at 12:39
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    You could just select the other answer... Jan 18, 2023 at 14:29

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