Dune Novels

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Dune House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

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Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, died at a relatively young age in 1986. At the time of his death, Dune and its sequels were one of the most popular science fiction series ever created.

Frankís son Brian followed in his fatherís footsteps and became a science fiction author. He has been approached a number of times about writing additional Dune novels. Finally in 1997, Brian was introduced to Kevin J. Anderson; an award winning science fiction novelist and they agreed to collaborate on Dune novels that would be prequels to the original book Dune.

Set decades before the action in Dune, Dune House Atreides covers action that spans the years that lead to Shaddam IV ascending to the throne of the Galactic empire. A lot of familiar characters from Dune are present in this novel, plus a plethora of new faces. The action is described in short chapters that bounce between several major plot lines and make this book ideal for reading when you only have short amounts of time to devote to it (chapters can be completed in 10 minutes or less).

Emperor Elroodís son Shaddam tires of waiting for his father to die and takes steps to hasten the emperorís demise. Young Leto Atreides, future Duke and father of Paul Atreides, leaves his home planet of Caladan to spend a year on the mechanized and secretive world of Ix. Pardot Kynes, a renowned planetologist is dispatched by the Emperor to the desert planet of Arrakis (Dune) to discover the secrets of itís ecology and the addictive, life-prolonging spice known as melange. Meanwhile, eight-year-old slave Duncan Idaho is hunted by the cruel Harkonnen family in a deadly game from which he vows to escape and seek his revenge.

While not equal to the original book Dune (but what could be?), the book is still inventive and enjoyable. Frankís books often left the reader guessing about certain pieces of history (such as the source of the feud between the Harkonnen and Atreides families). This book (and the two others planned to follow it) will shed light and flesh out events that lead to the momentous events in Dune. This book is much easier to read than Dune (which I felt required a great deal of concentration) but it stays true to the spirit of Frankís novels. The characters behave here in the same general way in which they behaved in Dune (i.e. - Baron Harkonnen is still evil and depraved), but the authors have included a few interesting differences in some of the characters. I think everyone who enjoyed Dune would find something enjoyable in this novel.

One flaw of the novel was its annoying repetitiveness of certain details. Events, like the Butlerian Jihad, are explained in an early chapter, then the same information is repeated in subsequent chapters. While this didnít destroy the flow of the book, it certainly became annoying. Hopefully, the editors will catch this rather obvious oversight in the next volume.

Reviewed by: Alan

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Dune House Harkonnen by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

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Herbert and Anderson provide the second installment in their trilogy that is a prequel to Frank Herbertís classic Dune series. Whereas many prequels fall flat, providing little new information beyond what was originally included in the novel, this Dune series continues to offer new and engaging plot lines. In addition, despite the title, the book devotes equal time to House Harkonnen and House Atreides, as well as the events unfolding on Arrakis.

The action commences several years after the events in Dune: House Atreides. Duke Leto Atreides is restless and still considering taking a wife in a strategic political alliance. His best friend, Prince Rhombur, and Romhburís sister Kailea, are still living in castle Atreides. As an outcast from a once-noble house that went renegade, Rhombur wishes to regain the glory that his family lost in the fall of Ix, but cannot fathom how to achieve his goals. Kailea desperately wishes to be Letoís wife (and Leto fancies her), but since her house has been disgraced, Leto would never consider such a marriage. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen continues to deteriorate from the mysterious wasting malady he acquired. However, this does not stop him from attempting to lay subtle traps for House Atreides nor does it deter him from seeking vengeance against the Bene Gesserit witches who infected him. Rabban, the baronís nephew, continues his terroristic actions in support of the House Harkonnen, clearly demonstrating how he earned his nickname "Beast." Pardot Kynes, the royal planetologist assigned to research Dune, continues his quest for its secrets, now aided by his son Liet who has been raised exclusively as a Freman.

As in the previous volume, extremely short chapters (average 5 pages) are employed to propel the various plot lines along. This format works well as the chapters bounce around between the various stories, but can become frustrating at times. I often found myself paging ahead to find the next chapter that supported a particular plot because I wanted more information immediately! Nevertheless, all of the plot threads are fascinating and provide many additional details and characters that were not included in the original Dune series. I literally could not put this book down! Although it is 600 pages, it reads like a 250-page book.

One of the most interesting characters is Abulurd, the half brother of Baron Harkonnen. He is the exact opposite of his son Rabban since he is kind, considerate and concerned with his homeworldís population, as opposed to being focused on ways to rape the planet for its riches. Duncan Idahoís training at the Ginaz Swordmaster School and the exploits of Gurney Hallackís resistance and escape from Harkonnen enslavement provide interesting insight into the crucibles which forged these two formidable warriors.

I cannot say that this work is superior to the original Dune novel (which would of course border on sacrilege). However, it certainly gives Frank Herbertís work a run for its money. Run; do not walk, to your nearest bookstore and snap up this volume. Dune fans and non-fans alike should find this enjoyable.

Reviewed by: Alan

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Dune by Frank Herbert

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As well as being the best selling science fiction novel of all time, Dune is arguably the best science fiction novel ever written. Certainly, the planet Dune is the most fascinating planet Iíve ever seen created in a science fiction novel.

Set 8,000 years in the future, Dune tells the story of the planet Arrakis (known as Dune to its inhabitants). Arrakis is unique in the known universe. It is a planet covered by vast desert terrain and is one of the harshest environments ever encountered by man. Strange creatures inhabit the desert, the most unique being the giant sandworms that live beneath the sand and viciously guard the deposits of Melange on the planetís surface. Melange is a spice, found only on Arrakis, that has many special properties. Extremely addictive, it prolongs the life of those who consume it regularly. It is also used by navigators of the spacing guild to allow them to "see the future" and thereby plot a safe passage through "foldspace" to enable huge starships to traverse the heavens. Without Melange, the galaxy would have no space travel and would fall back into a barbaric existence.

The Emperor Shaddam IV rules the Galactic Empire. Controlling an empire of one million inhabited worlds, Shaddam must keep peace between the Great Houses (ruling families) of the galaxy. The currency of the empire is Melange since it is so vital to space travel. Shaddam has allowed the Harkonnens (one of the Great Houses) to rule over Arrakis for the past 80 years. Their only mission has been to ensure a steady flow of Melange to the Empire and the spacing guild. Without the spice, the Empire would surely crumble as space travel ground to a halt and millions of people addicted to Melange died.

A secretive society of women called the Bene Gesserit, also use Melange to allow their "reverend mothers" to see into the future. However, only females have been able to use the Melange to achieve this forecasting ability. For some reason, there are pieces of the future that women are unable to look into. Therefore, the Bene Gesserit have spent centuries working on a genetic breeding program whose aim is to produce the " Kwisatz Haderach". The Kwisatz Haderach (or messiah) would be a male Bene Gesserit whose mental powers would be able to bridge space and time and avoid the limitations suffered by the female Bene Gesserit.

As the story begins, control of Arrakis is being handed over to House Atreides, the bitter enemies of the Harkonnens. Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto Atreides, is supposed to be one generation removed from the Kwisatz Haderach. However, his mother Jessica (a Bene Gesserit) has hopes for him to become the long sought after messiah. But first, House Atreides must fend off the evil machinations of the Harkonnens and enlist the help of the mysterious Fremen (native inhabitants of Dune). Failure to do so will certainly result in the ultimate destruction of House Atreides.

Herbertís story is very engaging. He plumbs the depths of political intrigue in a society that while advanced, manages to get along quite well without computers. The infighting amongst the Emperor and the Great Houses is reminiscent of medieval Europe and makes for a very interesting plot. However, the most fascinating parts of the book revolve around the ecology of the planet Arrakis and the struggles of the Fremen to exist in such a harsh environment. As you would expect, moisture is very precious on a desert planet and Herbert was very inventive in the devices and behaviors he created for the Fremen to conserve the bodyís precious water. Iíve read this book at least four times and I enjoy it more each time I read it.

Herbert wrote five sequels to Dune. Alas, they are all seriously inferior to the original novel. But nevertheless, Dune is a must read for all science fiction fans.

Reviewed by: Alan

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Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

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Taking place about 12 years after the action in Dune, Paul Atreides is now Emperor of the galaxy, ruling from his palace on Arrakis. Legions of Fremen followers revere him as a deity and have led a bloody religious jihad across the universe to spread his philosophy to the "unbelievers". This has resulted in millions of deaths and the complete obliteration of several planets. Dune Messiah chronicles the attempts of the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild and Emperor Shaddamís daughter (now wife of Paul Atreides) to bring about Paulís downfall.

Most of the novel is just silly philosophizing around a muddy plot. Herbert fails to make clear the reasons for the actions that the characters take. Most of the scenes with Paul revolve around him brooding about taking steps to avoid a future timeline that will supposedly bring about the downfall of the galaxy. Unfortunately, Herbert never clearly articulates this peril or makes it seem tangible enough for the reader to care about it. The book lacks the charm of the original as well as the action sequences and any decent political intrigue.

Unless you are a die-hard Dune fanatic, donít waste your time with this inferior novel.

Reviewed by: Alan

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