Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: The End of the Dune Saga...Hunters of Dune & Sandworms of Dune

If you are a fan of Frank Herbert's epic science fiction space opera, then you need to read this.  The Dune saga comes to a close, written by none other than Herbert's son, Brian, and Kevin Anderson.

       



Reading the Dune novels was a right of passage for many, as was reading The Lord Of The Rings.  Unlike LOTR, however, Herbert's original Dune series never had a definitive conclusion.  The last novel he wrote was Chapterhouse: Dune, the sixth novel in the series.  In it, the God Emperor Leto II was destroyed, but the future was uncertain.

Several years ago, Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson began a prequel to Dune, starting with the novel Dune: House Atreides.  I was a bit skeptical, but given my love of all things science fiction, I gave it a go.  What a great read!  Brian's writing style contrasts significantly from that of his father.  Where the senior Herbert would sometimes go into lengthy, and sometimes existential, ramblings, Brian very skillfully moves the story along.  This is not to say Frank Herbert was not a great writer or that I did not enjoy his writing.  Just that chapters would go on for dozens of pages without significantly moving the plot forward.  On the other hand, Brian is able to move several sub-plots forward simultaneously.  Reminds me of a horse race where things are close the whole way.  Each chapter advances a specific sub-plot just far enough to maintain a modicum of progress; then the next chapter advances the story of separate characters and events.  Reminds me a great deal of the great Black Library writer Dan Abnett.


Brian and Kevin wrote six novels as well in the form of prequels.  The wealth of backstory is incredible.  I highly recommend reading them before diving into Hunters/Sandworms.  Where did Duncan Idaho come from?  Why do House Harkonnen and Arteides despise each other?  Why do Mentats exist?  How did Navigators learn to fold space?  What are the origins of the Spacing Guild and the Bene Gesserit?  These and so many other questions are answered.  The scope and interactions in the prequel will provide no end of joy to any Dune fan.

 
On to Hunters/Sandworms. First, it is stated in both books that the material for them was drawn from a "lost" Frank Herbert outline locked away for several years.   As for the stories themselves, there are no spoilers here.   I am just going to speak in general terms and mention some characters you may be familiar with to peak your interest.  Hunters starts several thousand years after the death of the God Emperor, otherwise known as the Tyrant.  Duncan Idaho is prominent.  Bene Gesserits are also here, as are gholas and Face Dancers.   There are also several new story elements.  A group of woman called the Honored Matre and a Great Enemy.  I will tell you that the plot essentially moves toward an apocalyptic battle against the previously mentioned Great Enemy.  Prominent characters die as well, so it isn't one of those "and they lived happily ever after" stories.  That being said, the ending is hopeful and will be very satisfying to most science fiction fans.


The two books are really one;  broken into two novels for readability I presume.  As soon as you finish Hunters, you can seamlessly pick up Sandworms without any noticeable break in the story.  There is an incredible amount of tension, and the plot weaves back and forth while still giving a feeling of progress.  No chapter is too long, and the shorter chapter format seems to move you along like a strong current in a river.  I would strongly recommend reading the six prequel novels before giving Hunters/Sandworms a go.  There are just too many references to the prequel that are essential to understanding the story, so that just diving in will probably be frustrating pretty much from the get-go.


In summary, Hunters/Sandworms are highly recommended reads for anyone who has read Frank Herbert's original Dune novels.  And even though it is recommend that you read Brian Herbert's other novels before diving into these two,  I think you will find the backstory/origins that he has created a fascinating read.

Have a great time and let me know what you think!
















 

2 comments:

  1. I read dune through chapterhouse. From what I remember Duncan Idaho was an Arteides who was killed in Dune and brought back by the ix, for the rest of the 6 books. The ix orchestrated Leto's demise for galaxy free from determined paths.

    First, am I right? I read them in high school. Second, Does Herbert's son change the story line at all?

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  2. You are correct that Duncan was reincarnated several times (many by Leto II himself) and that he was the primary conspirator in Leto's death.

    Brian Herbert does not change the story line. His prequels do provide great backstory for the origin of many of the Dune characters/factions. Hunters/Sandworms just take up right about where Chapterhouse left off.

    Great to hear from you!

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