Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Paul of Dune by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert

With the recent release of The Winds of Dune by these same two authors, the subject of the Dune series has seen some recent commentary in various blogs. So let’s get some things out of the way right up front – Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert do not write the same way Frank Herbert (who wrote the original six books for all you heathens out there) did. Frankly, they don’t really try to mimic Frank’s prose style, and I doubt anyone could anyway. It wouldn’t hurt if the new authors could at times delve deeper into the Dune universe the way Frank seemed to do, but at the same time, Frank Herbert was not a perfect writer, and in fact was fairly weak when it came to action sequences. I love the original books, and I’ve liked and disliked my share of the more recent novels from Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert. Paul of Dune, which was also recently released in paperback, is one of those novels by them that I really enjoyed. About 50% of the novel takes place in between the original Dune and Frank Herbert’s sequel Dune Messiah. In this time period Paul Atreides is coming to terms with the vision of the future he has seen, and the path he must set humanity upon to see that it survives the dark time ahead. He has set in motion a Jihad, a holy war that has resulted in the deaths of billions – entire worlds razed so that all will fall in line under his rule. The people closest to him are questioning why he continues with this war, even as the former Emperor begins to plot to retake his throne. The other 50% of the book takes place prior to the original Dune (and after another sequel written by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert, House Corrino). Here Paul is a young man, caught up in a War of Assassins between great Houses including his own. This event was briefly mentioned by Frank Herbert in one of his Dune novels, but here the details are laid out as sides are drawn and the war threatens to escalate to a level that Emperor Corrino cannot allow. By having part of this story told in flashback, it allows the reader to be led through the early stages of a plot to kill Paul Atreides – a plot that won’t be resolved until many decades in the future, during the other half of the novel. I liked how that particular story bridged the two time periods, even as other connections between the earlier war Paul’s father was involved in gets compared to Paul’s Jihad (Leto’s war in comparison was barely a skirmish). Here we see the difference between a boy who is horrified by the atrocities of war and a man who accepts losses on an unimaginable scale as a part of humanity’s course. Yes, there are probably flaws in this book, ways in which it doesn’t quite match up to Frank Herbert’s novels – but continuity is a malleable thing (for me) so long as I’m being entertained. Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert tend to draw on minor characters from Frank’s novels and make them into more major roles – mostly because they were less defined and therefore more open to interpretation, and I think it works well for them. By having these characters who sit just outside the fringes of Frank’s main characters, it allows the reader to both get a new perspective on the universe, as well as have a vested interest in what might happen to these characters. It’s far more open, since the reader is very unlikely to know what fate befalls these minor characters through Frank’s original work. Paul of Dune is also the kind of novel that works well if you’ve only read the original Dune and nothing else. If Frank Herbert’s prose was a little too dense for you to continue with Dune Messiah, you might find Paul of Dune more to your liking – it’s got a little more of a modern, action/adventure sensibility to it, while being set in the familiar Dune universe. I know for some people it’s blasphemous to talk about Dune as action/adventure, but ultimately I think it’s all about reading what interests you. So ultimately, if you enjoy Space Opera with political maneuverings and some swashbuckling adventure thrown in, I’d definitely recommend Paul of Dune.

1 comment:

centime said...

I've read most of the Dune Books by Frank Herbert and All the The Dune Books By Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson And I must say that Frank was Substantively better at his craft than his successors.

Actually, I am a fan of Kevin Andersons light SF novels hence I keep buying an reading his works :)

Light and fluffy, a change from Banks, Reynolds et al

Dotun Editor of
Space travel blog