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Dune Prequel Series One

I'm quite a fan of the Dune series of novels by Frank Herbert, and when I got through them all (God Emperor of Dune has its lengths, but that shouldn't keep you from reading the later books, which make it pay off in a big way and are written in a more precise fashion again), I decided to take a little break. A while later I bought the first of the Dune prequel books written by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson. I was surprised about how good they actually are.

The books are named for the three houses that mainly figure into the story of Dune: House Atreides, House Harkonnen and House Corrino. The choice of title is easily the worst aspect of the books, because for the life of me I can't figure out why House Atreides is more about the Atreides than House Harkonnen and vice versa. It's a little better with House Corrino, which actually marks a major turning point for the Padishah Emperor.

The first book in this first prequel trilogy still suffers from some duplication of exposition, but Herbert and Anderson quickly get on track and manage to sound a lot like Brian's father did. The aspects that don't sound like Frank Herbert actually make the book read a little more smoothly and give it a slightly more modern feel, in a very positive way.

So, all in all, if you've read all of Frank Herbert's Dune books and are still yearning for more, you can rest assured the prequel books are not just cheap attempts of the heirs at making more money. They are very able writers. And rumor has it that this prequel, the other one about the Butlerian Jihad and the coming two sequel books are based on notes left by Frank Herbert. Anderson and Herbert, Jr. simply decided to tell the story in several books because it would have become too complex otherwise.

Reader Comments: (RSS Feed)
Daniel J. Wilson writes:
While I enjoyed the three House books, I found the Butlerian Jihad trilogy to be melodramatic and the basic story quite different from that mentioned by Frank Herbert in the original books. Herbert refers to it as a human campaign against technological comforts and artificial intelligence, not an existential war for survival against a robot army led by a murderous Evermind. Granted, they had access to Herbert's notes and I don't, but it still seems like a major change to make to the history of the Dune universe.
Uli Kusterer replies:
I haven't read the Butlerian Jihad books yet (I hope that came across in my posting above). There are similar arguments to be made about the scene where Leto meets Jessica for the first time in the first prequel trilogy, that the comment on their first meeting in the original series was different. I suspect that some of the notes that Brian and Kevin followed were ideas that Frank Herbert would have revised before publishing. But considering that this would have required that Brian and Kevin edit Frank's work, I think it was a good choice to err on the side of caution. FWIW, I never thought that the Butlerian Jihad had been just a campaign. From how he wrote it, to me it was obvious that something had gone terribly wrong and they must have fought some sort of war about it. I'll do another posting here when I get to read the second trilogy to let you know whether this works for me or not. One of the thoughts (rationalisations?) I developed through the first books was that I'd rather have them make the mistakes in the prequel books than in what's commonly referred to as "Dune 7" (i.e. "Hunters of Dune" and "Sandworms of Dune"). Everybody needs a chance to learn, and writing in someone else's world and style isn't easy.
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