Friday, January 14, 2011

Dune: House Corrino

Brian Hebert and Kevin J. Anderson
Bantam Spectra, 2001 (my copy is from 2002)
Size: Long (my copy has 667 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space opera
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Leto Atreides
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This book ends the Prelude to Dune trilogy, following “House Atreides” and “House Harkonnen”. The trilogy takes place a couple of decades before the original Dune novel, and provides a description of the events that led to the birth of Paul Atreides and his later rise as the Muah’Dib. As the continuation of the other 2 books in the trilogy, this is a fitting end and an excellent novel. Being written almost back-to-back, these 3 volumes read nicely in sequence. There are no obvious plot holes (often found in sequels written with many years of real time span), and a huge attention has been given to consistency and detail by the authors.
However, the main thing going against the authors from the start is that the original Dune novel is so widely known. Therefore, there is little room for originality. We know from the start how things are going to ultimately end for the main characters. But this is a common feature of prequels, and (nearly) impossible to go around. Despite this, I found the book was able to keep an aura of mystery around many events, and always keep the reader on edge about how things were going to develop. The story is again full of action scenes, exciting adventures, and a lot of new and intriguing data on the Dune universe technology.

The plot of this book is focused on the attempt by House Atreides and Vernius to retake Ix and stop the Tleilaxu/Shaddam plan of creating artificial melange, putting everything that depended on melange at peril (space travel, mentat abilities, the sisterhood, etc). The Ixian revolt is not only the largest sub-plot but also the best. Other events we follow include the return of Rhombur, Jessica’s pregnancy and the havoc it can cause on the Sisterhood’s plans, the Fremen implementation of Kynes’ vision, and the developments that will eventually lead up to the end of the Harkonnen’s fiefdom in Arrakis.

As in previous books, chapters are very short, but not too much that it would seem you’re only peeking into each story. I have always found that one of the very positive features of this series. The characters are very well developed, and Dune fans have to be thrilled with learning so much new about these (more or less) familiar characters. I think this is not only a fitting end for this trilogy, but an excellent companion to other Dune universe series. In fact, I found these trilogy better than some of the original Dune series books, although it is always very difficult and subjective to compare novels with very different framework, structure, and pace.

Related work:

Note that these authors later released another Dune trilogy about the Butlerian Jihah, termed “Legends of Dune”, and thus predating this story by thousands of years. After that, they also wrote sequels to the original Dune, wrapping up the unfinished plotline of “Chapterhouse: Dune” (the 6th book in the original series). And even more recently, an interquel that takes place between the original first and second Dune books. Still, I think the books work extremely well if read in publishing chronologic order, meaning the original Dune series first, then the “Prelude to Dune” trilogy, and only then the “Legends of Dune” trilogy.

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):
Rhombur ends up with Tessia, and will use preserved sperm from his half-brother to continue the Vernius House. Fenring and Margot are together, though exiled, in Arrakis. The book ends with Paul Atreides a small child, and the giant sandworms in Arrakis acting in an unexpected way, a kind of dance, which the Fremen quickly interpret as the omen for some epic event taking place in the Universe.

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