Sunday, January 20, 2013

Winds of Dune

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Tor, 2009 (my copy is from Tor, 2009)
Size: Average (my hardcover copy has 448 pages)
Theme: Space Opera
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Bronso Vernius, Jessica Atreides
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: UNLIKELY

Set in Frank Herbert’s Dune universe, this is the second of two midquels, this one bridging the gap between “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune”. Whereas its predecessor told of Paul Muad’Dib’s Jihad, this novel covers the history of Bronso Vernius and the events going on in the Dune palace where Alia is the regent of the Empire and Jessica works on her relationship with her daughter while attempting to prevent her from losing her humanity in the difficult role she has been cast.

Bronso has a negligible role in the original Dune series, but in this novel, we are given a detailed look into why he started producing his manifestos against Paul Muad’Dib, and why he is aided several times by Jessica (who even ends up recruiting Gurney Halleck to passively assist Bronso by trying to sabotage the vigorous search efforts of Duncan Idaho). He is cast as one of Paul’s best friends ever. Their early interactions as children were described in “Paul of Dune”. Bronso, who came to be known as Bronso of Ix, was the son of prince Rhombur and Tessia. His quest to spread an accurate history of Paul Muad’Dib, as a man rather than a God, an alternative to the exaggerations that Irulan (incited by Alia) continues releasing, is shown to have been highly assisted by face dancers.

I read this right after “Paul of Dune”. While this book did not annoy me with some terrible writing as the first sub-chapters of the previous one, it also failed to impress me. Not that I was expecting anything with the depth of Frank Herbert’s writing… But this felt even less convincing than Brian’s previous Dune incursions, such as the Prelude to Dune or Legends of Dune trilogies. Both of those series were much more enjoyable. This novel also introduced guiltcasters, such as Reverend Mother Stokiah, who are capable of causing terrible psychological damage, but which is a skill not featured anywhere in the original series. Why introduce this, and not provide a reasonable explanation of why Bene Gesserit stopped using the technique?

Reading a bit more about the Dune universe, and learning about Bronso, a character that had never been explored, was interesting. However, I would not recommend this to anyone but die-hard Dune fans, and definitely only as a follow-up to the previous midquel.
Related work:
Note that this should be read after the previous midquel entitled “Paul of Dune”. These two midquels are collectively called the “Heroes of Dune” series. In addition, there are many other books set in the Dune universe, all of which intrinsically related.

*** Spoiler Alert ***
(Warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):

Aside from some assassination attempts, there are very few things worth mentioning. Bronso manages to rescue his mother Tessia from the Reverend Mothers, after she had been rendered to a vegetative state by a guiltcaster, and Jessica later takes her in. In the end, Bronso is captured and publicly executed on Dune, while his writings are certain to continue being spread and read. The book ends with Jessica departing back to Caladan, sharing warm goodbyes with Alia.

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