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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hunters of Dune by Herbert and Anderson

Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. New York: Tor, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-465-31292-1

After writing six tedious and poorly plotted prequels to Dune, Brian Herbert (original Dune author Frank Herbert's son) and his co-author, Kevin J. Anderson, have finally turned their attention to completing the original cycle. If you're not clear on the sequence of all the novels in the series so far, check out the Wikipedia listing. For my comments on the original Dune, unquestionably one of science fiction's all time greatest classic novels, see my review of Frank's completely awful standalone novel, Timeweb.

I'm not sure if I've managed to read all of the prequels. I know I read all of the novels written by Frank Herbert himself, and I know I read the first prequel trilogy. I think I read at least the first novel in the second prequel trilogy, Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, but I wouldn't absolutely swear to it. I must not have read the next two, because if I had, they would be on this blog somewhere (I started the blog in August of 2003 and the books were published in 2003 and 2004), and they're not.

So it was with some reluctance that I picked up one of the latest books, Hunters of Dune, and part of my incentive was due to a flyleaf note that indicated that Frank Herbert had himself written an outline of the story, which remained unknown and unseen for years, buried in a safe-deposit box, and only “recently” discovered. So, if Frank himself indicated the direction he wanted the story to go, I decided I owed it to him and to myself to see what he had planned.

And, I will admit that this book was much more readable, more enjoyable, than any of the prequels. I found them fairly tedious going, poorly plotted, and not particularly well written, pretty much a waste of my time as a reader. This book is definitely better. I was kept entertained, at least, and had motivation to keep turning the pages.

Even so, I found some of the plot elements patently preposterous, even if they WERE Frank's idea. Bring back Paul, Chani, Stilgar, Liet-Kynes, Thufir Hawat, Leto, Jessica, Leto II (almost all characters from the original Dune) as gholas (clones), with the intent to restore their memories, and bring them back to full consciousness of their past life, literally thousands of years after they first lived? Ridiculous! Absurd! Almost sacrilegious. But admittedly not without some entertainment value.

There's also apparently an evil Paul Atreides in the works. Another ghola clone, this one under the control of one of the few remaining Tleilaxu masters, and his other resurrected clone, the innately evil Vladimir Harkonnen. So even though it is only hinted at in this book, we get a prescient vision of the “good” Paul confronting the evil one. Have to wait for the next book, though, for it to actually happen.

Some of the other plot elements are almost as bad. First off, let me say that I always thought the “Honored Matres” were silly. I mean, really. It just didn't make any sense to have another group with a name that was a patent ripoff of “Reverend Mothers.” In this story, one of them becomes a Bene Gesserit, and attempts (with limited success) to merge the two groups.

Initially, although herself a Reverend Mother, she can't break through into the memories of her Honored Matres ancestors. Why not? And all of a sudden, halfway through the book, she can! Why? The provided explanation is patently inadequate. Apparently she can because the plot outline says she can. No other satisfactory reason is given.

And why don't ANY of the Honored Matres returning from the Scattering, fleeing from some seemingly invincible Enemy (yes, Enemy with a capital “E”) seem to be able to remember anything about just who or what this Enemy is? That really makes no sense at all. How could they all forget? They got planet-busting weapons from this Enemy, and they can't even remember who or what it was?

And when WE (the hapless readers) finally learn just who the Enemy is, lo, and behold, it turns out to be . . . (well, maybe I shouldn't indulge in spoiling the plot for anyone who hasn't read the book yet). Suffice it to say that I wasn't impressed. It seemed like yet another silly plot decision to me. And this inhuman Enemy is apparently somehow allied with a new, superior breed of face dancers (shape shifters). Things seem pretty hopeless for the remaining worlds of the original “Old Empire.”

But you'll have to read the next volume, Sandworms of Dune, released just over a year ago, to see how it all comes out. Although the authors are promising yet more Dune books to come. How many of these new Dune novels will I read? I'm not sure, but I found this one good enough to go on to the next. I'll keep you posted.

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