Monday, 15 September 2008

‘Paul of Dune’ – Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson (Hodder & Stoughton)


Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ series is regarded as one of the best (if not the best) series in science fiction. Up until the past few years ‘Dune’ was a series left unfinished, after Herbert’s death in 1986, but Brian Herbert (his son) and Kevin J. Anderson have taken up the reigns and continued it.
I read the original ‘Dune’ books when I was a teenager and was sad to find that the final chapter had been left untold. I then got into fantasy, over science-fiction, and never picked up the Herbert/Anderson books. Having seen the newer books been questioned, in terms of how good they actually were, I thought it might be worth finally picking up one of these books and seeing for myself. As it sits between ‘Dune’ and ‘Dune Messiah’ (books that I have read) I thought that ‘Paul of Dune’ would be a good choice of book. While it was a good choice, as a place to begin reading, I’m not so sure about the book itself...

Paul’s victory over the Padishah Emperor (of House Corrino) is complete and he is now in full control of the planet Dune. Paul only has nominal control over the rest of the Imperium however and must take his jihad to the stars if he is not to fall under the combined weight of the Landsraad Houses. He is only one man though, a man drowning in his own mythical status and struggling to make sense of the intrigue as factions plot to bring him down. The decisions that he makes will earn him the enmity of the galaxy but that is the price he must pay if he is to guide humanity down a dark path...

‘Paul of Dune’ answers the question of what happened in the twelve years between ‘Dune’ and ‘Dune Messiah’ (and why Paul ended up hated and feared) but I was left wondering how much of a question there was to ask in the first place. From what I remember, the gap between ‘Dune’ and ‘Dune Messiah’ came across as planned and any questions about the ‘gap’ were answered in the course of ‘Dune Messiah’ (which also does a good job of showing how Paul came to his current status). This being the case, why did Herbert and Anderson feel the need to put their own spin on it?

If you’re going to fill in a gap, between two books in a series, then you need to be able to give the reader something new that the other books couldn’t really give them. ‘Paul of Dune’ simply does not do this in terms of its stated objective which questions the point of the book being written in the first place. What it does do though is give the reader a closer look at Princess Irulan and what led her to start writing her biographies of Paul Atreides. It’s always good to see another side to an established character and the insights that we get round her character out a little more. This approach also gives the reader a sneaky look at Paul’s biography, namely the War of Assassins that Paul found himself embroiled in when he was only twelve years old. These excerpts make for interesting intervals with lots of swashbuckling sword fights and epic space battles and also give the reader little hints about events that will shape Paul’s thinking when he is a lot older.

I know I’ve said this before but filling in the gaps of a series is problematic when you know how the story will ultimately end. Where’s the hook to keep you reading in the meantime? There is plenty of plotting going on but there’s no real edge to it, the only reason I kept reading was to see how Paul would ultimately foil everyone’s plans. Even the big scene, right at the end, where Paul is stabbed falls flat because we know that he has to be around for the next book. There is also a huge difference in tone between the original works and ‘Paul of Dune’ and this jarred things for me. Going along with the ‘filling in the gap’ analogy, shoe-horning ‘Paul of Dune’ in between the other two original books is like repairing a brick house by filling the holes with silly putty, a questionable action at best...

I think the fairest thing to say is that if you are a fan of the series (regardless of who wrote what bit) then you’ll probably get something out of this latest instalment. Not me though, if this is the standard then I’ll be getting off right here and reading something else...

Four out of Ten

21 comments:

Plinydogg said...

Dare I say it? I thought the original Dune was overrated....(don't hit me)

Jenny said...

I thought this series was amazing. and I cannot wait to get ahold of this book. These guys who are writing it are really talented. and I mean the last book in that series was amazing.

Jonah said...

I stopped reading these two a while ago. It was bad enough when they were filling in information that we didn't actually know from the Dune series . . . I can't imagine how pointless the books written during the actual "Dune" series would feel.
My sense is that this is the majority of the response (even among those who liked "Dune") to the Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson continuations.

Or, put another way, I'm sure that had a good author (like Frank Herbert) tackled the subject matter in "Paul of Dune" many of your objections would have been answered and you would have loved it nearly as much as the originals.

Big Jim said...

Hmmm. I have to say, I tried reading the first two of their Dune series, and thought they were utter crap. Really, just a cash in on the name.
I'm sad that the series continues as it is...

Triem23 said...

I have read all of the Kevin J. Anderson/Brian Herbert Dune books, and find myself wondering why I bothered.

At the end of "Dune: House Atredies," the first Anderson/Herbert book they had some notes on chronology... Herbert and Anderson stated that when conflicts between the timeline of the original DUNE were in conflict with the prequels then Frank Herbert was wrong.

"Really?" I wanted to ask Anderson and Herbert, "YOU are more canon than the creator of the original work?" Then to make my point to them, "Perhaps while you're at it you can update 'Lord of the Rings' while you're at it, and perhaps write a sequel to 'Romeo and Juliet?'"

Yet I continued thru the series... Then the "Butlerian Jihad" books, the the Dune sequels... By the time I got to Hunters/Sandworms of Dune, I found it rather astonishing how many of the key players of those works could not be understood without reading the prequels--amazingly enough, Frank Herbert's long lost outline required Erasmus and Norma Cenva as characters! AMAZING!

And now these guys are going to "patch up" the Dune Chronology proper?

I vomit to think of it.

Look for the next book of the series "Leto of Dune: I was a Teenaged Sandworm...." Oh, well, if they choose to write that, at least that's a 4000 year gap to fill, that might actually hold some sort of surprises....

Anonymous said...

What kills me about the B. Harbert/Anderson books is their obsessive need to tie absolutely every little bit of Dune trivia and history into a tightly wound web. Absolutely no occurence anywhere in the canon has any randomness or chance - it's all part of some larger web. I think the bit about the bull that killed Paul's grandfather put me over the edge. It worked perfectly well by itself as a demonstration of the bravado and traditionalism in Paul's family line, but H & A had to make it part of one of their lesser plotlines. The sheer amount of conincedences and connections makes the whole thing implausible to me.

Vincent said...

I love the Dune books like I love no other works of fiction and it was the primary inspiration for my becoming a writer: that such stories on such a broad canvas were able to be told (and sold).

The books by Brian and Keven are...pale by comparison. Though, almost anyone would look small standing next to a Giant.

Even though there are times their books make me cringe -- and times I wish I'd make my living writing fiction instead of what I do -- it is wonderful to be able to visit Frank's universe again and glimpse some of the ideas that he had for his story.

As for the time-lines, overall works with large outlines sometimes contain errors that the author doesn't catch at first printing. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find this was the case with their time-lines vs Frank's. He was a smart guy and great to know but he wasn't infallible.

Sean J. Jordan said...

I'm personally sick of all the grave-robbing that's been going on here. It would have been a much greater service to fans to simply publish Frank Herbert's notes (as Christopher Tolkien did with his father's) and let the readers form their own opinions. There's nothing like adding on to an iconic body of work with a bunch of pulpy, junky books. (Incidentally, the same thing's about to happen to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Eoin Colfer is writing a sequel.)

I wouldn't have minded a new series of original television shows, or another video game, or even a comic book series, because then I'd be able to look at those and say, "this isn't as good as the original books." But by creating a series of books that are meant to be read with the original series, BH and KJA (as well as their shameless publisher) created a conflict for fans who want to read the "whole story."

Most of these books are ill-conceived, but "Paul of Dune" sounds like the worst of the bunch. Why can't these guys leave some mystery and imagination in this series? It's far more fun wondering what happened than having it spelled out for you by a pair of writers who can't match the quality of the original work.

tbrown said...

I am a huge fan of the original Dune series. I wish these two would quit publishing low quality fan-fiction for a quick paycheck. I also wish that I didn't feel inclined to read all the tripe they put out. DUNE!

SLEZE said...

The Dune series ended with the death of Frank Herbert. Brian adds as much to the Dune series as Natalie Cole adds to Nat's "Unforgetable" - not a whole helluva lot.

Stop ripping off your father's legacy and start your own.

SciFiGuy said...

Dune was one of the great reads of my personal "golden age" and still consider it a favorite. I was never able to finish Dune Messiah which I felt virtually unreadable and gave up on the series. I have always been curious as to the value of these co-authored efforts and you have helped me decide to leave Dune as a fond memory and leave the new entries untouched.

TheDukester said...

Kevin J. Anderson is just astonishingly free of talent. His last few "efforts" in the Dune series (I single him out because there's a growing body of evidence that Brian Herbert doesn't actually write a single word of any of it) have been nothing more than re-hashed plots from his Young Jedi series. He is a complete hack and it's just astonishing that the Herbert Trust would hire such a talent-free loser to "continue" one of the great legacies in speculative fiction.

SandChigger said...

Yes, KJA is definitely the most talent-free author (for lack of a better word) active in the industry today.

This book is...simply astounding. EVERY SINGLE PAGE is a new adventure in BAD writing.

By no means should you buy it, but try to find or borrow it if you can...JUST TO SEE HOW BAD A SCIENCE-FANTASY BOOK CAN BE!

Glen B.Wang said...

I can't believe you so-called 'Dune' fans always intend to tarnish Kevin and Brian's names just for the sake of bashing their works as if you know how to write one: if you don't like their own vision of Dune, then don't read them and yet, they still read them, probably just to seek for the authors' most obvious weaknesses and simply place them as proofs of ineptness. They may not be as poetic as Frank Herbert (they have mentioned about their intention of not copying the master's own writing style a million times) but without these talents, the original Dune books, no matter how good they are, may as well be left in total obscurity. Like Star Wars, some of the more irksome elements in the new books will probably make more sense and become much more accepted in 15 or 20 years time.

Anonymous said...

"I can't believe you so-called 'Dune' fans always intend to tarnish Kevin and Brian's names just for the sake of bashing their works as if you know how to write one"

Sometimes some fans get a bit shouty. It's not pretty, but understand WHY they get shouty.

Dune has gone from something really quite special - fully developed CONCEPTS in a beautifully developed world. Now it is a low-brow pulp annual that caters to the lowest common denominator. Despite squatting slap bang in the middle of Dune and Dune Messiah this book is boring, predictable and badly edited.

Your argument is dumb. I'm not an author, but I do have a brain. This book is devoid of concepts and rife with pointless repetition to name just two obvious examples. This book could have been good (so I read it) but it wasn't (negative reactions are allowed... right?).

(*This review is pretty fair - although he apparently enjoyed it more than I did :) )

Matt Garofolo said...

I, too, marvel at the genius of Frank Herbert and have read all of his novels. I love the Dune Universe and find it fascinating.

Yes, ole' Frank is gone and his son (and KJA) are nowhere near the writers he was. It does have sort of a "10th grade" feel to it compared to Frank's depth and richness.

However I do find myself entertained and just try and have some fun with it....it's Dune. I mean not every novel you read is a timeless classic. It is what it is; try and enjoy it.

I think everyone is being far too harsh. BH is trying to honour his father...not just "cash in".

Anonymous said...

Sand Chigger is border line retarded

Kinrowan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kinrowan said...

I am in agreement with many of you here - I read Dune series originally when I was just 8 years old and have re-read hundreds of times since.
When I read any of the 'new Dune' books I feel like I am reading fan fic, and poorly written fanfic at that! Now I have never respected nor enjoyed anything that KJA has written, but BH actually has some good works of his own, which he should continue to develop as opposed to writing more based on the concept his father created.
Issues:
Their chapter headings are trite rather than profound, their plots barely make sense in terms of the real books. But what bothers me most is the filling in of every single detail! Part of Franks genius was that he didn't have to tell us everything. He had this fully formed world in his own mind and was telling a story within it. It allow the reader to imagine, let their thoughts fly and envision how things might have been in the background.
Now I, unlike many Dune fans, was not all that excited to find out what happened after Chapterhouse. I loved that ending, I loved the cliffhanger. As a kid I would draw copious amount of pictures of Duncan and Sheena flying off into the great unknown, and imagine what was waiting for them.
When the new books came out, I admit to reading them all for the same reason I own so many things written on Dune -- Because its a passion and I felt compelled too. In the last of the sequels I came close to throwing the book off a balcony in frustration and disgust. The only thing that stopped me was the fact someone might get hurt below!

And now with Paul and Winds of Dune I feel like BH is betraying his fathers trust. Frank had no intention of ever embellishing the books in that manner. This is not about continuing his legacy. If it was they would have done the sequels based on Franks outline and left it at that. This is about money, and churning out published works.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people comment badly on this series. Why? It's best if the new books are considered as "what-if" books and not really A-canon. I for one really enjoyed this saga(I can't stop reading whenever I get a new one) and I don't care about the obvious plot holes their stories have. It's what-if and the original books remain unaffected by that. They are still good writers in my opinion and make one hell of a saga. It's like Star Wars prequels and originals. If you're a purist, don't watch.

Kinrowan said...

Anon - My problem is I feel it's poorly written/ edited on top of being non-canon. Like I said before it's similar to some fan-fic I've read. If it wasn't Dune I wouldn't have read more than one.