Paul of Dune

~by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Dune by Frank Herbert is one of my favorite books. My mom (who hates science fiction) brought home a copy for me from a garage sale while I was in high school. I devoured it at band camp one year, loved it, and have read it several times since (it's about due for another re-read, actually). I went on to read the next couple of books in the series, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, but didn't like them nearly as well, though I feel like I should give them another try in the near future. I haven't read any of Frank Herbert's other Dune books, nor have I read any of the books written after his death, co-authored by his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (which I've read exceedingly mixed reviews for). However, when the newest installment, Paul of Dune was offered up for review, I happily nabbed a copy.

Paul of Dune acts as a direct sequel to Dune, covering the time period between it and Dune Messiah. It also serves as the first volume of a new trilogy, Heroes of Dune (Paul of Dune will be followed by Jessica of Dune and Irulan of Dune), which will continue to fill in gaps and expand upon the original trilogy. Paul of Dune chronicles the transition of the Empire after Paul Atreides, also known as Paul Muad'Dib and considered a Messiah by many, overthrows Emperor Shaddam IV and instates himself on the throne. What follows is a violent and bloody Jihad that sweeps the galaxy as his followers are willing to do anything to ensure his dominance and divinity, quickly making Paul despised and hated across the universe. In addition to this, much of the book jumps back in time, exploring Paul's youth and the formative years partially responsible for making him who he is now. The story bounces around quite a bit, following the perspective of the major players in the unfolding drama, including Paul, Princess Irulan, Stilgar, Shaddam IV, Count Fenring, and many, many others, making the book feel a little unfocused.

Despite the fact that it has been many years since I have read any of the Dune books, I noticed several inconsistencies between them and Paul of Dune, and I suspect that there are others that I didn't pick up on. Some of these inconsistencies were cleverly explained away somewhat while others were completely ignored. (Granted, I'm led to believe that Frank Herbert's own books sometimes had consistency problems as well.) The plot and characters were hardly complicated or deep and seemed at times rather superficial and shallow, and even contradictory. The writing was clear and readable, but unfortunately it frequently suffered from "telling" instead of "showing."

In all, I wasn't overly impressed with Paul of Dune--it wasn't horrendous, but it really wasn't that great, either. I wasn't expecting it to be on par with Dune (heck, even the senior Herbert's other Dune books weren't of the same caliber), but I did find it lacking in the sort of details and focus that I was hoping for and I struggled to keep myself interested. For the most part, I do think that it can work as a stand alone novel, which is an impressive feat considering the complexity of the Dune universe. For Dune completists, Paul of Dune is probably worth pursuing, but I would be hesitant in recommending it to many other people. However, the book has rekindled my love and interest for the original, so I will thank the Herbert and Anderson team for that.


M.N.G. said...

is also illuminating :)

Phoenix said...

Ah, Penny Arcade, never afraid to be honest. :-)