December 18, 2017

The Dune Prequels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

(Note: all cover art is by Stephen Youll. Check him out at: http://www.stephenyoull.com/ )

Anyone who has followed the Sci-Fi portion of this blog knows that we here at Astroguyz tend to despise sequels. Instead of milking the one original idea a writer may have ever had, why not come up with something new and original? After all, there is already way too much recycling in media of our “cut and paste” culture, while good ideas languish in the dustbin. Of course, I can always reserve the right to feel differently when I’m published!

However, I love the Dune universe and have devoured most anything of the Dune genre. As of late, prequels have been the sexiest thing in Sci-Fi. Doubtless, this was because of the success of the Star Wars franchise. I was at first skeptical with the concept; it seemed like literary suicide, as the plot has already been preordained. (c’mon, how can we root for Anakin when we know he turns to the dark side?) Thus far through, the prequels for Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dune have all been tastefully done. Again, critics will say these are just mining known cash cows. But in the case of Dune, a wealth of history had yet to be revealed. I also think its fitting that Dune borrowed the prequel idea from Mr. Lucas; the first Star Wars movie smacks of Dune influence. A desert world, a mystical order, medieval nobility juxtaposed in a futuristic space drama… the only place they really differ is in the use of robotics. In Dune, thinking machines are evil and banned. In Star Wars, they are akin to a social minority.

For an exhaustive comparison of the two, check out: http://moongadget.com/origins/dune.html

Still, I’ve liked all of the prequels made thus far. The Star Wars universe has been more fully envisioned as a result; and Enterprise may be the best Star Trek series yet. And yes, there is a retro-young James T. Kirk Star Trek movie in the works! In a sense, Dune was overdue. 

The Dune Prequels were released in two sets of three. the first set House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and House Corrino, deals with the time from the death of Paulus Atreides (Paul’s grandfather) up until the birth of Paul himself. The later set, the Butlerian Jihad, the Machine Crusade, and the Battle of Corrin deals with man’s revolt against the thinking machines and the Jihad spawned by Serena Butler.

Let me say in a short note that I anticipated the Jihad series more; but enjoyed the “Houses” series the most. The style of both is a bit faster paced and less dense than the original Dune saga; another “Star Wars” influence, perhaps? I’d still, however, advocate that the original Dune is a collossus that stands on its own.

In the “Houses” saga, key issues are addressed; I’d liken these to the “origins” plot scheme common in comic books. The birth of familiar characters such as Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, and Planetologist Kynes are flushed out. The familiar Dune universe is already in place; CHOAM and the Spacing Guild control space commerce, the Imperial houses vie for power, and the Bene Gesserit plot their breeding program to bring about the Kwisatz Haderach. All of this balances on the trade of the Spice, a metaphor I’ve always seen as akin to modern oil production. Much of the three books deal with the Tleilaxu occupation of the planet Ix and the Emperor’s plot to artificially manufacture melege. Political and Royal intrigue runs throughout all three books, which I believe makes for a delicious read.

The “Jihad” saga deals with a much older time. I agree with one Amazon reviewer that it is strange to see robots in Dune books! The discovery of key elements, such as the Holtzman drive, the destruction of Earth by atomics, and the discovery of the Spice itself are addressed. I thought the Zen Sunni/Shiite split was an interesting touch. The oppression of humans by their own kind is a theme that adds complexity to the Dune universe. This seems to be an emerging commentary in the post 9/11 world; think the new Battlestar Galactica series.  Still, I’d rather fight the evil robots of Omnius than the Cylons…

I thought the ”Jihad” series lost momentum towards the third book. Once humanity utilized atomics, the writing was on the wall. It seemed as if the Battle of Corrin struggled for direction.  Few surprises were presented.

Late Dune newsflash: Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have produced a new Dune sequel, Hunters of Dune. At seven titles, the younger Herbert has written more Dune novels than his father! I’m currently in the midst of reading it; look for a future review here at Astroguyz. A second sequel has just been released titled Sandworms of Dune. Another movie adaptation of the original Dune movie is also in the works; lets hope it beats out the cheesy 80′s movie starring Sting. The Sci-Fi Channel’s adaptation of the first three books will be tougher to top. When will we finally see the other books on the big screen?

The Official Dune site: http://www.dunenovels.com/

And for awesome list of Dune terminology:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dune_terminology#H

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