Book Review: The Butlerian Jihad & The Machine Crusade

ButlerianJihadby Michael D. Pederson

 

Dune: The Butlerian Jihad
Dune: The Machine Crusade
Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Tor, 621 pp. and 643 pp.

It’s hard to get excited about licensed continuations of science fiction classics. Usually. However, Herbert and Anderson proved with their first trilogy that they are more than qualified to play in the late Frank Herbert’s sandbox. House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and House Corrino dealt with all the backstory leading up to the birth of Paul Atreides. They were enjoyable and faithful to the original but felt claustrophobic at times—we all know how it has to end and there isn’t much room for surprises. This time though, tackling the Jihad (10,000 years pre-Dune), Herbert and Anderson have free reign to cut loose and leave their own mark on this classic series. Butlerian Jihad sets the scene: An artificial MachineCrusadeintelligence named Omnius and his army of cyborg (Cymek) and robot warriors have enslaved mankind. Military leader Xavier Harkonnen and his fiancé Serena Butler head up the resistance. Vorian Atreides, son of the Cymek Agamemnon, works alongside the machines against humanity. Along the way, we see the invention of Holtzmann shield generators, the first wormride, the early roots of the Guild, the enslavement of the Zensunni tribes, and a planet of female telepathic Sorceresses that you just know is going to turn into the Bene Gesserit. It’s an intricately plotted story that plumbs the depths of human emotions and pokes and picks at the very definition of humanity. For most of the book humanity is on the defensive; dealing with losses that range from tactical to deeply personal, the characters become clearly defined instantly in a way that draws the reader into the action. By the end of Jihad, mankind—lead by Butler, Harkonnen, former slave Iblis Ginjo, and the reformed Atreides—has begun its holy war against the machines. The Machine Crusade picks up twenty-five years into the Jihad. The Cymeks are fighting to overthrow Omnius and humans have succeeded in liberating several planets from the machines. Where Jihad dealt more with the evils of the machines and the inevitable Frankenstein issues, Crusade deals instead with the evils of man. Herbert and Anderson focus on the plight of the Zensunni people, fighting for freedom against their hypocritical human slavers; Iblis Ginjo, Grand Patriarch of the Jihad, and Arrakis tribal leader Naib Dartha both succumb to the corruption of power and money; and the organ harvesting operations of the Tlalaxu are exposed. In the end humanity’s evils are overshadowed by the heroes’ acts of bravery and self-sacrifice. It is a beautifully crafted, emotional story arc. By the final page most of the main characters have been killed so one can assume that the concluding book of the series will take the story into still more unexplored territory in the Dune universe. Stay tuned.

 

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