Book Review: The Battle of Corrin

BattleOfCorrinby Michael D. Pederson

 

Dune: The Battle of Corrin
Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Tor, 620 pp.

By now the battle lines have been drawn, you either love the new Dune prequels or you hate them. I fall into the former camp. Sure, they don’t capture the epic glory or beautiful literary grace of the original Dune but they do go a long way to recapturing the awe and majesty of the science fiction of days gone by. There’s nothing groundbreaking here but there’s lots of that Wow! factor that brought us all to science fiction in the first place. That said, it is the conclusion of the trilogy and all of the freedom that Herbert and Anderson have had in the previous two books has been revoked. It has to be wrapped up in such a way that will remain consistent with Frank Herbert’s Dune. Before you turn page one you know that, among other things, the Harkonnen name has to be disgraced and the Jihad has to eliminate all computer technology. By the end, all of the pieces are indeed where they need to be but some of the resolutions come off forced and clumsy. It’s still a fun ride though and if you liked the first two you’ll enjoy this one as well.

 

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.

 

Book Review: Dreamer of Dune

DreamerOfDuneby Michael D. Pederson

 

Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert
Brian Herbert
Tor Books, 576 pp.

Frank Herbert made science fiction respectable. Dune is still one of the most honored books of the twentieth century. It’s a series that I rank as one of my all time favorites, and I have read it countless times. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read an insider’s account of the life of Frank Herbert. As told by his son, Brian, the story unfolds as one of intense passion and deep tragedy. Along the way, there are several insights into the creation of Herbert’s works, including the magnificent Dune series. But the true focus of the book is on Herbert’s relationships with his wife and sons. Brian Herbert writes very honestly about his father’s shortcomings and very lovingly about his strengths. He does have a tendency to repeat himself at times though. He mentions on no less than three occasions that the song “Greensleeves” may have been written by their ancestor, Henry VIII. A minor nuisance at worst and despite it, I was unable to put the book down once I picked it up.