Monday, April 07, 2008

Sandwords of Dune Book Review

Sandworms of Dune
Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson

Book Review by Dan Tres Omi

Omi's Note: I know this is a blog about Star Wars. Just bear with me. There will be an addendum to this post.

Many consider this to be the final installment in the Frank Herbert's Dune universe. Fortunately for Dune fans (depending on who you talk to), there will be other books written centered in the Dune universe. Brian Herbert, the son of the late author, and Kevin J. Anderson decided to conclude the Dune story after finding several pages of handwritten notes by the elder Herbert which detailed the conclusion of the House Atreides, the planet Arrakis, and the conflict between humanity and the thinking machines.

This author has read all of Frank Herbert's books and jumped at the chance of reading the prequels written by his son and Anderson. However, Brian Herbert and Anderson have yet to match Frank Herbert's brilliant writing and masterful vision. Yet this author does to expect anyone else to. Anderson has written several Star Wars novels and penned his own books that encompasses an entire universe with it's own history in the Saga of the Seven Suns series. Again, this author must admit that reading the prequels and the books after Chapterhouse was not as easy as reading Frank Herbert's original books. The writing quality is just not up to par. Yet reading all of those books helps to explain the history of the Dune universe.

For one to fully understand why the humans during Paul Mu'adib's time and that of his son Leto II did not use thinking machines, one must read the “Butlerian Jihad” and “The Machine Crusade.” To get a full grasp of why the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood operate in the manner in which they do, the prequels have to be read. Many a Dune fan has expressed their regret for picking up a few of these books. Yet learning about Frank Herbert's world through the notes interpreted through the younger Herbert and Anderson is worth it all in my opinion.

Sandwords of Dune takes place after Hunters of Dune which takes place immediately after the events of Frank Herbert's final chapter in the Dune universe before his unexpected demise. In Hunters of Dune, we follow the ghola Duncan Idaho who pilots the no ship Ithaca and his crew of refugees who escaped the genocide of the Honored Matres from Chapterhouse, the homeworld of the Bene Gesserit. Sheanna, a Bene Gesserit has decided to grow gholas of famous figures in histoy such as Paul Atreides, Chani his concubine, Dr. Yueh Wellington, Lady Jessica, Thufir Hawat, Leto II, Liet Kynes, and Stilgar. In Hunters... Matre Supreme Commander Murbella finally unites the Honored Matres and the Bene Genesserits to form the New Sisterhood to mobilize humanity against a centuries old enemy. We also learn that the thinking machines have returned to confront humanity in one final battle and have been scheming for centuries on their revenge under the watchful eye of Omnius and Erasmus.

In Sandworms, the Ithaca is still being pursued by Omnius and Erasmus. At the same time, Omnius has grown his own gholas of Paul Atreides and the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Murbella finally has mustered every available warship and soldier the universe has to prepare against the final battle with the thinking machines. Omnius has calculated that the key to fully defeating the humans is to control both Kiswatz Haderachs. Omnius sends a plague to destroy Chapterhouse since he understands that it is the New Sisterhood is humanity's only hope. Each action leads the major players closer and closer to the final confrontation which is full of surprises.

Of all of the prequels written by Brian Herbert and Anderson, I have to admit that Hunters... and Sandworms... are the best ones. Both writers build enough tension through Sandworms and throw in quite a few surprises. In the prequels concerning the Butlerian Jihad and the main houses of humanity, the story lines were tremendously predictable and several characters were ones the reader ended up not caring for. With the post Frank Herbert books, some new characters are really fleshed out.

Both authors pose more questions than answers. This adds to the mystery of the Dune series. There were so many plots within plots and this reminded me of Frank Herbert. Despite the destruction of Arrakis in Chapterhouse Dune, spice remained the ingredient that put everything together. Several groups, even the thinking machines, fought over this commodity. Personally, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the story. Not only did the two authors tie everything up from Frank Herbert's original novels but they also tied things up from the prequels as well. Many of the prequel characters make an appearance.
Much of what Frank Herbert used in his original books were also explained.

As stated before, there are several fans who are disappointed in the work Brian Herbert and Anderson have done. Yet this book is worth reading since everything is tied up properly. Plus it is always good to know what happens in the end.