Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

I dashed into Barnes & Nobles bright and early on the day after the August 22nd release of Dune 7: Hunters of Dune. I couldn't get home quick enough to tear into the universe of Dune, a universe I fell in love with several years ago. I caught onto Dune over a decade after Frank Herbert had penned 'Chapterhouse Dune', which most believed would be the final entry in a wondrous epoch. I was fortunate enough to be able to read all of the Dune novels straight through- never having to endure an agonizing wait for the next installment. I read the six prequels that Frank Herbert's son (Brian) and Kevin J. Anderson put together between 1999 and 2004. I felt like the prequels were flat compared to the original Frank Herbert canon. In my July, 2006 review of the prequels, I stated, "I liked the prequels, but when it comes to 'Dune', liking just isn't good enough. The standard is too high; BH and KJA didn't live up to the 'Dune' standards in the prequels, and I doubt they will in Dune 7". Fortunately I'm not flexible enough to put my foot in my mouth, so I'll have to eat crow instead! I was way off in my prediction of a mediocre follow-up to "Chaperhouse: Dune"!

The last installment in the Dune canon had such an enigmatic and abrupt ending that I was curious and skeptical as to how BH and KJA were going to credibly re-ignite the series. The good news is that they weren't flying blind- Frank Herbert had extensive notes on Dune 7, and I'm sure this is why 'Hunters' worked so much better than the prequels. 'Chapterhouse' ends with a Duncan Idaho ghola (similar to a clone, but with all of the memories of his previous lives), Sheana (Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother), Scytale (Tleilaxu Master), and several others stealing a no-ship the size of a city from Murbella and the Honored Matre/Bene Gesserit combined faction on 'Chapterhouse'. After their escape, they are captured in a cosmic net by an old man and old woman. Two decades later, we finally have an explanation!

The majority of the story takes place in three milieu's: aboard the no-ship that Duncan and team used in their escape, Chapterhouse (home of the New Sisterhood), and Tleilax. I got the sense that BH and KJA took greater care in both style and content to maintain continuity with original canon. I truly believe that if someone who had never read the dune novels were to pick up and read this series, from Dune to Hunters of Dune, they would not be able to tell that 'Hunters' was written by a different author(s). I know that's a bold statement, but throughout my journey into 'Hunters', it never felt like an imitation of Frank Herbert's work. This is in stark contrast to the prequels. None of the Dune novels matched the first book (Dune) in the series for philosophical grace and sheer literary beauty. That's not to say that the proceeding novels in the canon weren't excellent in their own right, but none of them matched the elegance of style or evoked the same kind of revelatory stir that 'Dune' created. With that in mind, 'Hunters' fit right into the previous five books in the series. A warning, though. 'Hunters of Dune' incorporates many subplots from several of the classic Dune novels, as well as the prequels, particularly the 'Legends of Dune' trilogy. If you haven't read all six of the original dune novels, I highly suggest that you do so before jumping into 'Hunters'. The complexities of the plot will seem overwhelming at best, and utterly incomprehensible at worst. The elder Herbert's characters often cited their plans as, "wheels within wheels" or "plans within plans". Dune 7 weaves a complex tapestry of many wheels within many wheels- a myriad of plans all working toward a grand universal plan that is too complicated to comprehend without a working knowledge of the many storylines that have been told thoughout the epoch. The latest installment to the series was sharp, poignant, and thoroughly enjoyable, but only because I had read all of the Dune canon, plus the 'Prelude to Dune', and 'Legends of Dune' trilogies. Part of the intrigue of the Dune universe is it's commentary on the inner-workings of politics, religion, and the essence of human survival. Complex topics encompassed in a complex story, both beautiful and brutal. This series deserves to be read in it's entirety, and 'Hunters of Dune' necessitates that, at the bare minimum, the entire Dune canon be read before this one can be savored, enjoyed, and appreciated for the great work of science-fiction that it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I think you may be in the minority on this review. The idea that you could pick this novel up and not tell the difference between it and Frank's work is a stretch a best. The blatant change in the Marty and Daniel storyline alone should be enough to put at least one black mark on this novel. The necessity to repeat, over and over, details that most readers could pick up on first mention is very unFrank in this reader's view. Hunters is a good novel, "but when it comes to 'Dune', liking just isn't good enough" as you so aptly put it....

10:02 AM  
Blogger Chris Allen Gaubatz said...

I will stand by my claim that this was a great work of science-fiction, but my enthusiasm for this continuation of the saga should not be confused with equating it with the originals. Of course BH and KJA will never match Frank Herbert's original canon! I was just impressed with the fact that I could still enjoy these new additions despite that fact. Thanks for the comments!

1:15 PM  

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