Feb 1, 2011

[Books] The Winds of Dune

The Winds of DuneThere's an old saying that talks about insanity being demonstrated by repeating an action while expecting a different result. As extreme as that statement may be, if anything it does stress the need to level proper expectations along with the understanding that if you want change, you need to change what you're doing.

I have to admit that I have an odd, somewhat morbid fascination with the continuing Dune novels written after the death of Frank Herbert. Frank Herbert was a legendary visionary whose words totally changed my life after I first read Dune and it's more than unfair to expect that any successors should perform as the same level he did. And yet I suppose to some degree, this is exactly what a part of me is hoping for every time I pick up the latest novel created set within the Dune universe.

When I first started on this novel, a part of me still had reason to hope. It started well enough but then, well, the old adage reasserted itself and I was left feeling crummy again. If anything, at least I read it before you did (I hope), so this review should ensure you have all the information that you need before coming to a final decision about whether or not you should read this book.

Brian Herbert at a book signing at Books Inc. ...Image via WikipediaThe Winds of Dune is the second of the four-part Heroes of Dune interquel created by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. It takes place after the events of the original Dune Chronicle book, Dune Messiah.

Emperor Paul Muad'Dib has wandered alone into the desert to die in line with Fremen law, leaving his Imperium without a ruler. Alia is now Regent until Paul's twins come of age and naturally it is a volatile time for everyone. At the same time, Bronso of Ix continues his defamation campaign in a significant effort aimed at discrediting Paul Atreides and swearing the reputation of the royal house.

When Jessica, Paul's mother, finally learns of what is essentially his death, she immediately sets off for Arrakis after having stay away for so many years during the heights of Paul's violent jihad. She finds herself back in the world of intrigue and conspiracies that surrounds the imperial court while she tries to come to terms with the death of her son and the greater burden of what Paul expects her to do.

Interlaced with this story is a series of flashbacks that take us back to Paul's childhood shortly before Arrakis. In this arc we learn of his close friendship with Bronso Vernius of Ix and how the two ran away together. Their time amongst the famed Jongleurs who live a nomadic life was more than just a childhood adventure, however, since it may better explain more of what made Paul the powerful leader that he was fated to be.

The book starts largely focused on Jessica and I have to admit that the tone that Brian and Kevin achieved felt very close to Frank's original style. This was an achievement in itself given how the previous books all disappointed me so much and felt like horrible false additions to the Dune legacy. It was refreshing to follow around a female protagonist given how well Frank Herbert captured such moments in his books and gave true power to women (as is more than merited)

However we fell back into the annoying flashbacks pattern that seems highly self-referential with respect to the Brian Herbert-Kevin J. Anderson books. As much as I can respect the need to look back to the past from a narrative perspective, I just wish that such references were story-driven and not marketing-driven. Even if all this was more the former rather than the latter, it certainly doesn't feel that way given the sheer lack of grace and elegance in how such moments are inserted. Plus rooting around in the formative years of Dune's primary characters just leads to greater disappointment and a significant risk of creating unusual stories that don't quite fit with the characters they "grow up" to be in the core six Dune Chronicles.

But the end of the book, all appreciation for their attempts to feature Jessica well died with my disgust over the ending. The convoluted path forward in the third act of the story mainly serves to set up the value of a sequel to this title while haphazardly trying to resolve the unusual premise they presented us with.

The Winds of Dune could have been the first post-Frank Herbert Dune book that I could have proudly proclaimed to like. Instead it degenerated into just another pale imitation of the universe and thus another reason for us to call for an end to these books and demand that Brian learn to create his own successful book franchise. The Winds of Dune is available online or in major book retailers in your area.

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