Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dune: House Atreides

The first book in the first series of prequels to the Dune universe is House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Brian Herbert is Frank Herbert's son and these books are based off of the outline that his father had established for the Dune universe.

If you are a fan of the Dune world, this book is well worth your time. While Brian is unable to elicit the grandeur of his father's writing, he is a talented writer. In a book set a generation earlier than Dune, we get to see the seminal stories of the characters and situations that will drive the story of Paul Maud'Dib.

In addition to the characters from Dune, we are introduced to a set of new characters who will help form the Dune universe. There is a good balance. Enough new characters are added to give the story life, but not so many as to drag the book into tedium. We get to see the worlds of Ix and Caladan, although neither gets fleshed out much.

On the critical side of things, the book is solidly written, but does not transport one as the great books do. It suffers from some of the issues that plague any prequel (Star Wars, I mean you).

Situations often do not have real drama, because we already know how they will end. (A great counterpoint to this was the movie Apollo 13. I found myself holding my breath as they reentered the atmosphere, although I remember when it happened in real life and know they would make it. Not an easy accomplishment.) We lose one of the greatest joys of fantasy and science fiction, the discovery of a new world/universe. Part of the amazement of reading Dune for the first time was that joy of dicovery, as we learned of this amazing world for the first time. God Emperor was able to recapture this, to some extent, by being changed enough from the first three books to be almost a new world.

In the end, if you have already read Frank Herbert's Dune books, and need another fix, House Atreides may fit the bill nicely. If you are new to the Dune Universe, do not make the mistake of starting here because it is set before Dune, run, don't walk to get your own copy of Dune.

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