Hunters of Dune by Herbert, Brian & Kevin J. Anderson, 2006

Hunters of Dune by Herbert, Brian  & Kevin J. Anderson - Book cover from Amazon.co.uk

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Well, I allowed you fine folks to make my choice for me, and I have completed Hunters of Dune, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Suffice it to say, its been everything I thought it would be. Summarizing this book in one sentence may be difficult, mostly because there was so much going on. In my opinion there were one or two shiny spots (I am loathe to call any of them "bright spots,") and an overwhelming number of spots that brought on the "swap-adab," or, the demanding impulse that comes upon you to slap your forehead with the palm, creating the sound of "SWAP," as an expression of frustration and hopelessness. Other critics were right about one thing: Its better than the Legends series, but not by a whole lot. I give this a well-earned two out of five stars.

Its difficult to put into words what was good about this book. It was complex, and that is usually a good thing for me. There is quite a bit of intrigue and back-stabbing, and probably just under half of that was pretty well conceived. But after that, there really is not much in this book that will give me any pause to sell it the next time I go to the used book store. I will also happily admit that the action sequences, taken on their own, were pretty much top notch. Those two do have a flair for that sort of thing.

Where to start? The poor word choices ("coital collisions)? The improper and just plain wrong characterizations ("mercurial" Honored Matres, p. 113. Face dancers sharing a disdain with the Ixians for fanaticism, p. 182)? The one-page-then-abandoned attempt at hard science fiction (Two paragraphs about the adrenaline drug, seemingly out of nowhere, p. 171)? The overwritten sentences (Khrone "using his rage as a crutch" when gathering his breath after being tachyonified by Erasmus, nee Marty, p. 132). Murbella pondering the Honored Matres: "Those terrible women from the Scattering had their dark secrets, their shame, their ignominious crimes" (p. 423).

I wont go into the repetition at all. Its been mentioned by others too many times already. But the constant summary got to me even more. Do I really need to be told that L. Kynes was a "visionary planetologist who rallied the Fremen to create a garden." Not that there is anything wrong with informing new readers, but don't you think a new reader may wonder what a "planetologist," is. I certainly didn't see a description anywhere here.

Probably most distressing however was what seemed to me to be the incredible idiocy that the Honored Matres were imbued with in this book. For example, why in the heck does Hellica (a choice of character names I'm not even going to touch with a ten-foot pole) wait 13 (THIRTEEN!) years to ask Uxtall what he really needs to make spice with tanks? Why does Bellonda go into battle herself without sharing (p. 108) against the renegade Honored Matre ship? What kind of success strategy is it that keeps the Honored Matres from even communicating with each other, even if they don't want to hang out with each other?

There also seemed to be some serious problems with storytelling that make absolutely no sense to me. For example, why is Norma too busy to tell her guild members how the spice problem is going to be resolved after she went to the trouble of dragging them to the middle of nowhere (p. 294)? Why doesn't Murbella even wonder what the Phibians want with spice for their labors to get soostones, when the one she speaks too doesn't even consume it (p. 287). Doesn't she worry that it will go in trade to the guild, a group she is deliberately trying to strangle by restricting the flow of melange to them? Why doesn't the Honored Matre in the trashed ship that comes close to Chapterhouse know that Murbella, the person she is directly in front of and speaking to, is a Bene Gesserit by the blue-in-blue eyes of melange addiction, and how are the New Sisterhood women who have gone through the spice agony, and have blue-in-blue eyes (and certainly do not have the orange speckling of Honored Matre eyes), going to infiltrate the Honored Matre camp on Tleilax (I can't recall page numbers here)? Why, oh why, does Uxtal not use the old method of reviving the body of Waff instead of growing 64 new ones from cellular material if he needs the secret to growing spice in the tanks quickly? How in the heck do the navigators of the no ship the gholas are on just happen to randomly jump into the immediate vicinity of two planets (The dead HM no-planet and the NFD/Handler world)? Does anyone out there reading this know how virtually impossible this would really be, with the immensity of space?

Finally, I found nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing unique that I though a female reader could identify with or appreciate, and quite a bit that probably turned them off completely. I acknowledge that Frank Herbert's vision was not a paragon of feminist virtues. But in addition to impressing male characteristics on some of his female characters, Frank Herbert did show the strength and utility of feminine traits, and gave his female characters virtues based on their femininity. I saw absolutely none of that in this new book, and wonder if there was any damage done to the female reader base as a result. And...when did Bellonda become a joke? I certainly don't remember any of that in Frank Herbert's book.

I really was expecting more from this book. If you follow any of what I generally say on these pages then you probably already know that the problems I had with the Legends series were that the writing seemed to be more of a commercial exercise than an expression of passion, and the characters seemed quite flat and somewhat moronic. Both of those criticisms felt a little different to me here. I got the impression when I read this book that BH and KJA are feeling proud of the work they have done, and that they are producing something worthy of Frank Herbert. I applaud them for that, even if I disagree with the particular vehicle they have chosen. Moreover, it felt to me like these two have matured as Dune authors. They even pointed out a few of their problems, instead of ignoring the inconsistencies (for example, Serena Bulter being in Sheanna's Other Memory).

But despite those good things, and the good things I mentioned in the second paragraph, I don't think that this was a very good book overall. If it were anything other than a Dune book, then I admit I would probably be using a different yardstick. I may even have given it three out of five stars. But this book was written to be a sequel to one of the most brilliant science fiction series ever written. I acknowledge that the authors know that they are not Frank Herbert, and were not trying to emulate him. And as authors they have every right to put their own stamp on their own work. My point is, I don't think it belongs as the book people will go to buy after they have finished Chapterhouse Dune. It just doesn't feel to me like a worthy successor. I'm glad for the authors that many, maybe even most, seem to disagree with me. And I will still buy Sandworms, just to see how things wind up. But I foresee that it too shall be consigned to resale at Beers Books shortly thereafter.

Things I am intentionally ignoring here: The silly Baron ghola character. The boring epigraphs (save for the one I saw that I think Frank Herbert wrote) that were nothing but quotations with no excerpts from future treatises. Three solid years of torture for the Baron ghola and he only gets mouthier (I think it may be time to bring in a torturer sub-contractor), which is resolved by a hokey sensory deprivation chamber. 1,500 years of anger (without the benefit of OM) in a bunch of women who used to be Axlotl tanks. Don't you think they would move on at some point and live to be happy and free from the Tleilaxu? The complete improbability of a weapon as destructive and as small as an Obliterator. The internal consistency of a visible no-planet (huh?) and an invisible no-ship (I give you an even bigger "huh?"). And countless others I just don't feel like writing about anymore.

Copyright 2008, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 0 star(s)

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