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

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

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The Butlerian Jihad, 2003

The Machine Crusade, 2004

The Battle of Corrin, 2005

Before I begin, I should say that I have read Frank Herbert's Dune books many times, and have read the Dune Encyclopedia by Willis E. McNelly just as much. I mention the Dune Encyclopedia only so that you readers know something about my outlook on the Dune universe, and know that I wished in my heart of hearts that these two "authors" had used it more as source material for the new novels. As to the new books, I have read the Legends series, and House Atreides, which made me want to barf. Finally, I prayed for years that someone would pick up where Frank Herbert left off and start writing more Dune novels. My final message on these books: Be careful what you ask for.

To me, Frank Herbert's writing style is quite unique. Someone once said that he never picked up or used an idea without making sure first that it was completely thought out, parsed and dissected. That makes perfect sense to me. I mean, how can you have a God-like character discuss anything without making sure that his (or it's) opinions on the matter sounded God-like? Not that I attribute that as Frank's motivation. I think that he genuinely wanted to create a universe that a reader would have as deep an understanding of after reading about it as the one we are actually in. And despite Frank's "errors" in later books we all seem to acknowledge that he accomplished that, and did it well. It seems like Frank had a genuine love not only for writing, but the story itself. I have read before that he had be cajoled, and maybe even bullied, into writing a sequel. Well, I can buy that, because Dune Messiah is the worst, in my opinion, of the original 6. But as some point I imagine that a light must have gone off in his head, and he may have realized that he could actually recapture the absolute magic of Dune, because he did it four more times before passing away.

The younger Herbert and Anderson, on the other hand, do not seem to me to share the love that Frank had for his creations. Their interest smacks to me of a business decision, and not what we all wanted; an expression of passion. Various Dune boards on the internet are full of "evidence" that my original thought on this matter is correct. (i.e., Brian Herbert not even reading his father's books until he was 25 or so, Anderson being selected as a co-author because of his experience in mass market, shared-world writings, etc). In short, none of what I have read here or elsewhere has convinced me that either of these two share any of my love for this story. The fact that well over 4000 pages of drivel, not all of which I have read, fails to change my opinion. As a matter of fact, the reality that these guys took so many books and pages to tell the back stories so far, and are going to take two books to tell what Frank probably could have done in one, supports my own conclusion that they are probably in it more for the money than the job.

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. But in this case, I really don't like the product. When I first read The first of the Legends series, The Butlerian Jihad, I was so into the idea of this story that I convinced myself that I liked it, despite what I saw as some serious writing problems. A little while later, I realized that it wasn't as good as I was making it out to be, but I read the other two books in that series just to finish. It did not get any better. As a matter of fact, it got worse. To me, it was nothing more than three novels of set-up for Dune 7 & 8. I had that figured out pretty early. It read to me like everything was a plot device to get from point A to point Z prime, which could have been accomplished in a much more interesting and readable way.

For example, Ominous and Erasmus. Who here thinks that the absolute limitless potential of these characters was squandered to set up a machine empire that could not possibly survive? I mean, these two were actually stupid, and I don't mean that pejoratively. They were actually nimrods (OK, maybe I do). Nothing they did was accomplished with anything short of brute force, none of the misunderstandings they had about humanity even bordered on the believable, and they had no purpose at all. I mean, why were they even there? Did they really want their own worlds where they could do their little machine things? What were they making? Why did they do it? What were the Machine Empire's goals? Well, let me tell you. The Machine Empire's purpose was to give Vorian Atredies, the only human character of any consequence, something to at first to respect, then to be torn over, then hate. That's it. Nothing more. They had no scheme. They presented no real threat, other than a military one. They wanted the human planets for God knows why, because they pretty much did nothing with the ones they had but sit there and download to Ominus, and conduct horrific soul-less experiments on half-feral humans. They did nothing to secure their own future, save come up once (once!) with a plan to shoot probes into space and colonize other planets. I suppose that was part of the "tapestry" of background that these two dolts came up with; a serious difference in outlook and mechanism of thought between human and machine. But come on, these things are supposed to be intelligent. The fact that they were nothing more than brutal imbeciles created a universe where humanity could not lose, created no real conflict that would draw a reader in, and was actually nothing more than 1800 pages of set up for the next two books. The travesty is that it could have been its own story and been a good set up.

Last but not least, I cannot sign off without addressing the writing. I do think that there were some bright spots. At least I remember thinking that as I read, but for some reason cant pull any examples from the recesses of brain right now. But here's what I do recall: Something along the lines of, "Oh my dear Gilbertus, I love you so, and shall call you 'Mentat,' and it shall be a secret name between us!" Huh? Did we really need that? Was the point to be paternalistic in that Erasmus not only created his own son, but the replacement in the human universe for machines, or was the purpose to bore us to death with a useless character that said nothing and gawked at the moronic Serena ghola, who herself served no purpose at all?

One of my jobs is to advise insurance claims handlers as to how to handle claims made against and by our company's insureds. The young ones all make the same basic mistake at the start. They completely fail to make a plan of how to resolve the claim from the get go. A seasoned handler will look at the facts of the claim, interview witnesses, visit the scene, and look at damage. Then he or she will sit down and plan out how to get a contested claim resolved. This entails a multi-step plan and a thoughtful analysis pretty early on. Sometimes the young ones will look at a claim, decide what needs to be done immediately, do it, then reevaluate and see what needs to be done next based on changed circumstances. It sounds like it may work, but it never does. When I read these books, I felt like I was reading a rookie's claims file. Not that it was that boring, but because it looked like there was no concrete goal or plan in place, and the two writers were just e-mailing a big Microsoft Word file back and forth and adding a chapter when it was in their in-box, leaving the other guy to add something without any discussion as to purpose or direction. Lets all hope though that these guys got through their rookie years with the last six books, and are ready to write like persons with experience.

EDIT: Since originally writing this review in late 2006 I have read Hunters and part of Sandworms. It would appear that my hopes were to be dashed upon the rocks, as they both suck soiled ass.

Copyright 2007, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 1 star(s)


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