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Book Review: Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

* Genre: Space Opera
* ISBN: 0765312948
* ISBN-13: 9780765312945
* Format: Hardcover, 512pp
* Publisher: TOR
* Pub. Date: September 2008
* Series: Heroes of Dune Series, #1
* Dune/Brian Herbert Website
* Kevin J. Anderson Website
* Watch six videos of the authors discussing the Dune universe and Paul of Dune in depth.

The Dune sequel/prequels by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert have garnered a lot of mixed reactions. Some readers have thought that Anderson and Herbert have destroyed the legacy of Brian Herbert’s father, Frank, the creator of Dune and writer of the first six books in the Dune universe. Other readers have thought them fine works, completely in keeping with Frank Herbert’s original story. But the vast majority of readers (of which I am now one) think that while Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert’s Dune Collaborations are a worthy successor to the original novels, they are not the most worthy successor.

With the recent publication of Paul of Dune this debate is likely to flair up to an even greater degree than before. You see, whereas before Brian Herbert and Anderson has limited themselves to writing only prequels and sequels to the original six novels, Paul of Dune goes farther and tries to fill in the gaps in time left by Frank Herbert in his original series.

Paul of Dune begins where the first novel Dune left off. Paul Atreides/Muad’Dib has conquered Dune and now controls the spice, the one thing that mankind must have to travel the stars. He has not yet reached Messiah status, but he is moving that way. Meanwhile, he is consolidating his power as Emperor of the Known Universe, and conquering all planets that resist him. Through this primary plot line, the character Paul moves slowly towards the second book by the original author Dune Messiah.

But in a secondary plot line that moves along simultaneously with the primary one (the book is divided into sections that move back and forth between the two plots) we learn a bit about young Paul Atreides as he is caught up in a War of Assassins between his father Duke Leto and the mad scion of House Moritani.

As the two plots move one around the other, we learn a bit about the man that Paul was, and what he has become out of necessity, the man his prescience vision of the destruction of mankind has made him. The juxtaposition of the two characters/one man creates a nice interplay that also allows Anderson and Brian Herbert to connect Dune and Dune Messiah without overly adding to or making nonsensical the two original novels.

The problems for the novel come not from any new events that don’t jive with the original stories, or even a sacrifice of the characterization of Frank Herbert. Rather, although Brian Herbert and Anderson are very good at telling an adventure filled political space opera that is fast and entertaining, they lack the ability the Frank Herbert has to give the reader a sense of mystery and mysticism.

Frank Herbert’s original novels engendered a true sense of wonder, both at his writing skill and his ability to create such a complex, convoluted world. Frank Herbert’s instinctual knowledge of history, culture, politics and religion and their subtle interplay, is treated much more heavy-handedly in Paul of Dune. Whereas Frank Herbert was decidedly a descriptive author, simply letting events speak for themselves, his son and Anderson tend more towards being prescriptive, telling the reader what events mean. Their style of writing is not didactic, but many readers prefer to self-interpret when they read, rather than being told, especially fans of the original books. That may be the best way to explain why some fans take great umbrage with the works of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, as compared to Frank Herbert’s.

But Paul of Dune is not a bad novel. In fact, it is quite entertaining. Anderson and Brian Herbert draw you in with exciting political intrigue, and surprising plot twists. Ultimately, I think readers should approach this work as a worthy successor to Frank Herbert’s legacy. Admittedly, it is not the same, and there are some authors who probably could more closely align themselves with Frank Herbert’s vision, but Paul of Dune is not a “bad” book. It is quite a good one, in fact. Its characters are compelling, its plot exciting and never lacking in interesting events, and the primary protagonist is not static. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are good writers and they write good science fiction. I can say without caveat that Paul of Dune is an excellent read and well worth your time.