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Dune: House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Published by Bantam Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
Dune: House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson is the long-awaited and much promoted (or should we say "much hyped") prequel to Frank Herbert's classic Dune saga. It is set about fifty years before the beginning of Dune, when Paul Atreides' father Leto is still a young man.
Like many prequels, it suffers most from the problem of trying to tie everything together a little too neatly. In many places the efforts of the writers to explain how things got to the state they are in is just a little too painfully obvious. In other places glaring inconsistancies with facts established in the original books jar the reader. (It should be noted that the writers of this volume saw no need whatsoever to even attempt consistency with the materials in the Dune Encyclopedia, a volume that was called the "authorized companion" to the Dune saga, a description implying that Frank Herbert had vetted the content for accuracy -- in fact, the authors seem to totally ignore or even deliberately contradict it). Also, there is the problem of, having known how things will be later, constantly wondering "now how are they going to get there from here?" when presented with events that don't seem to quite fit with one's preconceptions of how things would have to be.
Additionally, it is often a let-down to actually see events and people who were only glimpsed or hinted at in the original series. Pardot Kynes somehow seemed greater, wiser, when we knew him only through his son's memories and through the brief essay at the end of the original book. When we meet him in this volume, he becomes much more a stereotypical "absent-minded professor" scientist. Perhaps J.R.R. Tolkien's warning about inquiring too deeply about the world of fairy stories, that "to go there is to destroy the magic," holds true in science fiction as well.
Part of it may be simply the fact that this is not the work of the original creator of Dune. New hands have taken it over, and even if one pair does belong to his son, they still can only echo what was established, guess at the unverbalized intentions that lay in the original creator's mind. Perhaps the best way to read this is not as a real addition to the Dune cannon, but as a sort of authorized, legal fan-fiction. Enjoy it, but don't take it seriously as representing the genuine Dune.
(Note: I have since been informed that the Dune Encyclopediawww.dunebooks.com. Apparently "authorized" in this case only means that Frank Herbert gave his legal authorization for the project, not that the contents are in any way to be considered authoritative.
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This review posted January 1, 2000
Updated March 29, 2001.
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