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

Paul of DuneWhile I was a big fan of Frank Herbert’s original Dune series, I find the later continuation books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson to be a bit inconsistent.  I imagine that this would be true of almost any series where new authors with different writing styles take up the torch and try to write the same characters with a new interpretation or vision that naturally differs slightly from that of the primary author.  This is certainly the case with Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

Though I was intrigued by the fact that it was an out-of-sync timeline designed to bridge the first and second books in the primary Dune series, I don’t believe that there was ultimately anything missing in that interim.  The story itself jumped between two timelines — Paul Atreides as a youth and the man Maud’Dib.  The episodic writing did not hinder the story in any way.  The transitions were smooth and easy to follow.  The main purpose of this book, in my opinion, is to define the driving forces that helped to create the man that Paul later became, as well as some of the difficult choices that he faced along the way and the people who helped to influence those choices, either directly or indirectly.

He was no longer simply Paul Atreides.   He was Maud’Dib, a role he had assumed so easily and perfectly that he was not always entirely certain which was the mask and which was his real personality.

Though I would not consider this book essential to the Dune series, it did provide some insights that might capture the interest of devoted Dune fans.  I appreciated the background development of some of the more minor characters in the overall series, particularly House Moritani, the Fenrings, and the Theilaxu people, as well as the more primary characters of Irulan and Alia.

Ultimately, no book in the Dune series has surpassed the majesty of the first novel or the combination of the first three in the series.  This didn’t stop me, however, from continuing to read them.  There is something fascinating about the Dune universe that incorporates hundreds or perhaps even thousands of planets, with histories and cultures that differ so dramatically.

6 comments

  1. I’ve read all the others to date, but after the last one (sandworms of Dune) I think I’ll give this a miss. Pushing into every last corner of a series just to sell a few more books seems like a good way to dilute what was originally very good.

  2. I grew tired of Frank Herbert’s last Dune novels, I did not consider Brian and Chris’ handling of Dune to be as inspired. I found much of their text to be mindless pap filling the void between less than revealing revelations. I read Sandworms just to get it over with.

  3. You fail to address the only question of any importance with respect to this book: What do you think of the new “authors” demotion of Frank Herbert’s Dune books to mere in-universe documents written by a suddenly unreliable Irulan? If you missed that point, you didn’t read closely enough.

  4. While it’s true that I think it’s inappropriate for one author to categorize another author’s books (in this case, the masterpieces of Frank Herbert’s life work) in this way, I believe that what Brian Herbert was going for was the cryptic description of how these written works became holy tomes to the people, similar to how the Bible was written by many authors (also, some may consider, unreliable and even unverifiable sources). The writers weren’t important or even the facts, necessarily, but the people’s reaction to these analogies and metaphorical tales. They embraced them not as simple written histories, but as sacred texts that would carry on throughout the ages.

    I don’t agree with it, but I try to objectively look at it in terms of the author’s (in this case, the second author’s) intentions. I would love to know what Frank Herbert would have thought of it though. Would he have found it flattering that his son carried on his legacy with his own unique take on the old stories, or would he have thought that some of these interpretations were presumptuous and insulting to the originals?

  5. The unreliability of historians and the intentional manipulation of public (and future) opinion using texts are both themes that Frank Herbert addresses in the Dune series, but I think there’s more to the story of what’s going on now. Recast as in-universe texts written by Irulan or other characters, Frank Herbert’s Dune and its sequels are made potentially unreliable, subject to the limitations in knowledge and personal bias of their fictional author(s). This means not just the famous chapter epigraphs (of which it has always been true), but the very narrative texts themselves.

    This leaves the new “McDune” books being written by Kevin J. Anderson (whom many of us suspect of being the one really responsible for these things) as the “true” accounts of what really happened. Thus Paul Atreides is born on Kaitain and journeys to not one but two other planets before travelling to Arrakis, instead of being born on Caladan and never leaving it before his family’s move, as is related in Dune.

    Some people may find this sort of “reimagining” creative and clever, but as someone who has loved Dune for over three decades, I am appalled.

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