While 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.