...Review by Matthew Hughes, Sandbach, Cheshire (UK)
This trilogy acts as a prequel to the classic Sci-Fi saga written by Frank Herbert (Brian Herbert's late father).
So what's the verdict? Is this trilogy merely a money-spinning potboiler, designed to fleece the devotees of Herbert senior's amazing invention, or does it have merit in it's own right?
Well - simply - yes it DOES have a great deal of intrinsic worth, and there's certainly a lot more life in the Dune universe yet!
Frank Herbert completed 6 Dune novels before his untimely death in 1986: 'Dune', 'Dune Messiah', 'Children of Dune', 'God Emperor of Dune', 'Heretics of Dune', and 'Chapter House: Dune'. That saga (as anyone who has read them will know) was left incomplete. 'Heretics..' and 'Chapter House..' were the first two parts of a trilogy that was meant to be completed by a book that was, at the time of Herbert's death, still only tentatively titled 'Dune 7'. This book would have answered the question of what it was the terrifying 'Honoured Matres' were running from, and would have revealed the true relationship between the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood and the Matres.
Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson discovered the preliminary notes, not only for 'Dune 7', but also for a proposed 'prequel' trilogy that would have chronicled events surrounding the Butlerian Jihad - the war of Humankind against the machines that took place thousands of years before the first 'Dune' book.
Brian and Kevin originally formulated plans to execute this 'Butlerian Jihad' prequel trilogy first, following on with 'Dune 7', but as they researched the books it became clear to them that without another prequel trilogy, (one that took place closer to the original Dune series in chronological terms), the Butlerian Jihad Trilogy would not make enough sense.
So 'Prelude to Dune' was born, and released at a time when interest in the 'Dune' universe was at an all time high; with the Sci-Fi channel's mini-series based on the first 'Dune' book (which they will follow up later this year with another mini-series based on 'Dune Messiah' and 'Children of Dune'), and countless computer games becoming available.
The trilogy cannot fail to please fans of 'Dune'. Events hinted at and referred to as history by the characters in Frank Herbert's saga are detailed as current affairs in the 'Prelude' books: Leto Atreides' father's death on the horns of the Salusan Bull, how Gurney Halleck got his scar, how Leto met Jessica, why Glossu Rabban took the name 'Beast'... it's all detailed here for your delight. Each page is custom designed to answer all the little things that - if you're even half as sad as I am - you MUST have wondered!
There are one or two things that jar slightly for those of us who are familiar with the original books - the David Lynch perpetrated conceit that Mentats require chemical stimulation to attain their peak performance, for example, (a substance called Sapho Juice that had, previously, only appeared in Lynch's stylish yet unsatisfying big screen version of 'Dune' has also, somehow, made it's way into Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's version of the 'Dune' Universe).
If I were in a mood to defend the books (not, I hasten to add, that they need defending!), I would say that the addition of Sapho Juice to the books could be dismissed as a recognition that the 'Dune' universe is now bigger than its original creator; it now has a number of contributors (including Lynch) who, all in all, make 'Dune's' vision richer.
The only other gripe I have is - unusually - with the sub-editing of the trilogy, particularly with the first book 'House Atreides'.
To explain: The greatest joy, in my opinion, in reading entertaining and fantastical novels of this nature is that the reader can totally immerse him/ herself in the story. When reading 'House Atreides' I was, several times, shocked out of the story - and into the realisation that I was reading - by spelling mistakes and misused words.
This served to give me the impression that, although the book was undoubtedly enjoyable, it had been put together hurriedly and to a strict deadline.
So, to fully answer the questions I posed in the first paragraph of this review: "Is this trilogy merely a money-spinning potboiler, designed to fleece the devotees of Herbert senior's amazing invention, or does it have merit in it's own right?"
Answer: "Yes, on both counts, but because of the trilogy's intrinsic worth, we shouldn't resent the fact that it is a cash cow that is being milked by the authors and their publishing company".
Final Verdict: Buy it, read it, enjoy it - there are bound to be more to come!