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3.4 out of 5 stars
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Prequels are unusual novels. They should be written to introduce a book and series for someone who has not yet read any of the material. Yet their prime readership will be from those who have already read the series and want more. So you have to evaluate prequels from both prespectives. Usually, they favor one dimension or the other.
As is the usual case for prequels, Dune: House Atreides will primarily appeal to those who have read the Dune novels. The Harkonnens are beautifully cast as thoroughly nasty, despicable, and incompetent. The tension between the religion of not having thinking machines and the potential to create new technology is nicely developed. You will also get a good sense of Emperor Shaddam IV. Duke Paulus Atreides is a very enjoyable character, and you will delight in the places where he comes into the story.
I found much of the novel to be competent, rather than compelling. Unfortunately, these sections included Duke Leto Atreides, Duncan Idaho, and Pardor Kynes. These characters could have been magnificent, and provided much more fascination for the series. They come across as attractive, but not as people you want to grasp and hold onto because they are so appealing.
As a result, interesting, additional details comprise a reasonably small part of this book.
For those who have not yet read Dune, I felt that the book had one mistake in it. Readers will discover a bit more about physical changes that Guild navigators experience than is desirable for enjoying the whole series. In all other ways, this book will help the new reader anticipate and enjoy the beauties of the Dune series more. The background of much of what is happening will still seem mysterious after reading about it in this book, which is good. The origins of the key power groups are alluded to, but left murky. I think that approach was a good decision, because it encourages the reader to move on to other books in order to learn more.
The lack of illustrations was a missed opportunity. Many of the concepts in Dune lend themselves to pictoral explanations. In fact, each of the covers of the later novels added to my enjoyment.
I do encourage all fans of science fiction to read this book. It is a worthy volume in one of our greatest series.
After you finish reading this book, I suggest that you think about what really is most important to you in your life. As this book shows, you can achieve fame, friendship, wealth, power, family closeness, or prescience. The more someone focuses on one, the less they have of the others. How will you make your choice?
Look forward to enjoying more of what provides the most meaningful satisfaction!
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on 15 June 2004
The idea behind the Preludes books is that Frank Herbert had discussed at length the history of his created universer with his son Brian. This may very well be the case, but unfortunately, Brian (and his writing partner) really aren't up to such an awesome task, following on from a trully brilliant author as Frank Herbert.
The reason that this and it subequent prequels fail (although they aren't particular bad for what they are) is that firstly, there isn't the depth of plot or description of the original Frank Herbert novels. Also, there are parts that do contradict the later books. Mohiam being Jessica's mother for one.
They are readable and fairly quickly paced, but I re-read Messiah after reading House Harkonnen and the difference was over-whelming. It was like reading a different series. It was certainly a different author.
I do, however, applaud Brian Herbert's courage in taking on this task. He must've known that he would be unfavourably compared to his genius father. I suspect this might've been the case even if he had proved to be a visionary himself. I look forward to reading his legends of Dune series and will try one of his original novels before making a judgement about his writing ability. But the preludes are not a patch on his father's brilliant masterpiece.
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VINE VOICEon 27 December 2013
I would imagine that the vast majority of people who come to read the Prelude to Dune trilogy have already read at least "Dune" if not all 6 of Frank Herbert's Dune novels. To say that Prelude to Dune has got a hard act to follow - er - precede is something of an understatement. In all honesty I think you'd be lying if you said that this trilogy is as good as Frank Herbert's original novel, but then none of his own sequels were either.

So let's discuss Prelude, then. I originally read Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's "Hunters of Dune" and "Sandworms of Dune", the two novels which are meant to come after Frank Herbert's last Dune - "Chapterhouse: Dune". Let's be honest, the huge majority of the most vocal fans absolutely hate these books. Which I think is rather unfair. Taken on their own merits they are decent, readable and intelligent attempts to bring the series to a conclusion, based on Frank Herbert's own notes for his unwritten Dune 7. I enjoyed these enough to decide to give "House Atreides" a try. I liked it enough that I wanted to read the whole trilogy, and here I am, having just read all three.

So what can I say? If anything I thought that these three were better than Hunters and Sandworms. While I enjoyed these two, I did think they suffered from having a little bit of padding, a criticism that I wouldn't make about Prelude to Dune. The characters in Prelude are more confidently drawn as well. Yes, there are times when you're a little surprised at what one of the characters in the original novel does or says in these, but for me it didn't happen all that often. It didn't really detract from my enjoyment knowing that whatever happened certain characters such as Duke Leto - Baron Harkonnen - Thufir Hawat - Gurney Halleck - Duncan Idaho etc. etc. they can't die because they have to feature in "Dune". I enjoyed learning more about some of these characters' backgrounds too, albeit that I read The Dune Encyclopedia some time ago, and these books present things very differently from that particular magnificent work of fan fiction.

As with Hunters and Sandworms it seems to me that the writers are far more interested in technology than Frank Herbert ever was, and not so interested in the psychological and philosophical themes which are so important to his works. Frank Herbert's novels are introspective. Every major character has depth and complexity, which is explored in some detail, and at the risk of alienating Frank Herbert's fedaykin, to me this gets in the way of the narrative thrust in the last three books. Nothing and nobody in Prelude is quite as deep or complex, and at times the novels do veer towards space opera. I'm irresistibly reminded of the idea that George Lucas plundered settings and ideas from "Dune" and the Duniverse when he was making the original Star Wars trilogy, and I dare say that Prelude is a lot closer in tone and subject matter to Star Wars than anything that Frank Herbert ever wrote was.

I suppose that those are the negatives. What you get for your money, though, is a good adventure yarn which rattles along well and doesn't let up from the start of "House Atreides" to the conclusion of "House Corrino". The three books read as if they were planned and written as one consistent whole, and this is another point in their favour. There are some interesting new characters, and some of the old ones who were very much supporting characters, for example Shaddam IV, Count Hasimir Fenring, even Glossu `Beast' Rabban take a far more prominent role in the trilogy than the original novel. A large amount of the action takes place on other worlds than Arrakis, indeed Kaitain, Ix and Caladan are every bit as important to the trilogy as Arrakis itself.

Without wishing to give away too much of the developing narrative of Prelude, it centres on the events in the old Empire leading up to and including the birth of Paul Atreides, the main protagonist of "Dune". This involves the Tleilaxu invasion of Ix, Emperor Shaddam IV's coming to ppwer, and his intrigues to extend it, and the developing feud between the new Duke Leto Atreides, and Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Diverse stuff, I think you'll agree, and it's a testament to Brian Herbert's and Kevin J. Anderson's storytelling power that the disparate strands never unravel or fragment from the consistent whole they have been woven into.

Did I enjoy Prelude as much as I enjoyed "Dune"? No, of course not. There are very, very few books I ever enjoyed quite as much as I enjoyed "Dune" the first time that I read it, and even fewer in this genre. But enjoy Prelude I did, and I know this will be viewed as heresy by some, on a level of pure enjoyment I enjoyed Prelude quite a lot more than I enjoyed some of Frank Herbert's own sequels, even though I concede Prelude lacks the depth of these. Does that mean I'm shallow? I'll get over it.

My gut feeling is that you could quite comfortably read this trilogy before you read "Dune". Having read a number of comments about Prelude, it's interesting to note that people who read Prelude before their first ever reading of "Dune" are a lot more positive about Prelude than others. To an extent I feel that it has to contend with the obstacle that any sequel to a beloved work such as "Dune" faces. A very significant proportion of the readership approach the books with the perspective that sequels tend to be inferior to the original - an understandable attitude - and sequels/prequels that are not by the original author tend to be inferior to those that were by the original author. "Dune" has such a fanatical following, and a significant section of its readership are so fanatical about it that nothing, and I repeat nothing set in the Duniverse written by anybody other than Frank Herbert could possibly find acceptance. Their attitude is one of almost religious fervor, and when you view it in this light then you can understand the viewpoint that works like Prelude are somehow heretical or sacrilegious. You can understand this point of view, although this doesn't mean that you sympathise with it.

To conclude, then, Prelude won't change your view of life, the universe and everything, and it won't force you to answer deep and meaningful questions. It will however provide you with an interesting and entertaining tale, set in a universe clearly recognizable as that created by Frank Herbert in the original book, a universe that I for one find very interesting. I have to be honest, I wasn't really looking for anything more than that.
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Prequels are unusual novels. They should be written to introduce a book and series for someone who has not yet read any of the material. Yet their prime readership will be from those who have already read the series and want more. So you have to evaluate prequels from both prespectives. Usually, they favor one dimension or the other.
As is the usual case for prequels, Dune: House Atreides will primarily appeal to those who have read the Dune novels. The Harkonnens are beautifully cast as thoroughly nasty, despicable, and incompetent. The tension between the religion of not having thinking machines and the potential to create new technology is nicely developed. You will also get a good sense of Emperor Shaddam IV. Duke Paulus Atreides is a very enjoyable character, and you will delight in the places where he comes into the story.
I found much of the novel to be competent, rather than compelling. Unfortunately, these sections included Duke Leto Atreides, Duncan Idaho, and Pardor Kynes. These characters could have been magnificent, and provided much more fascination for the series. They come across as attractive, but not as people you want to grasp and hold onto because they are so appealing.
As a result, interesting, additional details comprise a reasonably small part of this book.
For those who have not yet read Dune, I felt that the book had one mistake in it. Readers will discover a bit more about physical changes that Guild navigators experience than is desirable for enjoying the whole series. In all other ways, this book will help the new reader anticipate and enjoy the beauties of the Dune series more. The background of much of what is happening will still seem mysterious after reading about it in this book, which is good. The origins of the key power groups are alluded to, but left murky. I think that approach was a good decision, because it encourages the reader to move on to other books in order to learn more.
The lack of illustrations was a missed opportunity. Many of the concepts in Dune lend themselves to pictoral explanations. In fact, each of the covers of the later novels added to my enjoyment.
I do encourage all fans of science fiction to read this book. It is a worthy volume in one of our greatest series.
After you finish reading this book, I suggest that you think about what really is most important to you in your life. As this book shows, you can achieve fame, friendship, wealth, power, family closeness, or prescience. The more someone focuses on one, the less they have of the others. How will you make your choice?
Look forward to enjoying more of what provides the most meaningful satisfaction!
Donald Mitchell...
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on 12 October 2004
Sadly, I think "Dune" is being seen as a cash cow, and all 6 of the preludes have been rushed out unfinished, or so they seem. The plots generally are pretty good, and if you can just focus on them, the books are enjoyable. But they suffer in a few ways. The bad guys are too evil. Both the Harkonnens in the "Preludes" like this, and the Titans and machines in the "Legends" series are evil tyrants who spend half the books enjoying grisly torture. It's rabidly overdone and dimishes the bad guys in the process. More irritating than that (to me anyway) is that the book doesn't seem to have been proof-read. The number of times a character's name appears where he/she should have been used, making you think that we've changed to a different person when we haven't, are almost beyond count. It's a real pity because there are some good plots and stories here, much better than any of the sequels Frank Herbert wrote, but they just don't seem to have been completed properly before publication.
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on 1 February 2007
For me the novel falls flat on its face on the first page and never recovers. Dumbed down and beyond all recognition of the original.

The portrayal of Baron Harkonnen as a muscular man is an abomination!! Cause of weight gain - a subtle/undetectable poison administered by a bene Gesserit!!! Frank Herbert's Baron was a far more complex individual who's obesity stemmed from an addictive personality, who's craving for ever more extreme stimulus cause his over feeding of both the stomach and his perverse desires. The ultimate Glutton; both spiritually and physically.

I don't think the authors were up to the task, and looking at the rate they are producing work under the Dune banner, I'm pretty sure they don't care.

Big disappointment, bigger shame!!
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on 28 January 2015
If you are a fan of the Dune series I would be surprised if you didn't get hooked by this new wave of books. They are written in a similar style to the originals and bring a whole new dimension to the Atreides/Harkonnen stories. Compelling characters and connected contexts - buy them all and get immersed!
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on 7 May 2007
Please read one chapter from any classic Dune book by Frank Herbert and then read one chapter of any of the prequels (Prelude or Legends) in a bookstore.

The difference will pop up immediately.

Junior and Anderson's writing is poor, weak and uninspired and the quotes at the beginning of each chapter (a Dune trademark) are ridiculous.

House Atreides (book 1) was a pleasant read though, due to the expectations.

It is a shame that the rest of two series do not meet these expectations.

The second trilogy (Legends) ends in a rush with a couple of sub-plots (the origin of Mentats and Face Dancers)half-told which is a contradiction for a story whose purpose is to unveil the origins of every element of the Dune universe.

The other books were painful to read.

They might appeal to teenagers who have not yet read the classic Dune books written by Frank Herbert but they will have a shock when they start to read Dune 1. And they will probably give up before the end of Children.

My advice is that, even though you were told that you'll find seeds of events told in Dune 7, no matter how curious you are to read Hunters & Sandworms, avoid reading House Atreides at all cost because it will lead you to read the next one, and the next one and the second trilogy and there are indeed better books to read these days.

It is a shame that the Herbert Estate has made such a poor choice of writer for the new books.

They needed somebody like Stephen Baxter or George R.R.R Martin and instead they picked a writer of Star Wars stories for teenagers.
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on 13 January 2003
I first read Dune in 1974, some twelve years before Frank Herbert died. I was 13. A rather more intelligent and well-read friend loaned me the book. I found it hard going. Not only was it one of the first SF novels I had ever read, but it was a complex book with a whole new range of foreign terms and concepts (I had never before read a work of fiction requiring appendices, including a glossary and extensive notes!) I was fascinated; my imagination captured, but I didn't fully appreciate or understand the intricacies, breadth and scope of the Dune story. Even so, I struggled through the thick book (with frequent references to the notes), followed by Children of Dune and Dune Messiah in quick succession. Since then, of course, I have completed the epic series, re-reading them all several times, finding something new each time.
Naturally, I always wondered about the events, characters and motivations which led up to Dune, and the universe sometimes only hinted at or briefly described as the backcloth to the story of Paul and his family. When Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson finally published the first in the Prelude to Dune series I was keen to enter this intriguing universe once more.
Having read House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and started House Corrino, I can safely say that I would have greatly appreciated these books back in 1974. They are certainly more suited to a 13yr-old than the books that came before them. My apologies to Brian and Kevin, but these new prequels are a pale shadow of the master's work. Yes, they are quite exciting on occasion and, yes, they fill in a whole realm of gaps which Frank Herbert's legion of fans must have wondered about. Yet they seem shallow by comparison. Much like candy-floss, the stories lack substance and depth, leaving the reader somewhat dissatisfied, even though the yarns are enjoyable. I might also add that some of the edge is taken off the stories because we know what happens to the principal players. This detracts from most attempts at suspense.
Incidentally, I can't help but wonder how much of this is Frank Herbert's unpublished material, and how much only based on his (rough) notes. I am also fairly convinced that in House Atreides there are discrepancies between what the original series tells us about Duncan Idaho's early years and the newly-narrated events.
However, thanks to Frank Herbert's work, I am drawn to find out more about the universe he created, despite the relatively disappointing nature of this new series. No doubt I will purchase the Butlerian Jihad when it is available in standard paperback format. For those who have wondered about what went before Dune and can bear a version of events not told by Frank himself; and for those who are fresh to the characters and worlds he created, I recommend these books; just don't expect brilliance. They serve as a good appetiser before the Frank Herbert main course, but a poor dessert.
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on 29 February 2016
i have only 2 bad things to say about this book . One is that Gaius Helen Mohiam was NOT the mother of Jessica and i'll qoute from Children of Dune where Leto is talking to Jessica about her Harkonnen heritage " Jessica out of Tandidia Nerus by the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen " NOT Helen Mohiam . The other thing is maybe me being petty but the writers use far too many descriptive words when talking about the characters , eg, fidgety man , murderous man , weasel faced man when talking about Fenring and quiet manipulative women and magnificent women when talking about the Bene Gesserit there are many , many more examples of this throughout the book and that for me at least spoils it , that along with the glaring mistake of Jessicas parentage soory folks but i didnt really like this book, and its a bit childishly written . I have been a fan of Frank Herberts Dune books for decades but this is just not Dune or at least as i said not my Dune .
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