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A Paul Without Paul's Attention to Detail
on 16 February 2009
I promised myself that I would never read another Herbert/Anderson 'addendum' to the original Dune series after the disaster that was The Butlerian Jihad. However, due to forgetting to send in my negative desire for this book to the SF book club, it showed up on my doorstep, and obsessive reader that I am, I eventually cracked the covers of this book.
Surprisingly, it's not an unmitigated disaster, but rather a book that fills some holes between Dune and Dune Messiah, and almost managed to convince me that this extra material 'fit' with the original. However, there are some strong inconsistencies with the original, most notably in the portrayed actions and feelings of certain Fremen Maud'Dib worshipers, a rewriting of history to allow Paul to be offworld prior to the events of the original Dune, and a fleshing out of some the characters of the originals, most notably Irulan, that doesn't truly match Frank Herbert's portrayal.
While still having the short chapter/quick switch between scenes and characters that are now the hallmark of the Herbert/Anderson writing style, for this particular book such treatment actually works, as the plot threads are sufficiently many and convoluted enough to allow for such treatment. And the portrayals of the various characters weren't so obviously wrong as to cause me to throw this book away in disgust. However, this is very faint praise, merely an acknowledgement that the original characters of Frank Herbert were very powerful, real people, and as this book follows these original people, with only a few new persons thrown in, some of that power still permeates this book. This book also manages to avoid any ridiculously obvious scientific boners, mainly by not making any scientific statements of importance, but this is certainly preferable to the nonsense that has filled some of the other volumes.
However, the conclusion of this volume is an extreme letdown and is very poorly thought out, as it hinges on Paul and all of his close advisors willfully ignoring an obvious threat. But perhaps this is not surprising, as another threat earlier in the book is also completely ignored until it is sprung with deadly consequences, even though Paul has a prescient dream with clear significance - darn it, I caught the reference, even though it's been about five years since I last re-read the original Dune, and certainly someone who lived through that particular incident would see the relevance much more easily.
Better than some of the other works about Dune this pair has written, but that's not saying a great deal.
---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)