The Dune universe is a deep and rich one. It is vibrant, exciting, and dangerous and it is a pleasure to dive into it once more. I have a long love affair with Frank Herbert’s original Dune book, it is too me the finest science fiction novel ever written. Bold words I know but for me it fills the position Lord of the Rings fills in fantasy literature.
The Dune series as a whole is a complex one. Much has been made of the outpouring of novels penned by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, many castigating the plundering of Franks original idea. My own view is more tempered. No one will come close to Franks vision and scope, but he began a story that needed ending and Brian and Kevin did that. It is true that they have cashed in on Franks work but the by product of this is great novels in an even greater universe.
Duke of Caladan is a new series set just prior to the first novel. It follows Duke Leto Atreides and his families struggles just before their appointment as overseers of Arrakis. We get to see a cast of familiar characters including Thufir Hawat, Duncan Idaho, Dr Yueh, Gurney Halleck and the Lady Jessica operating at the peak of their game. Paul is introduced to us again, a little bit younger and naiver but on the cusp of adulthood.
The plot involves an underground rebellion in the imperium linked to the mass production of a new illicit drug on Caladan itself. Like all Dune books the political intrigue is what drives the narrative but because it is a prequel, we know that none of the main characters are in any real danger and this severely limits the drama. Brian and Kevin got around this problem in the past by focusing on new characters and much earlier time frames, but this time it is too close to established facts to fully hold a story.
The novel is a fun read and Brian and Kevin comfortably inhabit the world and its characters. It is by no means their best work, that I think lies in their Schools of Dune trilogy, but it is fun and reassuring to delve back into the Imperium of man and the machinations of the Landsraad. I look forward to the following two books perhaps not with excitement but interest.
The book capitalises on the new film out next year and I do not begrudge the authors cashing in and it might help new readers understand the landscape of Dune prior to what I hope will be an epic adaptation.