[Doing my post on Sisterhood of Dune the other day reminded me that some while back I had written and published elsewhere a review of The Winds of Dune. It was "Winds" that led me on to Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's series of sequels to Frank Herbert's Dune, for which I shall be eternally grateful. Long may they and the Dune universe flourish!
Here now is a slightly revised version of that original review.]
I read all six of Frank Herbert’s original Dune sextet several years ago (those of you who know me will have guessed they were favourites of my grandmother’s and became favourites of mine) but this is the first time I’ve read one of the sequels written by Frank’s son Brian Herbert and his collaborator, Kevin J. Anderson.
Had I been avoiding them? Been a bit suspicious? Perhaps. But much of my reading is serendipitous – I pick up books wherever I go – and none of them happened to come my way. This one I found in Avignon when I was there in the summer (drawn like a moth to a flame after reading James Munro’s Wrong Way Round the Church). It was on top of a stack of second-hand books, just asking to be bought, read and cherished. I mean, look at the cover. A whole new world beckoned - and someone I would almost certainly identify with!
Only it wasn’t a new world. It was Dune – the Dune universe – exactly as it had been fifteen, twenty, years ago, the last time I walked there. These two don’t put a foot wrong.
In fact, this book follows on directly from the second of the original Dune trilogy, Dune Messiah. Paul Atreides, the Emperor Muad’Dib, is dead. Or missing, presumed dead, having walked out into the desert and disappeared after being blinded in an assassination attempt. He left behind him twin children – babies still – and a wife, Princess Irulan, the daughter of the previous emperor. But Irulan had been his wife in name only. His true love was the Fremen warrior maiden Chani, the mother of the twins, and she died giving birth to them.
Now the vast empire consisting of thousands of worlds is ruled over by Paul’s sixteen-year-old sister Alia. But that is not a normal sixteen. Alia, like her brother Paul, has “other memory”, can remember subjectively the lives of hundreds of women who came before her. As can members of the Bene Geserit sisterhood, of course, only Alia was born like that, which makes her, in the eyes of the Bene Geserit, an abomination. They want her dead.
The old Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino, whom Paul overthrew, believes the time is ripe for him to make a come-back. He too wants the Regent Alia dead.
How will Alia cope with all this? Jessica, Paul and Alia’s mother, travels to Dune from her home on Caladan to find out, as well as to be present at Paul’s ‘funeral’ ceremony. And to see what is happening about the twins, her grandchildren. Would they be safer on Caladan?
There are so many strands running through this tale that I can’t possibly mention them all. Anyway, I don’t wish to spoil it for you. But I loved it – especially the references to the "enhanced" Dune Tarot, and the sections where Jessica tells Irulan and Gurney Halleck about Paul’s boyhood and his visit to Ix and his subsequent adventures with his friend Bronso, the same Bronso of Ix who is now being hunted relentlessly by Alia and the ghola Duncan Idaho. Why? Read it and see.
But don’t read it if you haven’t already read at least the first two of the six original novels by Frank Herbert himself. You must read them first!