Dune: The Duke Of Caladan (The Caladan Trilogy book 1) by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson (book review).

January 15, 2021 | By | Reply More

To paraphrase Liet-Kynes, ‘Against all better judgement, I liked book.’ Put another way, there’s a fair deal of antipathy directed at Messrs Herbert and Anderson for the way they’ve plundered Herbert Sr’s universe for the material needed to pump out, on a literally industrial scale, one pot-boiler scifi novel after another.

Where the original ‘Dune’ as been a literary masterpiece simply without parallel, the Herbert and Anderson novels are basically enjoyable but otherwise standard issue genre fiction that’s easily forgotten a few days after reading them.

The problem with that sort of high-handed attitude is that it puts purity above pleasure. Many ‘Dune’ fans do indeed want to know more about the ‘Dune’ universe, with all of its splendour, politics and strangeness and, on this, Herbert and Anderson deliver.

As the first book in a three-part trilogy, of course, ‘Dune: The Duke of Caladan’ is set a year or two before the events of ‘Dune’. So we learn much more about the Duke, his son Paul and Paul’s mother, the Duke’s concubine Jessica. For a start, there’s the tension between Duke Leto’s attempts to find a politically acceptable wife for his son on the one hand and Jessica attempting to manipulate the shortlist of choices such that it includes girls acceptable to the Bene Gesserit breeding programme. Paul, of course, has his own opinions, informed by what appear to him to be unusual intense, even prophetic, dreams.

One of the things Herbert and Anderson do well is balancing several competing storylines. Perhaps the most pressing of them is a violent attack on the Emperor’s new museum on the planet of Otorio that manages to kill thousands of people, including a large number of the nobles that effectively run the empire. The Emperor barely escapes in time and when it emerges the terrorists want to abolish the monarchy and install a ‘noble commonwealth’, it goes without saying the Emperor needs to bring the perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible.

The aftermath of the attack sends ripples through the imperium, as far as the desert planet Arrakis, where the Emperor’s need for extra cash drives up the price of the spice, forcing the Harkonnens to find new allies as they try to maintain their profits. With the spice becoming harder to get, the popularity of a new drug rises and, when it turns out this drug comes from Caladan, the Duke Leto finds himself being rejected by the noble houses he needs to court.

On top of all of this, we have CHOAM politics and a psychotic Bene Gesserit to deal with, resulting in a story that is multi-layered but never overcomplicated. Each chapter is relatively short and Herbert and Anderson have a breezy writing style that keeps things ticking over nicely. Even if the book doesn’t entirely tidy up all the loose ends, leaving plenty to keep the reader interested in the next volume in the series, it’s still enjoyable and rewarding. The ‘Dune’ universe feels richer after reading it which, after all, is the point of a prequel.

Neale Monks

January 2021

(pub: Macmillan, 2020. 320 page hardback. Price: $27.99 (US), £22.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-25076-474-4)

check out website: www.panmacmillan.com

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Category: Books, Scifi

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