Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unfinished - Dune: The Butlerian Jihad

Once upon a time I read the three Dune: House novels from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did they not suck, the books were pretty good. These three novels from Herbert and Anderson did not have much of the feel or the depth that we would expect from Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, but this was Frank’s son and they were working off of Frank’s notes and they told three reasonably fast paced stories which introduced Leto Atreides as a younger man and how he met Lady Jessica and overall so much of the background of the older characters we met in Dune.

For some reason I took a good five years before I read the next Dune prequel, the one set farthest back in the chronology Dune: The Butlerian Jihad. This book focuses on the war of humans against the thinking machines and the freedom of humanity. The after effects of the war reverberate thousands of years later in Dune and the later Dune novels. Important stuff, then. And again, from Frank Herbert’s notes. Moreover, these novels would introduce the enmity we will later see between the Atreides and Harkonnen families and as The Butlerian Jihad begins, Xavier Harkonnen is a hero for humanity, not devolved into the disfigured monster of Baron Harkonnen we meet in Dune.

Considering that the Dune: House novels were so fast paced and interesting, why then could I not finish Dune: The Butlerian Jihad? Even progressing as far as 150 pages was pure struggle and I had to force myself to read that far.

It’s not that the book is bad, per se, though I think it might be, but more that there is no flow. A war of humanity against thinking machines set in the background of the worlds that will become what we know so well, the origins of the Free Men of Dune and conquering the worms and the power of Spice...this should be fascinating stuff.

It’s not.

I can’t read this. It’s just not good.

The debate I have now is whether to re-read the last two Frank Herbert Dune novels (Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune). I know the first four novels well enough that I don’t need to re-read the full series, but I don’t know the last two novels well at all and the events that had been intriguing readers for years (the cliffhanger of Chapterhouse: Dune), well, I don’t remember it at all. So, I think I want to reread those two novels before I venture into the Dune 7 duology penned by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson from the extensive notes of Frank Herbert, but The Butlerian Jihad has kind of turned me off from this classic series. And that’s a shame. I’m just afraid that Dune 7 (Hunters and Sandworms) will be as bad as The Butlerian Jihad. God, I hope not.

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