The Legends of Dune Trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert

Werthead

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A review of this controversial prequel to the Dune novels.

Way back in 1994, early in the lifespan of its line of Star Wars tie-in novels. Bantam published The Jedi Academy Trilogy by the then-unheard of Kevin J. Anderson. A fanbase invigorated by Timothy Zahn's enjoyable, excellently-paced trilogy featuring Grand Admiral Thraw eagerly seized on any new Star Wars fiction that was being produced (explaining why the so-so Truce at Bakura and the awful Courtship of Princess Leia became instant bestsellers). In the case of this trilogy, this proved to be unwise. Featuring morally corrupt would-be Jedi who kill billions and then get forgiven by Luke Skywalker because they felt bad about it, and a superweapon that makes the Death Star look pitiful (a ship called the Sun Crusher which can destroy star systems and is indestructible), The Jedi Academy Trilogy appeared to be the ultimate work of deluded fan fiction. Naturally, it sold huge amounts of copies.

Soon enough, Anderson was everywhere. He was writing X-Files novels. His own creations, utterly unremarkable with the exception of the mildly diverting Climbing Olympus, were soon spreading insidiously over bookshelves everywhere. Could he not be stopped? And then the final ignomy: he convinced Brian Herbert to help him co-write the books that would continue Herbert's father's Dune series.

Readers braced themselves for something horrifying, but unexpectedly the Prelude to Dune Trilogy (House Atreides, House Harkonnen and House Corrino) turned out to be okay. Not great, obviously, but readable. Naturally, the books contradicted established Dune canon all over the shop and the characters only really worked because Frank Herbert had already established them, but compared to other cash-in books out there these were definitely nowhere near as bad as they could have been.

Alas, the same cannot be said for the Legends of Dune Trilogy. Set ten thousand years before the events of Dune, roughly the same amount of time into our future, the trilogy chronicles how humankind freed itself from slavery at the hands of the 'thinking machines' and embarked on a bloody war that after a century saw the machines vanquished and the great Imperium founded. As with the earlier trilogy, Anderson and Herbert almost immediately started deviating from established Dune canon: the Butlerian Jihad is depicted in the original novels as a much more equal war, with the humans deciding to destroy the machines after a cult of humans worshipping the AIs as gods is uncovered (hence the whole, "You shall not build a machine in the likeness of a human mind," stuff). This is also the version of the struggle Frank Herbert depicted in the 1984 Dune Companion and formed the basis of the notes for his own planned prequel novel (which he was apparently planning to write following the seventh Dune novel). For reasons that are not entirely clear, Herbert and Anderson decided that was lame and went with their own, original creation.

It is difficult to describe how inept this series is. The Dune universe is one that is rich in fantastic and original concepts, worlds and characters. To make it appear to be bland and silly actually takes some skill, skills which the authors clearly brought to this project with enthusiasm. The characters are, at best, two-dimensional cyphers. The AIs are incredibly stupid and do not operate with anything approaching logic. The preponderence of force on the AIs' side is so ridiculous the human rebels should not even have the slightest chance of victory (hence why in Frank Herbert's original vision the two sides were equal to start off with), let alone the freedom to spend decades developing their Holtzman shields, las-guns, spacefolding technology and so forth. Also, we are led to believe that not just the Imperium and the Houses, but also the Bene Gesserit, the Suk School, the Spacing Guild, the Fremen, the swordmasters of Ginaz, the Mentats, the face-dancers and just about every single other concept in the Dune series was established simultaneously (in Herbert's original plan the Bene Gesserit had already existed for centuries, albeit with a different agenda) in an awe-inspiring display of pure fanwank.

Does this series bring any positive qualities to the table? No. The plotting is so mechanical it feels like it was procedurally generated by a computer algorithm. The characters are cyphers at best, who do not operate in accordance with generally-accepted principles of logic or intelligence. Vast reams of the three books are taken up by tedious info-dumping and exposition. This is a cold, cynical exercise in making money from fans starved of new material for too long by two authors who have lost whatever credibility they once had in the genre.

The Prelude to Dune Trilogy (*) is a work that can only justly be described in terms not appropriate for polite blogging. Whilst it is true that the original Dune novels by Frank Herbert themselves went off the boil in later years, even the worst of them is preferable to this drivel. Avoid.
 

Pyar

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Pyan

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The gentle rumbling you can hear, if you listen really hard, is Frank Herbert revolving gently in his grave....:rolleyes:
 

Omphalos

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The gentle rumbling you can hear, if you listen really hard, is Frank Herbert revolving gently in his grave....:rolleyes:

There's no "gently" about it. He's doing the can-can down there.
 

Perpetual Man

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I'm going to admit straight up that I've read all nine of the Anderson/Herbert books (so far), but that I have read all of the original Dune books, a couple of times and when it was announced that the Dune series was going to be finished at last - in any form - I was quite excited.

Then came Prelude to Dune. I remember reading somewhere that after going through all of Herbert Sr's notes the dynamic duo had realised that there were things he refered to that need explaining - hence the Prelude series.

I found the series to be easy reading and nothing more - there was certainly nothing that needed adding to what was already known and some bits really made my teeth grate...

I then presumed that we'd be getting that elusive last Dune book, but what came instead was Legends of Dune... and I can't really add anything to what has been said above. Wheteher it was a good story or not, there was one thing that stood out in my mind: it was not Dune and it was the not the way I had imagined the past when I was reading the Dune books.

Funnily enough I have a copy of the Dune Encyclopedia compiled by Dr Willys E McNelly. A nice large sized book that is set out as though in the future (of the Dune Books) It is however, drawn from the notes and writings of Frank Herbert. There is an introduction by the great man himself, and the front is subtitled: "The complete, authorized guide and companion to Frank Herbert's masterpiece of the imagination"
Funily enough nothing in the book is like the way Anderson & Herbert jr. tell it.

I have read the last two books Sandworms/Hunters just hoping to see a glimmer of what Herbert snr intended... and it was painful.
 

iansales

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Funnily enough I have a copy of the Dune Encyclopedia compiled by Dr Willys E McNelly. A nice large sized book that is set out as though in the future (of the Dune Books) It is however, drawn from the notes and writings of Frank Herbert. There is an introduction by the great man himself, and the front is subtitled: "The complete, authorized guide and companion to Frank Herbert's masterpiece of the imagination"
Funily enough nothing in the book is like the way Anderson & Herbert jr. tell it.

FH himself declared the Dune Encyclopedia non-canon. It's considered an "alternate universe". It shows a great deal more invention than anything written by BH & KJA, however.
 

Perpetual Man

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FH himself declared the Dune Encyclopedia non-canon. It's considered an "alternate universe". It shows a great deal more invention than anything written by BH & KJA, however.

Ah thanks for that Ian, obviously I'm out of the lop a bit where these things are concerned!
 

Perpetual Man

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I'm a bit of a Dune completist. So yes, I've read the BH/KJA Dune books. I was not impressed.

I don't know whether to be impressed or jealous - probably both!

I've got the collected versions in hardback (3 books to each edition) and all the new tosh. I had a few of the movie magazines/books but they could be anywhere now, and the Marvel Comics Adaptation of the movie and that's it.
 

Omphalos

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Im a bit of a Dune completist myself. I don't have a picture handy, but Ive been working on a list of Frank Herbert/Dune secondary sources for a few years now. Im in the process of scanning all the Dune dissertations that I have permissions for and posting them on my website. Have a look, and please, if you know of anything Im missing here I would be very, very appreciative if you would let me know (though I do have about 60 more items to examine and if appropriate, post, this is pretty much a constant job, so please, let me know - and yes, Ian, I certainly will be posting that stuff you sent me by PM months ago - Soon, I promise!):

THE (ALMOST) UNDELETED :: View topic - Dune Secondary Source Bibliography

I also have a similar primary and secondary source list for Octavia Butler on the same site, so if you are interested, look around a bit and you will find it.
 

Abyssimal

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**Possible Spoilers**
The problem is the premise is actually intruiging but the execution is terrible. Think about it:
- The world has languished and has become slothful due to reliance on the machines. Someone comes forward (militant students no less) and "sets things right".
-Power shifts to the Machines themselves.
-Massive rebellion starts and the machines eventually get ousted.

Not a bad foundation to build upon, but gets flushed due to poor writing, silly further character development and unrealistic timelines:
1) the titans become immortal? Really?
2) all the foundational constucts: Bene Gesserit, The Guild, The Houses, Holtzman technologies, Melange, the Fremen all take place within 200 years of a 15,000 year history.
3) Harkonnens were good, heroic and key characters to victory but were banished for a single instance.
4) the original Atreides was a complete moron and yet became the single most defining character of the prequels.
5) The name "Omnius". Really? Named after a transformer no doubt.

All in all not a too horrible of a read, if you dissassociate the prequels from the elder Herbert's work.
 

Omphalos

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Only if you accept that is what Frank Herbert had in mind. I disagree that he envisioned killer robots of doom in the Bulterian Jihad. What he probably had in mind was men vs. men-with-machines, not brain-in-jar bad guys straight out of a Williamson story.
 

iansales

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Sadly, no. It's the book club edition. A true first edition goes for about $2500 now, which is a bit more than I'm willing to pay for a book...
 

iansales

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I already have them both :) I mentioned them on my blog here. I think the one book in my Dune collection I'm most chuffed about is the first edition hardback of The Dune Encyclopedia.
 

Ian Whates

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I already have them both :) I mentioned them on my blog here. I think the one book in my Dune collection I'm most chuffed about is the first edition hardback of The Dune Encyclopedia.


The one in my Herbert collection I'm most proud of is an unread first UK paperback edition of Heretics of Dune. I bought it from a dealer (Cold Tonnage Books -- sorry Andy) at the end of Eastercon a few years ago, when all paperbacks on the stall were selling at £0.20 to get rid of them. I already had the book, but at 20p, couldn't resist.

Only when I got it home and took a proper look did I realise it was signed.

Not bad for 20p! :)
 

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