Monday, October 13, 2008

“Paul of Dune” by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Frank Herbert's Dune ended with Paul Muad’Dib in control of the planet Dune. Herbert’s next Dune book, Dune Messiah, picked up the story several years later after Paul’s armies had conquered the galaxy. But what happened between Dune and Dune Messiah? How did Paul create his empire and become the Messiah? Following in the footsteps of Frank Herbert, New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are answering these questions in Paul of Dune.

The Muad’Dib’s jihad is in full swing. His warrior legions march from victory to victory. But beneath the joy of victory there are dangerous undercurrents. Paul, like nearly every great conqueror, has enemies--those who would betray him to steal the awesome power he commands. . . .

And Paul himself begins to have doubts: Is the jihad getting out of his control? Has he created anarchy? Has he been betrayed by those he loves and trusts the most? And most of all, he wonders: Am I going mad?
I confess it has been many years since I last read Dune, so I began Paul of Dune with some trepidation, figuring I might struggle to makes sense of events and characters that had come before. The novel opens with a simple scene of Paul and his closest family, mother Jessica, concubine Chani and sister Alia, building a small shrine in the mountains to the memory of Duke Leto. And as simple as that, the mythos of Dune all slipped back into place.

As the blurb above states, Paul of Dune is a direct sequel to the original Dune, commencing a year after the downfall of the Empire. The book is divided into seven sections with the odd numbered sections containing chapters about Paul’s reign as Emperor over the first five years and the even numbered sections flashing back to Paul’s life as a 12 year old boy. Of particular note are the stylish quotations that cleverly accent each chapter with insights into character and place.

With this alternating perspective, we come to see the man Paul Atreides has become in counterpoint to the key events that helped shape his early pre-Dune life. I found that the political discussions and planning of the initial jihad campaigns in the early chapters moved a bit slowly but in later chapters the pacing quickened and became richer in detail and action. Two significant story arcs focus on assassination attempts against Paul and are well-crafted with great tension and suspense.

All of the boyhood sequences are a fascinating look into House Atreides and the many pivotal characters from Dune. We get to learn more of allies, friends and family including Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, Duke Leto and his concubine Jessica. Baron Harkonnen and Emperor Shaddam play pivotal roles as well. In his twelfth year, Paul gains a lifetime of experience surviving several assassination attempts on the family and participating in his first military campaign with his father. Love, duty and relationships are explored as his father plans a political marriage to the daughter of ally House Ecaz. Echoes of these early life lessons are found in Paul’s relationships between Chani his concubine and Princess Irulan his wife.

Secondary characters are also given their moments in the sun as well. I particularly liked the poignant look into Princess Irulan’s role as wife and biographer of Muad’Dib. Stilgar, Gurney and Jessica each receive additional attention as well. In expanded roles from their original appearance in Dune, Count Fenroy, his wife Lady Margot and their daughter Marie play major roles in one of the many conspiracies against Paul and they are deliciously devious and captivating.

As to be expected, Paul spends much of the novel struggling with his humanity, coming to terms with the consequences of his actions in following the course his prescient visions have set him upon. It is not easy being a man, an Emperor and a God. Early on Paul reflects –
“…he could think only of the dichotomy between his private feelings and his public image. Although he could not abdicate his role in the ever-growing machinery of government and religion around him, only a very few loved ones saw the real Paul. And even with this select group, he could not share everything.”
Paul of Dune is a complex tale and terrific companion to the original Dune. And even more amazing is how seamlessly they fit together considering Dune was first published 45 years ago. If you haven’t read Dune, I would recommend reading it along with Paul of Dune, as if they were one novel for maximum pleasure. The authors are to be commended for such a satisfying sequel and tribute to one of the greatest science fiction classics.

Read an excerpt.

To learn more about the extensive Dune universe visit the official website.

View a video interview with Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson about the book.

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