Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

Arrakis. Dune. Desert Planet.

From such humble beginnings this planet has haunted me like no other in fiction. A tale that was given only a cursory glance upon publication has steered itself into a literary jungle without equal. The annals of science fiction are soaked with this story; imitators have tried - and they've ultimately failed. Frank Herbert delivered an epic masterpiece for the masses, his scope and genius only apparent after careful consideration; after the words had stopped flowing …

I was fourteen when I learned there was going to be a movie called DUNE on television. I'd been reading sci-fi in and out over the past two years, but Horror was my main thing, as some of you might know. And here was a movie based on one of the all time sci-fi greats. I could not miss this; I made food preparations and curled up with my Siamese. It was going to be a long night - but a good one. Sitting through the entire duration, I came away humbly awed and proceeded to purchase all six original Dune novels. For those not in the know, Hunters of Dune is the seventh novel in the sequence, and a direct sequel to Chapterhouse Dune following on directly from those advents recorded in that novel. Kevin J Anderson and the late author's son Brian have sculpted the six prequels and rounded off the saga with Sandworms on Dune - thus tying up all loose ends and serving symmetry to the epic tale.

Chapterhouse Dune concluded with an aching cliff-hanger of an ending, and Hunters picks up the action directly after: Duncan Idaho and Sheeana have escaped the Honored Matres in the no-ship Ithaca. Mother Commander Murbella is now head of a new faction combining Bene Generists and the brutal, murderous Honored Matres. The opponent that humanity believed to be long extinct has reappeared from the edge of the Universe - mankind now fears nothing can stop its wonton destruction of worlds. For this is the Hunter, a machine entity the slaughters carbon based life wherever it dwells and is intent on finding the Ithaca.

Even with only a cursory knowledge of the Dune mythology, I believe readers can be suitably entertained with Hunters of Dune. All the elements are there - every player, so to speak. There is the Guild, strange, morphed beings that navigate the universe and fold space. There is the Bene Telielax, masters of genetics who have found a way to grow clones, named gholas - and bring back legends from the past. Including the ultimate Kwisach Haderach, Paul Atreides - a male who could see into a place no else dared look and prophesy the future. The Bene Gesserit. And, of course, there are the giant Sandworms themselves, creatures now regulated to a small scattering around the planet Chapterhouse, mining the sands to produce Spice - a drug that is the bartering commerce of this far flung future with Rakis now destroyed. Without it the Navigators cannot fold space; the Bene Gesserit cannot see into the future and alter their metabolism. The Spice is instrumental for all of mankind; it is the exchange in which wars can be won.

The one thing that often surprises me about the new Dune novels is the sheer horror and dark brutality these enemy factions inflict on each other. Indeed, I would go so far to say some elements are more on par with Horror fiction. In Heretics of Dune, the female splinter group Honored Matre are ruthless and all conquering, often eliminating their adversaries in gruesome moments of bloodshed and torture. Picturing beautiful females ruling the universe with an iron fist is certainly something to behold.

If you haven't cottoned on to a Dune novel, do so immediately. Hunters of Dune is probably not the best place to start, but if you're familiar with the mythology, it can be a novel read on its own. This reviewer was lucky enough to meet Kevin J Anderson some months ago, and I can say with all honesty this man is the right person for continuing Frank Herbert's imagination and forethought. Dune goes into another movie incarnation very shortly and Brian Herbert and Kevin will be acting as executive producers. Also, Paul of Dune should be released some time later this year. Any sci-fi buffs out there would do well explore this utterly beautiful universe...  

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