Monday, May 30, 2005

[Book Review] Dune: The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

A Fitting Finale?

The Dune prequels were always in a precarious position. For one thing, it’s left the hands of its original creator, the late Frank Herbert. For another, more often than not, prequels pale in comparison to the successful series that spawned them (the Star Wars prequels comes to mind). And in the case of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, this is their second prequel trilogy.

At this point, Herbert and Anderson’s writing style are fairly consistent. That is, if you didn’t like the Dune prequels they did, I really see no reason for you to grab this novel. If you were at least moderately interested in what they previously had to offer though, then The Battle of Corrin might be something that whets your appetite. It’s the conclusion, after all, that not only ties up the books that preceded it but also sets the tone for the existing Dune universe.

Admittedly, I do think Herbert and Anderson could have come up with a better title. With The Butlerian Jihad and The Machine Crusade as the titles of the other books in the trilogy, it seems anti-climatic to end it with something as mundane as The Battle of Corrin.

Storywise, it was pretty much solid. Several decades has passed since the events of The Machine Crusade, and we see the next generation of heroes along with the old. And of course, the characters from the previous books have changed, not necessarily for the better. But the pair of authors do give us a fitting ride as events come to pass that are both good and bad, both horrifying and pleasant.

And if you thought that the previous books already explained the secret origins of everything there is about Dune, this book covers a whole lot more, from the final incarnation of the Bene Gesserit to the Mentats. To some, it might feel contrived. To others, it might just be what they’re looking in for a sequel.

If there’s anything to be disappointed, it’s the ending. I mean more than the question of how does our protagonists defeat the machine villains is the question of how the Atreides and Harkonnen feud began. While Herbert and Anderson do a perfect job of creating sympathetic Atreides and Harkonnen characters, perhaps they do the latter too well. Suffice to say, the ending for me isn’t convincing enough to explain the strong enmity between the two houses. And as if to prove it, a few pages in the epilogue is written to explain just that. Which again, I find unconvincing.

Aside from that, The Battle of Corrin is quite good if you’re open to Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s take on the Dune universe. Unfamiliar readers might find it more beneficial for them to explore the other books in the series, although prior knowledge is not really needed as this book pretty much stands well on its own.