Title: House Atreides
Author: Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Page Count/Review Word Count: 686
I wasn’t particularly excited to get to this book because I’ve heard a lot of bad things about the Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson Dune books. I guess it’s because Frank Herbert died before he could continue the series himself and seemed to be setting himself up for some sort of denouement that he never got to write.
The thing is that Brian Herbert was already a reasonably successful science fiction author, and Kevin J. Anderson was pretty much a superstar. Even back then, he’d already won a ton of awards and built a name for himself for both his original novels and for his Star Wars novelisations. There wasn’t really anyone better placed to continue the series.
And besides, this book at least was just good. There are a few reasons for that, from the great work they did at following on from and building upon Frank Herbert’s worldbuilding to the characterisation and the fast-paced plot. Sure, it’s a long old book, but it had to be because there’s so much going on, and we hop between different characters who are all intertwined in a web of intrigue.
We also get to revisit a lot of cool characters. It was fun to see the young Leto Atreides, who makes for a much more interesting character than his son, Paul, and I also liked revisiting the Harkonnens. Duncan Idaho has always been a favourite of mine and we get to investigate his origin story, which involves him escaping from a Harkonnen hunting party. And Liet Kynes is a cracking character too, and so it was nice to see more from him.
I think that the original Dune series hit its peak towards God Emperor of Dune, and it actually lost a little bit of steam towards the fifth and sixth books. That’s why I was so chuffed to actually enjoy this one, because it felt as though we were getting some momentum again. There are a heck of a lot of the Herbert and Anderson books to go through though, and so perhaps things will change.
But with this book at least, I was very satisfied, and I actually think that I enjoyed it more than a few of the original Dune books and – yes – even the original Dune. But perhaps a lot of that is down to the fact that I’m now pretty well-verse in the whole Dune mythos and so it’s a lot easier for me to get absorbed into the story line and the politics.
I also think that this book is a reminder of why people describe the Dune series as a space opera, because it’s operatic in scope and as epic as the Game of Thrones books. And you can tell that it was done with a loving hand, and that both Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson were big fans of the franchise. And why wouldn’t they be?
And so if the other books are anything like this then I think the bad press that they’ve received is unwarranted. I kind of feel as though it’s one of those “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenarios in which people would have complained either way. But there are no complaints from me, and my overwhelming feeling is one of pleasant surprise with a lick of anticipation for more good things to come.
It’s interesting, because I don’t tend to like prequels, but I was surprised by this one and reminded of how much I liked some of the characters. Because Frank’s books span such a large amount of time, you end up with a scenario in which you can’t get attached to people because you know that they’re going to be dead and gone by the time you get to the next book anyway.
Make of this what you will, and if you’re not tempted to read it then don’t bother, but you’ll be missing out if you enjoyed the other books. Epic.