Review of Paul of Dune
“The best thing Brian and KJA have written. Amazing!”
I wish I could agree with Brian’s nephew’s evaluation of this book quoted in the title. But I can’t. So far as I can see, the writing is just as uninspired and the use of language every bit as inept as in their previous eight “Dune” books. (Every noun must be qualified by an adjective or some other modifier, for example.) The characters are two-dimensional at best and, even allowing for the difference in writers, simply do not seem to be the same people encountered in Dune or Dune Messiah. While it is true that there seems to be less restatement of events that occurred only a few “chapters” earlier, there are still too many reminders of Duniverse basics that anyone other than a first-time reader (or someone who has recently suffered severe head trauma and a resultant loss of memory?) should already know and remember. And the inclusion in the four “Emperor Muad’Dib” sections of elements and events just recounted in the three “Young Paul” ones invariably comes across as clumsy and forced. Particularly when none of them are ever mentioned in Dune or Dune Messiah.
Which of course brings me to the issue of inconsistencies: the book continues the now established tradition of introducing inconsistencies with the original six books by Frank Herbert (for example, according to Dune, Paul never left Caladan, his birthworld, before the Atreides moved to Arrakis, but nevertheless the “Young Paul” flashbacks have him journeying twice to Ecaz and once to Grumman) ... but this is no longer an issue, because we are informed in a tête-à-tête between Paul and Irulan that she is in fact the real author of Dune ... and probably of Messiah and Children as well. (No doubt in upcoming tomes we will discover that Harq al-Ada is the author of Leto of Dune and Gaus Andaud the historian/fictionalizer of the events of God Emperor, Heretics and Chapterhouse.) The message here is clear: everything we fans thought we knew about the stories “ain’t necessarily so.” The new Prophets of Dune continue their revelation of a new Gospel, which we must either accept or be cast out as “Talifans.”
But that’s just one masterful performance that takes place in this multi-ring circus. Other attractions include the provision of further support for the retcon corrections to two mistakes made in earlier books (even though both are now safely covered by the “Irulan Solution”) and the creation of the foundation for a plot element introduced in Hunters and Sandworms.
Above all this, however, my biggest problem with the book is ... that it’s just plain boring. This makes sense in a way, seeing how from my perspective it (and the three “Heroes” books slated to follow it) is completely unnecessary: the “gap” left by Frank Herbert between Dune and Dune Messiah was not an accident. While I would be very much interested in seeing any notes Frank Herbert may have left concerning the Fremen Jihad and that period of Duniverse history, I have practically no interest in pulp fictionalizations of his ideas (or worse, of the second-rate ideas of lesser writers) by lesser writers. (Other than reading them to criticize and complain, of course.)
Fans of the previous “New Dune” efforts, young adults and people who don’t read much in the way of real books will probably be able to enjoy this one. Real Dune fans should pass, unless you’re also the kind of person who ogles traffic accidents or just someone who wants to keep current with the latest bumps along the downhill road Dune is currently on.