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Synopsis of The Winds of Dune

“They never blow but they suck!”

With this book, The Winds of Dune, the McDune franchise reaches a new low. Originally entitled Jessica of Dune, this one shows even more than its predecessor why Frank Herbert chose not to write about those interim “gaps” between his books. And once again, their newest excresence demonstrates just how little Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert really understand the “big sandbox” of the fictional universe they are playing in. The shenanigans surrounding the changes to the title and U.S. cover illustration demonstrate how little overall, long-term planning is actually involved in the publication of these books.

Apparently believing the gambit of recasting the original Dune novels by Frank Herbert as in-universe propaganda penned by Irulan, perpetrated in Paul of Dune, to have been successful, hiking “storyteller” Kevin J. Anderson continues to insert into the story a series of increasingly ridiculous and un-Dune-like elements. This is a bad book.

The Winds of Dune cover, © Steve Stone. Used without permission.

(A note on the composition of this synopsis: I first began working on this in August 2009, but once Ampoliros began publishing his excellent series of reading notes on the book over on Jacurutu, finishing it seemed less urgent.)

Part I - 10,207 AG (Paul-Muad’Dib has reigned as Emperor for fourteen years...) (17 “chapters”)

  1. (13) Guild Heighliner arrives over Caladan, bringing Qizarate priests bearing word of Paul’s death a month earlier. Jessica & Gurney receive the news like the true cardboard characters they are throughout this dog.
  2. (20) Gurney running his gaze hounds the next morning, feeling guilty and blaming himself. That night Jessica prowls the halls of Castle Caladan, ends up at last in front of Gurney’s door, wanting to talk.* But she hears Gurney weeping within and returns to her own chambers.
  3. (24) An envoy arrives at Arrakis with proposals that Alia marry Shaddam, or Leto be betrothed to one of Shaddam’s daughters, or Ghanima to Farad’n.* The next day, Alia visits Irulan in her death cell and informs her of the envoy’s visit and also that the envoy was killed when his shuttle “experienced inexplicable engine failure”* when trying to return to his Heighliner.
  4. (31) Jessica & Gurney decide to journey to Arrakis in case Alia needs their support. Once onboard the Heighliner, they visit the common areas to eavesdrop on the other passengers. They enter a drinking establishment and notice some of the Wayku space gypsy stewards distributing pamphlets entitled The Truth about Muad’Dib and written by Bronso of Ix.
  5. (35) Stilgar escapes into the desert to refresh himself in old Fremen ways, but he can only stay one night at Sietch Tabr because he finds it too changed. As he rides a mighty worm* back to Arrakeen, he recalls (in graphic detail) his recent killing, on Alia’s orders, of both Edric the Guild Navigator and the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. When Stilgar dismounts from the worm, instead of disappearing into the sand, it rears up and hovers over him, as if seeking for something, and Stilgar wonders if the rumors that Muad’Dib has joined with the worms are true. But the worm burps at him, farts some fresh O2 his way and disappears, leaving Stil all ... tingly from the experience.*
  6. (40) Jessica & Gurney arrive on Arrakis at the Arrakeen spaceport ... and someone tries to assassinate Jessica with explosives. Stilgar hurries them into the terminal building, where they meet the Duncan ghola and Alia is also waiting.*
  7. (45) Alia & Duncan pretty much feel each other up while Jessica is watching during the flight to the Keep. Once there, Alia takes Jessica first to see the Twins, discussing her plans for Paul & Chani’s funerals along the way. At the creche, Jessica chooses not to hold the babies.*
  8. (49) Jessica marches down to Irulan’s deathcell and plays the Muad’Dib Mama card on Alia’s guards to get Irulan out of gaol free. Irulan confesses about the contraceptives she gave to Chani. Jessica and Alia have a mama/Abomination-bitch tiff.
  9. (55) Gurney & Duncan flitting about in a ‘thopter for troop inspections and a bit of male bonding, man to ghola.
  10. (59) Alia holds a big to-do at her Fane, proclaims Irulan innocent of any wrongdoing and reaffirms her role as Muad’Dib's biographer. Jessica is ... concerned and fearful of the future.
  11. (62) Jessica at the funeral extravaganza, providing an opportunity for ... needless recap of events from previous books that even the most ADHD-afflicted KJA fan should be able to remember. Her trip down memory lane and the festivities are interrupted by ornithopters spewing a giant cloud upon the underside of which Bronso of Ix’s face is projected. He proclaims Muad’Dib “just a man, not a god!”
  12. (68) The next morning Jessica meets with Stilgar and they decide to steal Chani’s water to prevent Alia from using it in another over-the-top funeral ceremony. Stilgar begins slowly spiriting it away. When the theft is discovered, Alia is furious, but Jessica advises her to keep it secret and simply replace the stolen water.*
  13. (74) Alia launches an investigation into the funeral debacle ... meaning lots of torture of detainees. In her Regent’s Council she “amends” the Great Convention, outlawing possession of atomics by anyone besides the Imperial Regent. She considers using atomics against any Great Houses that refuse to give theirs up. Jessica is visited by three Landsraad representatives from the Tupile Alliance who ask her to intervene with Alia and have the new atomics policy changed. Jessica agrees to speak to Alia.
  14. (80) Jessica and Alia journey to Tabr so Jessica can pay her respects to Paul in private. They traipse through an Arrakeen souk in disguise but Alia is angered by the vendors hawking Muad’Dib goods. At the sietch, Jessica wanders the nearby Dunes, but finds no sign of Paul.
  15. (84) Some completely daft bullshit between Alia and some workers in the throne room. Later she meets an Ixian delegation, orders them to supply her with new toys to get back into her good graces.
  16. (90) Bronso, scribbling away, hidden away on a Guildship, being assisted by Ennzyn, one of his Wayku allies. Blah blah blah.
  17. (93) Alia calls Irulan to a warehouse where she shows her revised copies of her The Life of Muad’Dib being packed for shipment, makes it clear that henceforth Irulan is only to write positive things about Paul in her books. Later, Jessica finds Irulan in her writing gazebo and starts to tell her the story of Paul and Bronso and how they had been boyhood pals....

Part II - 10,188 AG (Paul Atreides, age twelve, six months after the end of the War of Assassins...) (19 “chapters”)

  1. (99) Jessica, Duncan & Gurney escort Paul to Ix where he will spend his “offworld training” time with House Vernius.* While they are chitchatting with the happy cyborg family, they notice the arrival of three Reverend Mothers [cue ominous background music].*
  2. (104) While Paul settles in, Jessica spends time with Tessia Vernius. As they are visiting, the three Reverend Mothers show up and demand that Tessia return with them to Wallach IX to make some babies. When she refuses and a tiff threatens, Rhombur (CRUSH!!!) appears and kicks the trio off Ix. Later, in the apartments of Dr. Wellington Yueh, Wanna Yueh, who just happens to be one of the three BGs, appears and pumps him for information on Tessia and Rhombur’s reproductive capacities and then reveals to him that she lied to him about not being able to conceive and that she herself has been popping them out like biscuits back at the Mother School. She starts to leave but sticks around for a sympathy fuck to help him get over the shock.*
  3. (111) Compare-&-contrast study of Paul and Bronso. As they prep to go on a rock climb, they discover someone has sabotaged Bronso’s gear. Plots within plods within plods!
  4. (114) R.M. Stokiah, leader of the BG trio, comes to Tessia and reveals that she is really one of the Sisterhood’s new “Guilt-caster” secret weapons, and she puts her psychic guilt whammy on Tessia, who collapses into a coma. When Rhombur returns and finds her, he assumes her the victim of an attack by his Technocrat Council enemies. When Yueh appears powerless to help her, the BG delegation shows up and offers to take her back to Wallach for treatment. Vernius gives Yueh a few more days.
  5. (119) Two days later Tessia is shipped off with the BGs. Bronso & Rhomboid have a father-teen fight* , and Rhomper inexplicably decides it’s a good time to tell Bronso that he’s not really his son. Bronso runs out, back to his room to get his climbing gear. Paul discovers him as he is going up the wall outside, gets his own gear and threatens to join him. Bronso returns to his room and confides in Paul what he has just learned and tells him he is going to run away. Because he has promised his father he will watch out for Bronso, Paul feels duty bound to accompany him.
  6. (125) The two stow away on a cargo ship. Once aboard a Heighliner, they sneak out and make their way to the passenger decks and crash a CHOAM party to nosh the buffet. A Wayku steward named Ennzyn discovers them but the ship folds into a new system before he can do anything. So he puts them to work.*
  7. (128) Meanwhile back on Ix, they discover that the boys are gone and ... what is really amazing about this micro-chapter is how incredibly tedious it is when IT IS ONLY ONE AND A HALF FUCKING PAGES LONG. Anyway, everyone jumps up and down a lot and blah blah blah and Jessica sends word to Leto back on Caladan that Paul is gone.
  8. (130) Runaways on the Guildship for several days and then we get a refresher recap in Wayku history. Two weeks later Bronso gets the bright idea of sneaking up to get a glimpse of the Navigator, using Ixian goodies he has brought along. They are captured but Ennzyn intercedes, gets them handed over to the Jongleur troupe of Rheinvar the Magnificent.*
  9. (135) The search continues. Jessica writes Mohiam, asks assistance. Leto arrives on Ix. Mohiam replies, rebukes Jessica for caring. A Guild official arrives, demanding payment for Paul & Bronso’s passage on the Heighliner.*
  10. (140) Paul & Bronso with the Jongleurs on Chusuk. Rheinvar tells them the sad tale of Jongleur origins. The boys meet a troupe member named Sielto and join him on a jaunt into Sonance,* the capital city. Sielto tells them about the situation on Chusuk, about the native “harmonywood” and “borer beetles” and the rival artificial, Tleilaxu-engineered “clonewood” and the ongoing feud between the “family-leagues” growing & using one or the other.
    During rehearsals the next day, the boys discover that many of the troupe are Face Dancers. They join the audience and watch Rheinvar use his Mastuh Jonglo mojo to mass-HYPmotize the crowd; Bronso falls for it completely, but Paul, thanks to his training in magical Bene Gesserit esoterica, is not taken in and sees nothing.
  11. (149) INTERLUDE 10,207 AG
    Meanwhile back in the gazebo... Jessica drops the bomb to blow Irulan’s mind: everything that Paul knew about “manipulating populations” and making friends among superstitious and secretive desert peoples, he learned from his time as a runaway with the Jongleur troupe.*
  12. (151) Chusuk: troupe packs up after last performance, rushes to catch shuttle back to Heighliner. Face Dancers turn out to be assassins.
  13. (155) Gurney & Duncan three days too late to Chusuk, which is in turmoil following the brutal slaughter of the entire clonewood-growing family. Gurney buys a new clonewood baliset. More bureaucratic bullshit back on Ix (Rhomboid not playing well with Bowleg Atari,* head of the Technocrat Council.) Rhombus tries to blackmail the Guild, but the Council overrules him.
  14. (162) Aboard the Heighliner (now bound for Balut), Rheinvar instructs the boys in a bit of Jongleur lore. Bronso almost gets them caught at the immigration check scan ... has something hidden in his genes.
  15. (166) Gurney & Duncan pump Ennzyn for info, report back to Ix. Rhombur (CRUSH!), Leto & Jessica head off for Balut to intercept the boys, leaving Gurney & Duncan behind on Ix (with a complement of Atreides troops called from Caladan) to make sure the Council stays in line.
  16. (171) On Balut, Jongleur troupe setting up for performance in the “Theater of Shards”.*
  17. (174) Rhombu and the Atreides arrive on Balut, find the boys in no time at all. Since they cannot book return passage for three days, they get put up by the Governor. Sielto comes to warn Paul of danger.
  18. (180) Performance night. Paul susses out that the Governor is the target and body-tackles her & her consort, saving them from a laser blast amplified and focused by the mirrors decorating the interior of the theater. Rhomper detects a building sonic blast and shoves Paul and Bronso out of its way, but cannot save himself (Rhombur CRUSHED!). Famous last words to Bronso, “Is Paul ... safe?”
  19. (188) Bronso poutingly mourns his non-father, snubs Paul. Once back on Ix, he kicks Gurney & Duncan, the Atreides forces and Dr. Yueh off Ix. Once on Caladan, Yueh offers his services to House Atreides. And that’s how he ends up with them and goes to Arrakis.

Stay tuned for the next three parts!