DUNE: HOUSE ATREIDES

Since Frank Herbert, author of the mighty Dune series (ending with Chapterhouse: Dune, 1985) died in 1986, rumors have been circulating that his son Brian (Sudanna, Sudanna, 1985) would continue the saga. Finally, in collaboration with Anderson (Star Wars novels, X-files novels, thrillers, etc.) he has: the action of this prequel occurs several decades before that of Dune, the series opener. In a far-future galactic empire, everything from commerce and politics to interstellar travel and longevity depends on a miraculous spice, mÇlange, whose sole source is the desert planet Arrakis. The Emperor, Elrood IX of House Corrino, sends scientist Pardot Kynes to Arrakis to study its puzzling ecology. Elrood’s son Shaddam, meanwhile, plots with the assassin Hasimir Fenring to murder his father, while simultaneously prodding the old emperor to conspire with the despised, genetic-whiz Tleilaxu to develop an artificial source of the spice. A young, lean Baron Harkonnen oversees Arrakis and spice production, while his deadly rival, Paulus Atreides, sends his son, 14-year-old Leto, to planet Ix to study its sophisticated machines. The manipulative Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood require both Harkonnen and Atreides genes to achieve their long-standing objective of breeding an omniscient psychic that they can control while remaining dependent on a poisonous spice-liquor to ignite ancestral memories. Undeniably, the authors have accepted a formidable challenge. So how does their effort stack up against Frank Herbert’s originals? Well, the plotting’s as devious and complicated if less subtle, and it’s comparable in scope, with gratifying inventive touches. Still, the disappointingly lightweight characters make for less powerful drama. In a word, satisfying: all Dune fans will want to investigate, newcomers will be tempted, and it should promote fresh interest in the magnificent original series. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-11061-6

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Spectra/Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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