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by Uri Ben OZ

Pub Date: March 12th, 2012
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

In first-time author OZ’s futuristic sci-fi novel, desert rebels on a ruined planet attempt to manipulate a young historian into destroying the empire.

The author adapts many aspects of Frank Herbert’s Dune saga, particularly the quasi-Arab culture Herbert conceived for the far future. Here, however, the strong 9/11 theme overshadows the ecological considerations. Several centuries hence, the galaxy belongs to the Caliphate, a theocratic empire that arose after the Arab world emerged victorious from centuries of warfare with the West. The “Desert Peoples” prevailed due to their invention of a teleportation technique that enabled them to escape from the ravaged Earth, a bombed, polluted and barren wasteland. Regardless of its state, Earth remains vital to the religion and prestige of the mighty Caliphate. Ben Har-Jude, a “Chrislam” scholar of humble origins in a Caliphate backwater planet, goes to one of Earth’s few habitable oases to pursue his studies. There, he and a mentor are captured by the Durans, a hardy race of rebel fighters dwelling in the deep desert. Descended from genetically modified “Merkan” soldiers, the Durans—and their beautiful blonde warrior princess, Farah—soon gain Ben’s sympathies. But the Durans, like their Gulf War ancestors, are still capable of unleashing shock and awe. Unlike Herbert’s wordy worldbuilding and memorable ensemble cast, OZ compresses his epic. Exposition comes in bursts, and bombshell revelations arrive thick and fast. Still, the overall vision is compelling and the situation morally complex. OZ scores points (or belabors them, depending on reader perspective) looking “back” on hot-button contemporary issues such as Wall Street mischief and climate change. Sci-fi fans who don’t object to the pulpy pace should find the novel a respectable riff on Herbert rather than knock-off pastiche or fanfic.

Packs too much into too little space but still merits a look, especially for Frank Herbert fanciers.