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Return to Dune
With Frank Herbert's death in 1986, the science fiction phenomenon known as the Dune series seemed fated to end with its sixth volume, Chapterhouse: Dune. However, Herbert's son Brian, working from his father's recently discovered files, now collaborates with bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson to give us the grand narrative themes, star-sweeping political tensions, and impassioned exploits of the original work in its prequel, Dune: House Atreides.
Some background -- or, depending on your current viewpoint, perhaps foreground -- first: Dune is the sprawling and intricate saga of the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, the very heart of a vast galactic empire and all its rebel factions. Dune is the only source of Melange, a spice that grants psychic powers and near-immortality to interstellar pilots. As per the Emperor's orders, Arrakis has traded hands from the violent Harkonnen to House Atreides. Led by the Baron, the Harkonnen scheme, subvert, and viciously murder most opposition in an effort to keep Arrakis for themselves. Eventually young Duke Paul Atreides is exiled on the planet's cruel surface and left to die. There he is rescued by the Fremen, a obscurely religious tribe of desert dwellers, is eventually renamed Muad'dib, and becomes the Fremen's leader in his attempt to regain the planet for House Atreides. Paul is not only mystically enhanced by the mysterious spice itself but might very well be a prophesied messiah.
Dune: House Atreides takes place four decades before the events of the first novel. Emperor Elrood IX of House Corrino, ruler of most of known space, sits upon the Golden Lion throne and orders planetologist Pardot Kynes to Arrakis to study the secrets of the addictive Melange. However, impatient to begin his own tyrannical reign, the Emperor's son, Shaddam, plots to kill his father with the aid of the assassin Hasimir Fenring. The Baron Harkonnen, still in charge of Arrakis and the production of Melange, must also counter the ploys of his enemies from the House Atreides. Paulus Atreides dispatches his teenage son, Leto (who will one day be father of Paul Maud'dib), to the mechanized planet Ix to learn what he can of advanced technology. The eight-year old Duncan Idaho, a slave who is stalked and tortured by his sadistic masters, eventually escapes and seeks his revenge. The religious order of Bene Gesserit "witches" works in secret to breed the "Kwisatz Haderach," a superhuman psychic child who can only be created through the manipulation of both Atreides and Harkonnen genes.
Few undertakings in the science fiction arena could present the formidable challenge that a prequel to Dune would pose. Frank Herbert's original novel won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, capturing the imaginations of readers all over the world and giving them a brand of SF that had never been known before. However, few could be better suited to accept the taxing trials than the team of Herbert and Anderson. Brian Herbert collaborated with his father on the elder's last published novel, Man of Two Worlds. Kevin J. Anderson, author of several Star Wars novels (Darksaber, The Emperor's Plague) and The X-Files novels (Ruins, Ground Zero), has already proven himself highly capable of writing within science fiction universes created by others. In finishing L. Ron Hubbard's Al! Pedrito! When Intelligence Goes Wrong, Anderson also confirmed that he could efficiently work from notes left behind by a true luminary of the science fiction genre.
The authors skillfully meet the demands set for them and continue the tradition of scope, complexity, and multilayered narrative threads. Dune: House Atreides manages to capture the majesty and intensity of Frank Herbert's fascinating and far-reaching epic. However, the authors are not merely expanding upon established story lines but are venturing forward into their own storytelling territory. Some of the series' most perplexing enigmas are answered, while other mysteries are uncovered. Adventurous, labyrinthine, and highly intriguing in its own right, Dune: House Atreides will garner a vast readership. Fans of the original novels will welcome any return to their beloved Arrakis, and new readers will wholeheartedly leap at the chance to delve into the mystical sands of Dune.