Tuesday, December 20, 2022

[Review]—"Dune: The Duke of Caladan" is a Solid Start to the Prequel Trilogy

I know too much about the Dune series, although I've only read the original Frank Herbert novel, which took me over thirty years to finish (see my review of Dune here to understand what I mean), and the anthology collection Sands of Dune. I've spent many sleepless nights scouring the internet for tidbits about the Dune franchise, including the extended universe—the prequels, side-sequels, and sequels co-written by Frank's son Brian Herbert and science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson.  

I'm fully aware that the prequels have their detractors, who will argue that only Frank Herbert's six novels (Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune) are canon in the Duneverse. I agree and disagree with their perspectives but have maintained an open mind regarding the Herbert/Anderson collaborations, which lead me to read Dune: The Duke of Caladan, book one in the newest prequel series, The Caladan Trilogy.

While the novel's title alludes to Leto Atreides, the Duke of Caladan of the House Atreides, his concubine Lady Jessica, and their son, Paul, the Muad'Dib, are prominently featured. The events in the book take place a year or so before the original novel, give or take a few days, weeks, or months when Paul is fourteen years old.  

I read Dune: The Duke of Caladan shortly after reading the original Dune, and the books flowed nicely together for a Dune newcomer. While I can see Frank had a different sense for words and descriptions, his son Brian and writing partner Kevin J. Anderson has perfected Frank's writing style to the point that the language is respectable and does not detract from his works.

The story follows the fallout from a terrorist attack on the planet Otorio during the grand opening of Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV's Imperial Museum. However, it accomplishes nothing more than setting things into motion—putting fan favorites in a specific predicament and setting up the next novel, The Lady of Caladan. Now, this isn't necessarily a negative thing if you've read the original Dune, but if The Duke of Caladan is your first venture into the Duneverse, it may spoil what happens in Dune.  

Dune: The Duke of Caladan was a good book overall. The narrative's pacing is strong, and the returning characters feel right. The relationship between Duke Leto and Lady Jessica is fleshed out here. Lady Jessica is my favorite character in this novel, and her involvement in the cliffhanger ending sets up The Lady of Caladan, which I've already read.

Some readers think Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are terrible writers, but I couldn't disagree more. They're only focusing on the fact that the authors aren't Frank Herbert. And let me repeat this: they'll claim that only Frank Herbert's six novels are canon in the Duneverse. I hate to break it to these readers, but there are 25 Dune books (counting the short story and novella collections). If you don't want to read them, don't.

In the end, Dune: The Duke of Caladan is an enjoyable prequel to the science fiction classic Dune. Is it flawless? Of course not. But there are enough mystique, character moments, and throwbacks to keep you turning the pages... at least it did for me. ╌★★★★✰

1 comment:

  1. I've read all the prequels... you should, too.

    They occasionally can be a little long-winded, but they all provide a rich backstory worthy of Frank Herbert's Duneverse. The Machine Crusade happens 10,000 years before Dune and sets up everything: the Sorceresses who became the Bene Gesserit, foldspace, the Fremen, the Corrino empire, the Atreides/Harkonnen feud... and I like that several storylines are going on at once (like in Duke of Caladan) -- try and keep up! ; )


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