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Beyond Chapterhouse

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:04 pm    Post subject: Beyond Chapterhouse Reply with quote

Fans of Frank Herbert's Dune series, if they are anything like me,
had given up hope.

The original book of the series, "Dune", was a revelation.
Set 10,000 or more years in the future, elements of our
current 21st century situation remained recognizable and
even took on new significance as seen through Herbert's
writing. Characters, often given little attention or respect
in the genre of science fiction, drove the narrative, their
choices forming the core of the story, even as they retained
an elemental mystery, and even as overwhelming social,
political, and technological forces swirled around them.

For all the things that Herbert did right in constructing his
novel, and they are many, the two elements that really set
"Dune" apart involve mystery and strategy. The mystery
centers on two areas: 1) what are humans capable of, and
2) what is really going on? In "Dune", answers to these
mysteries hover just outside of view. The next two novels
in the series, "Dune Messiah" and "God Emporer of Dune"
continue and extend the mystery, as the fate of all humanity
depends on the actions of the central characters.

The "strategic" elements of Herbert's novels are harder to pin down.
The reader, even with the benefit of sitting in on the doings
of multiple factions, barely has a better grasp of what choices
should be made, than the characters in those factions. As in
so much of ordinary life, even the questions remain hazy
and unclear.

The last two novels of the series, especially "Chapterhouse
Dune", bring these elements to a fever pitch.

That is why I was so disappointed with the "infill" novels
co-written by Frank Herbert's son, Brian, after Frank
Herbert's death. From the first 5 novels of the original
series, it was clear that Frank Herbert was drawing from
a richly drawn tapestry underlying the material that appeared
in the novels, so I was excited to learn more about that
tapestry, the history and politics of the societies that preceded
"Dune". But where the original Dune books had the gravitas
that comes from deep mystery and an equally deep respect
for the characters, these infill novels seemed more like
standard science fiction fare: battles, space ships, and robots.

I discovered recently that Brian Herbert has found a trove of
father Frank's notes going beyond "Chapterhouse
Dune", and has written 2 novels ("Hunters of Dune" and
"Sandworms of Dune") to extend the series. I'm about
halfway through the first, so this will not be anything like
a complete review. So far, what I can say is that I am not
disappointed. Brian Herbert seems to have hit his stride, or
perhaps father Frank's notes were more extensive in this
instance. In any case, "Hunter's of Dune" looks to be a fine
addition to the Dune series.
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