Monday, August 27, 2007

The End of an Era

August has brought us the last of the Dune novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. The series, which was started by Frank Herbert (father of Brian) in 1965, has spawned over 15 books, one movie (the famous David Lynch Dune), two mini-series (SciFi Channel's Frank Herbert's Dune and Children of Dune), documentaries, discussions, four video games, board games, role-playing games, toys (from the David Lynch production), and countless pieces of fan fiction. Widely regarded as one of the greatest pieces of science fiction ever produced, Dune is, was, and ever shall be a beloved part of my personal collection.

My experience with Dune started with the David Lynch movie, which I recall having seen in all its chopped-up glory on WPIX-NY Channel 11 when I was but a lad. WPIX had a habit of showing lots of SF films before it became the WB network, and many of my favorites were oft seen there (Flash Gordon was a regular Saturday Afternoon feature flick, as were the Planet of the Apes movies and the various Star Trek films). I digress, though.

I remember watching the movie and thinking that it was perhaps the coolest thing I had ever seen. Body shields, sonic weapons, great costumes, great acting, and an awe-inspiringly vast scope made this production stand out in my mind. So great was my adoration of the film that I spent $60.00 for the VHS version (for those who recall, the 80's were a time when buying videos was cost prohibitive and it took me the better part of a year to save for it with my $5/week allowance).

My local library did not have the book, and this was in the days when the inter-library loan system was in its infancy and could only be done with six forms filled out in triplicate and letters from the Pope and Congress. Luckily I was eventually able to find a copy at the (now defunct) Pyramid Booksellers in Westwood, NJ. I read Dune in three days, then went back and re-read it (taking my time). It was hard to imagine how much they had left out of that film. Needless to say, I was hooked.

For some reason I cannot fathom, my mother had copies of Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and God Emperor of Dune (all of which were in terrible shape), so I tore through those. I almost gave up with God Emperor, and in fact it took me 10 years before I finally picked up Heretics of Dune and finally Chapterhouse: Dune. As with many readers, I was taken aback by the size and shape of what was going on, and I could not see how Herbert was going to make any of this make sense. Like a passenger on a Guild heighliner, I had to trust the capabilities of the Navigator and hope I would get to where I was going.

When the prequels came out in 1999, I was prepared for the worst. I knew Kevin J. Anderson as a hack who was busy ruining Star Wars, and I held no hope that he was not about to royally screw up my favorite franchise as well. Luckily for me, Kevin J. Anderson's input seems to have been tempered by Brian Herbert's skills, and the fact that they were working off of notes and directives from Frank Herbert's safety deposit box. The three prequels were interesting reads, though I did not like them nearly as much as the original material. The next batch of prequels, though, knocked my socks off!

When The Butlerian Jihad came out in 2002, I was expecting it to be decent, but not terribly great. Boy was I surprised to find it was as good as the original Dune though in markedly different ways. It started filling in a number of blank spaces, and as the series progressed, I found myself suddenly knowing more and more about how the universe of the time of Shaddam Corrino, Vladimir Harkonnen, and Leto Atreides came to be. It was a great ride, and I enjoyed it all (though I thought that the origin of the Harkonnen/Atreides feud was a bit silly).

Last, but certainly not least, came the final chapters in the Dune saga. Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune pick up the story where Chapterhouse: Dune left off. The last two books read almost like Frank wrote them himself, with minimal input from Kevin J. Anderson or Brian Herbert. Finally we know why it all came to pass. Finally we know how it all links together. Frank Herbert's grand vision is now complete, and, like the aforementioned Navigator, he has brought us to the end of the journey safe and sound.

The spice must flow!


robustyoungsoul said...

I read the 6 by Frank, but never read any of the new prequels. That's the first good endorsement I've heard, I may have to check them out now!

Todd said...

I was not as impressed by the House-series as by the Butlerian Jihad books. Those were really fantastic. I would read them and the final two books (Hunters and Sandworms) as they represent the best of the prequel writings.

Stephen G. Spinosa said...

Actually I didn't have a VCR until
the early '90's when Jim & I came
back from California,but that's
another story...We actually tried
reading The Butlerian Jihad recently & Jim had a better time
with it then I did(although I don't
think he totally buys your explanation about the sandworms,lol).

SandChigger said...

The last two books read almost like Frank wrote them himself, with minimal input from Kevin J. Anderson or Brian Herbert.'re kidding, right? This is a joke?

I mean...huh?

Todd said...

You need to go back and look at Chapterhouse and Heretic and compare them to Hunters and Sandworm to really see the similarity. Also, it is just an opinion.