Very rarely will I review an item I did not like. I much prefer to recommend things that I think are good and ignore things that I think are dreadful. In the case of Paul of Dune I am torn. While this was not a great book, neither too was it so awful that I would refuse to mention it. Perhaps, my review should simply be that I was disappointed by its mediocrity.
Paul of Dune is essentially a bi-polar book. There are two stories being told here, and while one is contemporary to the time period between Dune and Dune: Messiah, the other story is a flashback from the period prior to the original Dune series. The real meat (i.e. the enjoyable part of the story) is the tale of the initial transition of the House Atreides into the role of Imperial leaders and the beginnings of the Jihad. Sadly, the rest of the story is a tedious, unnecessary, and blatantly stupid subplot about Duke Leto getting married to the daughter of Armand of Ecaz.
Wait, you are saying, didn't we already do this? Yup. Remember the tedious prequels in the Houses of Dune series? Yeah, there was that really ridiculous War of Assassins between House Moritani and House Ecaz, and Leto's betrothed was murdered. Apparently she had a sister and Duke Leto was going to go through the marriage plans with the new girl, relegating Jessica to the role of 'the bit on the side'. All I can say is, "Why?" There is no apprent motivation or reason. Most of the rest of this subplot is equally ludicrous.
Meanwhile, we have a pretty good story about the Court of Paul Muad'dib and his Jihad. We watch as Gurney and Stilgar try to ride the tiger of the fanatical Jihadis, showing us exotic battlefields and amazing scenes. The Court scenes are equally impressive as we watch Alia earn her props as a political insider and leader in waiting. One thing that I really liked is the portrayal of loyal and noble Irulan, and her relationships with her estranged family who are exiled to Salusa Secundus. The scenes with Shaddam and Wensicia are well done, as are many of the scenes between Hasimir Fenring and Paul. Sadly, the whole education of Marie Fenring among the Bene Tleilax is handled poorly and resembles the flashback in structure and style (i.e. poorly thought out and badly plotted).
So, what do I really think about this one? It is good, but it is basically two different books badly welded together with only the thinnest of plot devices. It seems fairly certain that the flashback sequences were likely supposed to be a last novel in the Houses series, while most of the Jihad-era material was obviously inspired by Frank Herbert's original notes and story outlines. Fans of the Dune books will enjoy this latest entry (for the most part), but will likely skim through the flashback sections since they are the literary version of The Phantom Menace.
*Note: I am grading things based on the old system of 'To Hit Armor Class 0' or THAC0. The idea is that the lower the number, the better this is at being an actual hit in terms of game mechanics. In terms of my grade, the THAC0 is the number is believe on a scale of 1-20 that I think this will be a hit with you, the reader. 1 means that I think that pretty much everyone will love this book/movie/show and 20 means that almost nobody will like it.