Dune is one of the best science fiction novels of all time. In fact, it may be one of the best novels of all time. Frank Herbert’s original book, and the next two sequels, Dune: Messiah and Children of Dune, are pretty fantastic as well. The Dune books are complex and thematically rich stories, exploring what it is like to be a hero, what heroism does, for good and ill, to a society, and the impact of that messianic role. It’s about faith, it’s about ecology, it’s about culture, and it’s emotionally moving.
The upcoming film by Denis Villeneuve is something that I am extraordinarily excited for.
Everything else in the Dune universe is bad. After his father’s death, Brian Herbert worked with author Kevin J. Anderson to do a string of boring, trite, and pulpy novels set in the Dune universe. Every time, they chose the most boring and least interesting way of doing their stories, perverting and distorting the themes that make Dune so interesting. If I have earned a single point of credibility in the eyes of you, my readers, let it be spent on this. Do not read Brian Herbert and KJA’s Butlerian Jihad books. Just don’t.
Dune: House Atreides commits all the same, stupid sins as the other BH/KJA books. It’s mindless exposition, simply taking the stuff from the original Dune novels and shuffling the names and the places around some. Instead of the Harokkens working with the Sarduakar, it’s the Tleilaxu. Instead of the Atreides it’s the Vernius. And so on and so forth.
And there’s no thought to the elements used, as either. For instance, in Dune: Messiah, the Face Dancers of the Tleilaxu were there to act as a mirror for Paul Atreides – a twisted manipulator, who had the same mind but many faces, while Paul was the manipulator with one face, but many minds, warring for influence. In Dune: House Atreides, the Tleilaxu are used because there are only so many proper nouns that Brian Herbert and KJA can rip from the corpse of Frank Herbert’s books.
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, the Butlerian Jihad is a part of a larger idea, as Herbert explores just how far and how significantly the human mind can be expanded – both to become like machines, in the form of the mentat, and unlike it, in the form of the psychedelic prescience. The Jihad was a way to create the space to explore that theme. In Dune: House Atreides, the Butlerian Jihad is a generic excuse for an invasion.
This is a comic book done by madlibs. There’s a formulaic plot, stolen from something else, with a series of proper nouns plugged in. It’s a shame that the undeniably talented artistic team of Dev Pramanik, Raffaele Semeraro, Alex Guimares, and Ed Dukeshire are strapped to such a sad mediocrity.
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