Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dune: House Harkonnen & Dune: House Corrino

Dune: House Harkonnen
By Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Dune: House Corrino
By Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

My tentative plan was to read/re-read all of the Dune books, including the ones by Frank Herbert and the ones that came after. I started off with a few of the Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson books and then moved on to their Dune prequel trilogy - the first three Dune books they wrote. I wasn't knocked out by any of the Herbert/Anderson books but I found them entertaining enough - at first.

It was somewhere during Dune: House Harkonnen that I began to feel some stirrings of discontent. They continued to stir as I finished that book and moved on to Dune: House Corrino and they kept stirring. It was somewhere during all of this that I decided to finish that volume and move on to the "real" Dune books.

Which may not hold up as well as I'd hoped. That remains to be seen since it's been a long time since I've read any of Frank Herbert's original Dune books. As for the Herbert/Anderson books, they proceeded in more or less typical Dune fashion, dealing with the exploits of all of the many and varied factions that make up that universe.

But I found a few things to be increasingly problematic as time went on. In no particular order they were the violence, the characterization, the lack of real suspense and relatively uninspiring plot lines.

Let's start with the violence. My thoughts on this might change as I go back to the frank Herbert books. As I recall it those books were fairly violent but a lot of the violence seemed to be hinted at or understated and was relatively subtle. I'm not at all averse to violence if it seems to further the ends of the story but as things moved along it began to seem that Herbert/Anderson tackled this in a way that was quite gratuitous and overdone.

Which kind of ties into my grumble regarding characterization. Which can be summed up by saying that it seemed that most of the characters were clearly either white hats or black hats, with very little grey that I could discern. While the Baron Harkonnen, in particular, and his immediate circle of bad eggs were always presented as being fairly unredeemable in frank Herbert's books, i seem to recall that it was done with some subtlety, as opposed to the over the top and almost cartoonish treatment by Herbert/Anderson.

I guess the lack of suspense is something of a given when you're dealing with a prequel that presents characters who will appear in the "original' volumes. But it was hard to work up too much concern when these characters got in a pickle, knowing for a fact that they would survive. Last up, there's that plotline, which ranged far and wide, as Dune books tend to do, but in this trilogy seemed to mostly be focused on the takeover of Ix by the Tleilaxu and a certain piece of conniving between the latter and the Emperor Shaddam. Which was just too far removed from the events of the Dune books proper for my tastes.

So it's on to Dune now and I'm curious to see just how those books will hold up after all these years. As for whether I'm going to tackle any more of the half dozen or so Herbert/Anderson books that are still out there, that remains to be seen.