01/11/2008. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
pub: Macmillan Audio. 18 hours 15 CDs. Price: $49.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4272-0484-4) read by Scott Brick .
check out website: http://us.macmillan.com/Book.aspx?isbn=9781427204844
The universe is expanding! So to is the Dune Universe! Frank Herbert in his time wrote half a dozen novels with Brian Herbert with Kevin J. Anderson adding ten more. The latest in the series is 'Paul Of Dune' and there are another three planned over the next few years, probably enough to keep them going to and beyond pensionable age. One wonders if Brian's children will carry on with the family business?
Brian Herbert could have retired and enjoyed the fortunes of his father. Let's face it, 'Dune' and the other five novels from Frank Herbert have continued to make money in all forms of media but the story wasn't complete. The Dune Universe lends itself to expansion and working on the notes left by his father, Brian Herbert, along with Kevin J. Anderson, continued to fill in the gaps to provide more and more novels.
This is a great thing if you are a 'Dune' fan and even better if you're a publisher. While there is no doubt the books are lucrative providing an obvious incentive to add more volumes to the story, at least we can be assured the quality of the writing is good.
However, first we must discuss the audio book as an entity in itself. This is a long haul! There are 15 discs and 18 hours of listening material. Considering the price, it's actually not bad value for money. You are frankly thinking about a couple of weeks of leisurely listening but this must not be regarded as an arduous task. The best way to treat this would be as if you were listening to episodes of a radio show. Of course, with time available, you could do the whole lot in a couple of days. It's up to you! As a reviewer, I chose to listen to three discs per day which took me five days. Despite being time-consuming, it was an interesting and rewarding experience.
Now, to the star of the show. In my opinion, some of the best narrators have a Shakespearean background. The wealth of language from William Shakespeare lends itself to good diction and expression and someone with experience in this field will find the training useful when narrating any form of material. Scott Brick has a Shakespearean background and does a good job with this book.
In fact, I'm quite familiar with his voice having listened to several of his books before including others in the 'Dune' series. However, I was quite staggered to discover that this Californian, a man in his early 40s, has approximately 400 audio titles to his credit with many awards and accolades from various sources. He's even been mentioned on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Narrating this book at a sensible pace, it's very unlikely that you would need to wind back to listen again to something you didn't catch.
What about the novel? 'Paul Of Dune' fits in a gap left by the father, Frank Herbert, when he wrote 'Dune' and 'Dune Messiah'. Most people will know that at the end of 'Dune', Paul Muad'Dib or Paul Atreides, with the help of the Fremen, gained control of the planet Arrakis and also the trade in space which allowed navigation through the galaxy. By the time we come to 'Dune Messiah', matters have changed radically. His forces have conquered the galaxy using ferocious tactics which leave billions dead and many planets ruined completely. Paul himself has become a dark character, slipping in and out of insanity. It is the price that the quest for power extracts.
'Paul Of Dune' is of sufficient length to explore the character in great detail, not just during this intermediate stage but also as a young person before the Dune conflict started. We see a complex character, someone on a mission but also someone aware of the dangers of possessing ultimate power. The jihad seemed to possess a life of its own as it sweeps everything in its path throughout star systems in the Galaxy. In some ways, it is a Frankenstein monster.
The similarities between this story and the rise of Islam are quite easy to see. Of course, there is no direct comparison to the Prophet Muhammad otherwise the authors would be putting themselves in deep trouble...just think of Salman Rushdie. However, on listening to the progress of the expansion of the Empire, you can't help thinking about Islamic fundamentalism.
Taking over the galaxy is a dangerous business. Despite the fanatic followers who would obey Paul's every word and die for him, there are those who are disgruntled and want to put a stop to his power. Others are simply jealous and plot his downfall but to their own cost. We know Paul endures but he is a different man at the end of the experience.
The book is divided into several sections, some referring to Paul's youth where we can see how his character develops and other sections dealing with the inexorable power surge emanating from the jihad. What we have to remember on ending this odyssey is that despite how real and complex the Dune Universe may seem, it isn't real. It's just a story. However, for a few hours we can escape our own reality and reside in this alternate universe somewhere in the distant future.
There are no huge surprises in this book because we know where it starts off and we know where it finishes but as with all of the 'Dune' books, the atmosphere and the detail combine to make it a winner. This is definitely one for the 'Dune' fans and there is an entire army of them out there, but it is probably not one which can be read in isolation. If you haven't read 'Dune', then I suggest you read it first before tackling this. After all, reading one of the most successful books in Science Fiction history should be no hardship.
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