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The Winds Of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

1/8/2010. Contributed by Neale Monks

Buy The Winds Of Dune in the USA - or Buy The Winds Of Dune in the UK

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pub: Simon and Schuster. 448 page enlarged paperback. Price: 12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84737-423-3.

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Whatever else may be said about the Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson partnership, their sheer productivity can't be faulted. Here we have yet another prequel/sequel to the original series, in this case a novel that sits in between 'Dune Messiah' and 'Children of Dune'. Critics of the Herbert/Anderson books tend to dismiss them as, at best, derivative works lacking the heart and imagination that made Frank Herbert's original books work so well. But some credit has to be given to Herbert and Anderson for producing books that are readable and often entertaining. So even if they don't add anything of literary worth to the Dune Universe, they are at least fun to read. Unfortunately, 'The Winds Of Dune' is about as much fun as the phone book and as an addition to the Dune Universe it is downright disruptive.

The narrative essentially comprises a story within a story. The framing story centres around Alia and her intention to finalise the legacy of Paul Muad'Dib so she can cement her own hold on power. But niggling away somewhere in her empire is a rouge historian called Bronso who is spreading what she regards as seditious blasphemies. As court historian Princess Irulan is meant to produce new, more uplifting counter-propaganda, but to fully understand her task she speaks first with the mother of Muad'Dib, the Lady Jessica. Through a novella-length flashback story, Jessica reveals that not only does she know who Bronso is, it turns out that Bronso and Paul had a secret history that even Alia doesn't know about.

On the one hand, the framing story works quite well even if it isn't particularly exciting. All prequels suffer from the problem that the major characters can't die or otherwise be altered, so the element of suspense is non-existent. Instead, what Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have done is taken some background comments about the historian Bronso of Ix and developed them into a genuine plot. Whether or not their Bronso of Ix is the one Frank Herbert had in mind cannot be said, but there are at least enough traces in the original books to ensure that the Bronso presented here makes sense.

But on the other hand, the story Jessica tells jars terribly with what readers have come to understand about Paul and his actions in the original series. In 'Dune', it is made very clear that when Paul goes to Arrakis it is his first trip away from his homeworld of Caladan. The sense of wonder he experiences as he travels to Arrakis and explores his new home is a key part of the way his character develops. In literary terms, he's a boy in one place, but a man in the other. 'The Winds Of Dune' throws that right out the window, and not only shows Paul being take to Ix to be educated, but then has him running away to join the circus!

What's worse is that while he's travelling with the circus folk, he learns how to perform some sort of mass hypnosis. It turns out that his ability to influence people so profoundly in later life wasn't because he was the Kwisatz Haderach or because of the Bene Gesserit training his mother gave him, but because of mass hypnosis!

The odd thing is that there are characters and events that Frank Herbert, for whatever reason, didn't expand as much as others, Alia in particular. She essentially zips from being a precocious child in 'Dune' to a psychotic drama queen in 'Children Of Dune' with barely a breath in between. It would be nice to see Alia developed, and to have more of a sense of how she differed from Paul, both in terms of abilities and motivations. Instead, Alia comes across in 'The Winds Of Dune' as little more than a two-dimensional wicked stepmother sort of character. She does things for power or for sex, but the reasons why she does those things are simply left unsaid.

This reviewer tries to come to the Herbert/Anderson books with an open mind and more often than not has ended up enjoying the books. But in this instance, probably the fairest thing to say about 'The Winds Of Dune' is that like the winds on Arrakis, there's a lot of hot air in these pages. Readable, but certainly not the best 'Dune' sequel that Herbert/Anderson have so far come up with.

Neale Monks

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