Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Review/Discussion: Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

The Dune chronicles have come to a close with this final book in the series, "Sandworms of Dune." Frank Herbert created a great novel in the original "Dune" and then continued with 5 more books covering the philosophies and adventures of the planet Arrakis or Dune. Dune is the only place in the universe where Spice Melange was to be found. "He who controls the spice, controls the Universe." The Spice was needed for Guild Navigators to be able to fold space, enabling travel throughout the universe in the blink of an eye. Spice also was known to bring about psychic prescience in some individuals. The Spice is what gave the Bene Gesserit witches their powers. Finally Spice was known to prolong life. Spice was the commodity to be traded instead of coin in Frank Herbert's "Duneverse."

The last book Frank Herbert wrote in the series was "Chapterhouse Dune." In this novel the planet Arrakis (Dune) had been destroyed and the universe was dividing into many separate factions, and an unknown enemy was coming in to destroy all traces of humanity. Of course, this left a major cliffhanger for all Dune fans, and Frank Herbert's Death made it so we would never know what happened.

Enter Frank Herbert's son, Brian. Brian Herbert teamed up with fellow science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson after finding Frank Herbert's notes on the final book of Dune. He and Kevin Anderson put together the notes and found they had what Frank had intended for the ending of the book. As they worked together on the final book they wrote some prequals to the series; The Legends of Dune Series which covered the times which led to the outlawing of "machines in the likeness of the human mind" (Thinking Machines) and the Prelude to Dune series which described how the major Houses in the Dune series came to power.

With the backstory in place it was time to finalize the Dune series. In putting together the material the 2 authors discovered there was 2 books worth of material so they wrote 2 final books in the series; "Hunters of Dune" and this book, "Sandworms of Dune." Now the series is over. Or is it? This final book "Sandworms..." brings about a great closure to the series but the younger Herbert and Anderson are prepared to write some more books for the series. These will be a trilogy titled "Heroes of Dune" with the separate books focusing on "Paul of Dune," "Jessica of Dune" and "Irulan of Dune." The release dates of these books are some time in 2008 or 2009.

Let's start now on this book by saying that Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have wrapped up the series in a very pleasing way for the fans to actually have some closure on all the major characters in some form. At the same time they maintain the philosophy and feel of the original books creating a seamless story from the point where Frank Herbert left off. Many fans felt cheated that the great unknown enemy turned out to be robots, the Evermind Omnius, and thinking machines. I can see that some could have been misled thinking that the great enemy could be spiritual but if you read the series you can see there is some great schism that occured in the books' mentioning of "The Butlerian Jihad." Out of this Jihad a law came to pass, "Thou shalt not create machines in the image of a human mind." Herbert and Anderson in writing the prequals and these final 2 books have very adequately explained this rift and turned it into a great climax to the stories.

In this book, humanity is continuing to fracture in to several factions while a single enemy will be using this division to destroy all human life. The factions consist of; The newly combined Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres, the "no-ship" on which are several Bene Gesserit who don't agree with the merging of the Honored Matres into the Bene Gesserit order, the Spacing Guild are replacing all navigators (who are dependent on spice) with machines that will fold space, since spice is a rare commodity, the Navigators who are being sacrificed are combining forces and getting help from the mysterious "Oracle of Time," The new breed of Face dancers who are not only able to look like whoever they want but also to take the memories of those they take on the appearance of, and finally the fast approaching thinking machines led by the Evermind, Omnius and his co-hort the independent robot Erasmus.

The character of Erasmus the independent robot is one of the most fun love-to-hate evil villians I've read in a long time. His character is one that represents curiousity. He's constantly wondering what makes humans tick. In fact, just like Pinocchio and Data from "Star Trek the Next Generation," Erasmus just wants to be a "real boy," or rather he wants to be human and experience such human traits as love, honor and faith. In the experiments on finding out what makes a human love another human or object Erasmus created some bloody dissections of the human brain and heart in the prequal books. The Evermind Omnius represents the logic and facts portion of humanity. Great characterization exists here and all created by Herbert and Anderson.

The no-ship containing the faction of Bene Gesserit that didn't want to merge with the Honored Matres continues to hide in the universe while at the same time searching for a new home for the Bene Gesserit and the Jews. The Jewish faith has lived on for tens of thousands of years escaping the new religions that have come and gone in the universe over time and the last few known Jews have escaped on the no-ship. The ship is commanded by the ghola of Duncan Idaho and the Bene Gesserit on the ship are led by Shianna who is able to communicate to the sandworms. On this ship there are 5 sandworms which were rescued before Arrakis was destroyed by the Honored Matres. Also on board are other gholas grown from cells found in the last Tleilaxu Master, Scytale's null entropy tube. A ghola is a clone of a human which has the capability to "awaken memories" of the person they once were. The gholas are; Paul Maud'dib Atreides, Lady Jessica Atreides, Chani (Paul's Wife), Liet Kines (planetologist on Dune), Stilgar (Naib of the Fremen on Dune), Yeuh Wellington (Suk Doctor that betrayed Duke Leto in the original Dune book), Alia (sister of Paul and an abomination). These are basically young children until their original memories are restored.

Duncan is constantly barely escaping the tachyon net thrown out by the thinking machines to catch the no-ship. The thinking machines know that a Kwisatz Haderach (a super human who is able to be in all places at once) is on board and wants to possess him to win the war against humanity. But at the same time the no-ship is being sabotaged by an unknown person and the running away from the thinking machines is becoming impossible.

Another Tleilaxu, Waff, is working with the guild navigators to create a new source of spice. He genetically alters the sandworms to create worms that can live in the ocean and they create a new form of spice "ultra-spice." These new worms are planted on the ocean planet of Buzzel and soon thrive.

The new order of Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres are preparing for the arrival of the thinking machines by creating a fleet of ships and weapons to destroy the enemy. They hire the guild and Ixian forces to create the ships and weapons. But soon find out that the guild and Ix is infiltrated with face-dancers working for the thinking machines.

The climactic battle between humanity and the thinking machines is one that creates a great philosophical discussion to be had by all that read the books. This being, that mankind can find peace through cooperation. I've decided not to give any real spoilers because this book must be read and appreciated.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:35 PM Comments: 0