BOOK REVIEW: The Duke of Caladan, by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

-minor spoilers for other books in the Dune saga. Proceed with caution-

caladan.jpg

Publisher: WordFire Press

Series: The Caladan Trilogy (#1)

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 425

Publication Date: 13/10/2020

Verdict: 5/5

A year before he and his family make their fateful trip to Arrakis, Duke Leto Atreides finds himself embraoiled in a conspiracy that could topple the Corrino Empire. Faced with impossible choices, will Leto do what is right, or what is best . . ?

Though the proginal Dune is one of the absolute classics of science fiction, I only got around to reading it three years ago. I enjoyed it, but found it rather slow and ponderous at times. All part of its charm for many, but I didn’t rate it as highly a some others. I did decide to carry on with the series, however, and that is where I had to make a choice. Read the original sextet by Frank herbert first, or take a more chronological approach and include the extensions written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. As a fan of Anderson’s Star Wars work and his epic Saga of Seven Suns, I ultimately chose the latter. And it’s because I read Paul of Dune that I fell in love with the universe. Even as the original six novels ebbed and flowed in quality, the younger Herbert’s extensions of the universe maintained their quality. Yes, they  weren’t as philosophically involved as the earlier works, but they were more accessible, more enjoyable. I dare say they were better. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Anderson at a convention, and last year completed my first read, albeit woefully out of order, of what was then the entire Dune saga. With Navigators of Dune, I assumed the series had reached a conclusion. But then, 2020 gave us this gift.

The Duke of Caladan launches a new trilogy set just a year before the original novel. The cynic in me says this to generate interest for the new (and sadly delayed) film adaptation, and certainly much of Leto’s backstory has been developed in prior prequels. That being said, I’m no purist. if the authors have more stories to tell in the setting they have inherited, who am I to stop them? No one, that’s who. And when a book is as good as this, you’d be a fool not to read it. While there are references to other Herbert/Anderson works, this is a book you could easily read even if you’ve only read the original Dune. There are some spoilers afoot for that though, as is so often the case with direct prequels, so this is maybe not the best place to start your Dune journey.

The names here will be familiar to readers of Dune: Leto, Jessica, Paul, Shaddam Corrino, Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, and many more besides. But this book doesn’t rely on nostalgia. Even though we as readers know how things turn out for the characters, there are enough twists and conspiracies to keep you guessing. It’s a slimmer tome than a lot of its setting siblings, and is setting up both the other two books in the trilogy and the larger universe as a whole. As such, there’s not much resolution here. As a novel, it most certainly does not stand alone, but as the starting point for a new trilogy, it does a marvellous job of grabbing your attention. With these skilled storytellers at the helm, I’m sure the remaining volumes will offer all the desired pay-off.

If you’re a Dune fan, you should definitely give this a read, even if you’re not familiar with the Herbert/Anderson output. If you’re new to the setting, you might want to start elsewhere, but be sure to come back, because this is well worth your time and money.

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