Publisher: WordFire Press
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2017
Eight stories that span the distance and chronology of the Dune Saga, from the time of the Butlerian Jihad to the chaos following the Scattering. . .
As a general rule, I prefer long novels to short stories. Only in novels can you fully explore stories, worlds and universes. That being said, I have a real soft spot for short story collections and anthologies set in a single universe. These offer a chance to explore worlds beyond the scope of main narratives. Tales of Dune does just that. The eight stories found here cover over ten thousand years of history, and show parts of the Dune universe both familiar and new. For someone familiar with the novels, it’s a chance to revisit old favorites, while for newer readers it teases things to come. And while there are spoilers for the rest of the saga, I think this is a good book to read at the start, particularly on a reread. Think of it as a trailer for the saga as a whole.
As you might expect, Tales of Dune is skewed towards the earlier era of the Dune universe, towards the prequels written by Herbert & Anderson. Some of these stories are in fact deleted scenes from those prequel novels themselves. Now, a lot has been made of the Herbert & Anderson contributions to the saga (not all of it positive) but these shorts are the perfect way to sample their writing and decide for yourself. These earlier stories paint a very different picture of the universe to Frank Herbert’s original series, but they are also a perfect way in. Herbert & Anderson’s style is incredibly readable, and far more accessible than Frank Herbert’s can be. Yes, some of the philosophical depth is lacking, but the action scenes are clear and vivid, and the universe itself is as rich as ever.
Covering such a large period of time, especially in a saga as intricate and complex and Dune, is difficult for short stories. As you can imagine, these are side pieces rather than the main affair. The result of this is that the collection feels slightly unfinished. Many of the stories are slices of life, or extended scenes. Only a few have a full plot and satisfying resolution. This does leave you wanting more, but as an individual piece of literature, some of the stories can fall flat, and feel incomplete when not taken in context. Nevertheless, the hints at a larger story to come do their job. This is a story collection that will leave you wanting to read more, and thankfully there is plenty more to be read.
With almost two dozen full novels still to go in this reread, Tales of Dune gets the Dune Saga of to a great start. It whets the appetite and teases at so many of the great moments, characters, and ideas that are still to come. For such a famously daunting series, this also stands as proof that it’s not as overwhelming as some might suggest. Though it by no means essential reading, Tales of Dune is a great starting point for any reread.