Series: Schools of Dune (#3)
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2016
Butlerian fanatic Manford Torondo and ruthless businessman Josef Venport have thrown the Imperium into all-out war. In the middle of the conflict stands Emperor Roderick Corrino, a man who has lost family to both sides, and is determined to lose no more . . .
Navigators of Dune doesn’t just bring an end to the Schools of Dune trilogy, it also wraps up plotlines that started way back in The Butlerian Jihad, forming a capstone to an entire era of the far future. After this, the saga skips ahead ten thousand years, so there is plenty of work to be done here in making the early Imperium recognisable as the one occupied by Paul Atreides millennia down the road. As such, Navigators of Dune straddles two quite different settings. One is the world of fledgling empires and deadly robots that Herbert and Anderson have built up in these prequels, while the other is the future feudalism and technological dark age originally envisaged by Frank Herbert. It’s a tall order, but one that the authors prove themselves capable of taking on.
As the title suggests, the Navigators take centre stage in this book. From the original Dune onwards (and, I suppose, backwards) the Navigators of the Spacing Guild have been one of Dune‘s weirder elements. Not quite alien, but certainly no longer fully human, they’re enigmatic, elusive a just generally quite strange. In Norma Cenva, we have seen the origins of their kind, and in this trilogy we have seen the creation of large numbers of Navigators. Despite this access to their early days, we’re really none the wiser for what a Navigator wants. ‘The universe is ours,’ they repeatedly say, but their motivations are unclear. The mystique of the elder Herbert’s creation is not reduced in any way, but now we see their place in history, and it makes sense why the Spacing Guild holds such power in the time of the Dune Chronicles.
As well as the larger plots (not to mention plots within plots and nefarious scheming), Navigators of Dune also deals with the Atreides/Harkonnen feud that will be so important in later books. While this is one of the most important parts of Frank Herbert’s story, I like the way it barely makes a difference on the larger scale of galactic conflict. Vorian Atreides and his descendants are very much doing their own thing while worlds burn. I could pick holes in the idea of a family feud that lasts ten thousand years, but it fits neatly with Dune‘s overall themes of dynastic squabbling, and the inevitability of destined conflict.
What this trilogy as a whole has shown is that there is plenty of space left for the Dune Saga beyond the original six books. It may lack some of the originality of the classic, but newness is increasingly difficult and, to be quite honest, overrated. What Herbert and Anderson offer here is a fantastic space opera in its own right. The fact that it builds on and even improves an existing work really is just the icing on the cake.
This is a trilogy you could read having never touched Dune before, but it’s also one that rewards the experienced reader. Highly, highly recommended.