BOOK REVIEW: House Atreides, by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

-Click here for a full index of my Dune Saga reviews-

 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Series: Prelude to Dune (#1)

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 598

Publication Date: 1999

Verdict: 4/5

Leto Atreides, future Duke of Caladan, is a boy standing on the cusp of greatness. But if he is to achieve his father’s ambitions, young Leto must contend with assassins, traitors, and the threat of a civil war . . .

When i reread the Legends of Dune trilogy, I was disappointed to find that what had been a 4 and 5 star read the first time around was now only a 3. It happens a lot, revisiting old favourites to find that they have tarnished over time. With few exceptions, I find books to be better the first time you encounter them. That’s the main reason I don’t reread much. I already know the story, so unless there is a new angle to approach the book from, what does it have to offer? My lukewarm feelings towards the Dune saga is largely based on Frank Herbert’s work, but his successors are far from perfect. The first time i read the Prelude to Dune trilogy, I found it distinctly average, so I had pretty low expectations going into it this time around. That’s when something remarkable happened; I enjoyed this book even more on a reread.

House Atreides marks the start of the Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson era of Dune. With this being their first co-authored book, it’s understandably weaker than the more polished works I’ve just come off the back of. Though not bad by any means, there’s certainly a sense of caution running through the book. The enthusiasm that marks so much of their work is more tempered here, producing a book that’s stylistically much more in keeping with Frank Herbert’s works. I’m not sure if there was a conscious effort to emulate that style, but it feels very different to their usual output. Not just in the prose itself, but also in the pacing. This is a book that proceeds at a glacial pace, punctuated by occasional action sequences. It doesn’t delve into the philosophy of Frank Herbert, but it does convey the epic sense of scale. This is a thick tome, and it absolutely captures the ‘fantasy in space’ atmosphere of Dune.

If I had one major criticism of Anderson and Herbert’s writing, it would be the sheer number of viewpoint characters. We have the familiar houses of Atreides and Harkonnen, as well as the Imperial court of the Corrino line. But then there are the Ixians, the Spacing Guild, the Tleilaxu, planetologists, Fremen, and more. It’s a lot to take in, and sometimes the viewpoint shifts mid-scene, and I for one couldn’t always track whose head we were hopping to next. In this, it comes close to Frank Herbert’s scattershot approach, and it’s just as annoying now as it was then. This is a complex novel without this issue, with it there are moments that will have you scratching your head. Even so, it’s an impressive debut collaboration that hints at the superior books yet to come.

House Atreides vindicates my decision to reread Dune, and I hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did this time around.

 

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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