Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Series: Prelude to Dune (#3)
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2001
The tyranny of Emperor Shaddam Corrino deepens, as do the conspiracies surrounding him. But for all his attempts to force order upon the Galaxy, the greatest danger may be one of his own making . . .
House Corrino brings a satisfying end to the Prleude to Dune trilogy, and for many years did the same for the Dune-prequel era novels. Of course, last year’s release of The Duke of Caladan means there are now more prequels between this one and Frank Herbert’s original Dune. But while the timeline becomes ever more filled-in, House Corrino still feels like the end of an era, and a culmination of nine novels’ worth of build up, whatever order they may have been published in. For this reread at least, I’ll be diving right into Duneitself next.
This is the book that, more than any other, sets up the universe that Paul Atreides will grow up in. Paul himself is born at the very end, but everything is about preparing for that moment, both in and out of the setting. As with most prequels, House Corrino does occasionally fall into the trap of having things happen simply because the original works demands it of them, and the new developments don’t quite have the same fear of consequence as they ought to. I dare say this whole trilogy might fare better if you haven’t read Frank Herbert’s work. there will certainly be a lot more surprises, even if the references wouldn’t land in quite the same way. Ultimately though, this prequel functions exactly as it should. It builds up familiarity with the setting, providing much-needed context for what is yet to come. Every major character is introduced (some more naturally than others) and everyone is put in their place for the upcoming performance. Even when you can see the strings being pulled, the puppetry remains impressive.
Like the previous volumes, House Corrino focuses on the title family, particularly the Emperor himself. As such, it balances a character-driven narrative with a meditation on the nature of leadership. It doesn’t go as deep as something like God Emperor of Dune, and as a result is a much better story. Herbert & Anderson don’t go in for the circular philosophy of the senior Herbert, and while some might find that a weakness, I consider it a strength. The theme is there, but it’s wrapped up in a strong and highly entertaining story. Really, what more could you ask for?
This series has been the first part of the reread that has improved in my estimation since I first read it. Since this is one of the two sections of the reread I was dreading, this surprise has been rather pleasant. A lot of people talk about Dune as a series that has to be read twice to fully appreciate, and I’m starting to see where they’re coming from. Whether the slump suffered by the middle Frank Herbert books will also stand up better than I expect is yet to be seen, but these prequels have reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the series, which is exactly what they are supposed to do.
As a final piece of housekeeping, this is the point where I deviate from chronological order, as The Duke of Caladan is still fresh in my mind (and you can find my review on this site) and the other two volumes of that series are not yet available. So I’ll see you next time on the reread when I tackle the beat itself: Frank Herbert’s Dune. If you want to join me, there’s never been a better time.