Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Series: Heroes of Dune (#1)
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2008
Paul Atreides is Emperor of the Known universe, but even he cannot fight the expectations of Muad’Dib. A man of honour and principle, Paul fights to avert the bloodshed he sees in humanity’s future, but destiny has other ideas, and to save the human race, Paul must become the greatest monster in history . . .
When I started reading Dune in 2017, I made a choice that pretty much no one recommends. I read the original, and then continued in chronological order, which brought me to Paul of Dune. I’m pretty sure that even the most ardent fans of the expanded Dune saga would suggest reading Frank Hebert’s original six novels before delving into the more recent books. And in fairness, they’re probably right. Ninety-nine percent of the time. But the truth is that I wasn’t that impressed with Dune the first time around. But I knew that I enjoyed Kevin J. Anderson’s work, so I gave the series a second chance. And after Paul of Dune, I was hooked on the series as a whole, original and expanded canon. The simple fact of the matter is that I would never have touched another Frank Herbert book if not for this this one. Twenty-odd novels later, I owe Paul of Dune a debt of immense gratitude.
Paul of Dune takes everything that was great about Dune and streamlines it. Sure, the page count is longer than the original, but every last page of this tome flies by at a lightning pace. There’s no padding, only substance. The prose is crisp and crystal-clear. It manages the near-impossible in telling a story split across two timelines without either one feeling like filler. Whether it’s the reign of the tyrant Muad’Dib or the adventures of a twelve year old Paul Atreidies, it’s blistering adventure from start to finish. The numerous PoV characters are balanced neatly, giving a perfect rounded view of history, and the epigrams sprinkled throughout are insightful and profound as anything Frank Herbert put to paper.
Leaving aside the grand space operatic, what Paul of Dune does best is interrogate the idea of Muad’Dib. This isn’t a deconstruction, or a subversion, but an honest look at the man and the myth of Paul Atreides. It’s an expansion of the work Frank Herbert did in Dune and Dune Messiah, but whereas one of those books was a prelude, and the other a look back, here we see the act itself. The act of how one man became a monster. I love reading about characters who make terrible choices, and boy oh boy does Paul make a lot of those. He is a man hemmed in by the legend that he has created, and seeing him struggle between living up to that legend and fighting against the fanaticism it inspires makes for a gripping read. This is a book of truly phenomenal depth. I’m not usually one for character-focused stories, but a character study of this level is simply magnificent. It builds on everything Frank Hebert wrote about Muad’Dib and runs with it for miles and miles.
And it’s not just the original books that Paul of Dune builds on. This time around I caught all manner of references to Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s prequels and preludes. In showing how Paul’s choices are grounded in experiences and events going back ten thousand years, every prequel is elevated by association, and they were strong books in their own right. Paul of Dune truly feels like the centrepiece of a great science fiction tapestry, weaving in threads from a dozen other books effortlessly, and spinning a great original tale into the mix.
Paul of Dune is an outstanding achievement by any means, and is for me the high point of the entire Dune saga.