Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Series: Dune Chronicles (#7)
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2006
Fleeing from the Honored Matres in a no-ship, Duncan Idaho leads a group of refugees into the unknown depths of space. But an unknown and deadly enemy is closing in, and the only hope for the future lies with the heroes of the past . . .
I’m going to tackle the inevitable question first: Is Hunters of Dune the finale Frank Herbert planned for his series? There are two answers to this. The first is that we’ll never know. Frank Herbert can’t tell us because he is no longer around, and I’m willing to take Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s account of siding notes at face value. How much detail was in those notes, we’ll likely never know. I think any attempt to make them public would be a terrible idea, detracting from the books we’ve got, and pleasing nobody. Which leads me to the second answer? Is this Frank Herbert’s plan? In all honesty I don’t care. For better and worse, these are the books we have been given. They’re as canonical as any of the others. Yes, there are probably changes, because no two authors think or write alike, which Herbert and Anderson acknowledge in their preface. At the same time, there are elements of this book (and Sandworms of Dune) that practically scream Frank’s name. This book is the product of many hands, but it is still Dune.
Twenty years after the ending of Chapter House Dune (or Chapterhouse Dune, depending on your edition) Hunters of Dune is the first half of the climax, not only of the Dune Chronicles, but of the entire Dune saga. That is a staggeringly ambitious proposition, and Hunters of Dune partially succeeds at both aspects. But in many ways, it falls short of my hopes.
As a continuation of Frank Herbert’s first six books, there is obviously a big shift in terms of style. This is one of the big positives. Gone is the pseudo-philosophic rambling and endless head-hopping. Anderson and Brian Herbert’s prose has always been quick and clean. It might be a bit late in the day, but this is a very accessible Dune book. After one and a half thousand pages of Frank, this feels like coming home to old friends.
Old friends coming home is also a large part of this story. While the overall story is essentially ‘the no-ship flies away from trouble,’ inside the ship we are shown an ocean of classic Dune characters, all reincarnated as gholas, clones with memories of their past lives locked away. With Leto II, Paul, Yueh, Jessica, the Baron Harkonnen, and more, this does end up feeling like Dune‘s Greatest Hits, and with all of the characters children in this volume, they are pale imitations of the originals. That’s where the book suffers the most. It’s only the first half of a story, and spends all of its five hundred-plus pages reacquainting the reader with Dune, and building towards . . . something.
That something is a return for Omnius and Erasmus, and it’s as a capstone to the epic that began with The Butlerian Jihad that Hunters of Dune succeeds most. It may sit somewhat awkwardly alongside Frank Herbert’s classics, but the Anderson/Herbert prequels and expansions remain my favourite part of this universe, and to it finally tied together is satisfying. Again though, there is a problem. The scope of Omnius’s plans are grand, being as they are, a plot for universal domination. But the only planets we really know are Dune (now destroyed), Caladan (now simply Dan), and Chapterhouse. Expansive though it may be thematically, the Dune universe actually feels quite limited in geography. When you don’t know anything about the wider Galaxy, it’s hard to be interested as lists of planets are reeled off as targets for destruction.
Ambitious it may be, and I enjoyed it far more than any books since The Winds of Dune, but Hunters of Dune misses the mark. A solid entry in the canon, but far from the best.