- Contains four novellas
- Published by Gollancz
- First Published 2022
- Space Opera
- 162 pages
The sands of Dune are as endless as the stars, as are the stories they hold. Here are four of those stories, some familiar, and one never seen before . . .
This second collection of Dune short fiction is not quite as expansive as the first. In terms of both timescale and characters, it covers less. But while there are fewer stories here than in Tales of Dune, the four we get here are fully novella-length, so there’s a bit more to chew on in each parcel. As tends to be the way with collections of short fiction, three of them have already appeared in print before, either in Shawn Speakman’s household name anthologies, or in Brian Thomas Schmidt’s Infinite Stars. It’s the latter of these that I have encountered before, and I wholeheartedly recommend checking out that anthology as it’s crammed with appetisers of larger universes and great authors. Of course, Sands of Dune also features an exclusive story to hook readers who have already read the pre-existing ones.
The three reprints feature Shadout Mapes, Gurney Halleck, and a Sardaukar officer, all revolving around events featured or alluded to in Frank Herbert’s original Dune novel. While Mapes’ story is essentially background material, the other two take place during the original novel, providing a little bit more insight into the motivations and actions of the characters. The stories are fine, if lacking in consequence, but do flesh out the novel a bit more. Ultimately, they feel more like deleted scenes that stories in their own right, and don’t really stand on their own two feet so much as rest on existing knowledge for their existence.
The final story, ‘Imperial Court’ goes back to the time of the early Imperium, as otherwise chronicled in Herbert & Anderson’s prequel trilogies. Despite this step back in time, however, this is the story that holds a hint of where the Dune saga might go next, and it’s a direction that leaves me with mixed feelings. Once again, this story features a loyal and honourable Atreides in conflict with a loathsome and despicable Harkonnen. Like all of the duo’s fiction, this story is well-written and punchy, but in the end it still feels a bit tired. Dune as a saga is very much the tragedy of the Atreides family, and the conflict with the Harkonnens is a big part of that, but at this stage we’ve seen it all. I struggle to think of a variation on that theme that we haven’t already come across.
I am a strong defender of Brian Herbert’s right to expand his father’s creation, and of his writing in general, but after twenty novels, I’m not all that keen on another round of the same names and faces waging the same battles. I’ll still read it if that’s what the authors put out, because these are entertaining and well-written books, but I think a break from the norm might be needed. A new and unrelated noble house perhaps. Or a novel from the perspective of the Sardaukar. The seemingly abandoned Irulan of Dune and Throne of Dune hold a lot more interest for me than another trip to Atreides of the distant past. Not because what we are likely to get will be bad, but because I think a shake up would be even better.
All in all, Sands of Dune is clearly intended for readers familiar with Herbert and Anderson’s work, but it also exposes some of their weaknesses.
If you’re interested in more Dune fiction, why not check out my full reread of the series by clicking the Dune tab at the top of the page?