Dune: House Corrino

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Dune: House Corrino

Postby tanzeelat » Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:02 am

I thought I'd inflict this review on you. It was originally written back in 2001.

Imagine if Jeffrey Archer had written a sequel to Anthony Burgess's The Clockwork Orange. It stands to reason that Archer would have missed the point, and so too have Herbert Jr and Anderson. While their trilogy is a prequel, rather than a sequel, and while I can't fault their motives for choosing to write about the period before Dune, rather than after Chapterhouse Dune, I can certainly fault their execution.

In Dune: House Corrino, the various plot-threads which are in place when Dune opens are set up — to wit, Duke Leto Atreides being given Arrakis as a new fief, taking over from the Harkonnens. There is nothing per se wrong with Herbert Jr and Anderson's story and, various scenes aside, it does a reasonable job of plotting the narrative journey to the required point. But they have completely missed the flavour of Herbert Sr's creation, and their characterisation properly belongs in a prime-time kids' cartoon. Not only does Duke Leto himself, now a man in his forties, behave like an adolescent, but Emperor Shaddam has turned into a caricature of every evil potentate since Nero.

In Dune, Shaddam is characterised as an emperor willing to do anything to maintain his rule. In Dune: House Corrino, he is a spoilt and cruel child. An example of the latter: Shaddam learns of a half-brother sired by his father, living in contented obscurity on the world of Zanovar. Shaddam promptly manufactures an excuse, and sends in the Sardaukar, who raze the entire planet, slaughtering all 14 million of its inhabitants. Of course, the half-brother escapes. The end result is a litany of cruelty that, rather than justify Paul Atriedes' fight in Dune, makes you wish someone would just put Shaddam out of his misery.

And then there's the various revisions of the series' universe. It's been said that US science fiction and fantasy writers can't do feudalism properly, and Dune: House Corrino provides ample evidence. In a universe ruled by an emperor, with dukes, barons and an entire aristocratic apparatus, Herbert Jr and Anderson have made each world almost democratic. Richese, previously the mysterious origin of various technological devices, is detailed in this new prequel trilogy. That mystery has been rudely destroyed: the Count of Richese is described as a paternal chump, and it is his premier and senate who wield all the power. So much for fraufreluches, "everyone has their place and everyone in his place".

The depiction of Ix also flatly contradicts the depiction in God Emperor of Dune. The fief of House Vernius, it was invaded by the Tleilax in Dune: House Atreides. Rather than the exotic fringe culture, forever treading on the boundaries laid down in law on what is permissible in technology, as alluded to by Herbert Sr, Ix is an engineer's paradise. The Tleilax at least are as exotic as in the original series... although Herbert Jr and Anderson have chosen to paint them in bright colours as the villains: not only do they look ugly, but they smell bad too.

Given all the information available — in six novels, an encyclopaedia, several short stories, and Frank Herbert's notes — there's a curious lack of imagination to Herbert fils' "blockbuster trilogy". It's not simply the lack of ideas, but that all the ideas are small and reek of middle American meritocratic and egalitarian sensibilities. Which seems to run completely counter to the flavour of the original. Dune House Corrino is the Third Reich re-imagined for eight-year-olds. You know how it goes: Hitler was evil. As if that explains every single one of the Führer's actions and policies. It's the sort of interpretation of history that picks out the villain and ignores all the other factors.

Not only was it painful to watch a richly-painted universe reduced to primary colours, but the two writers' clunking prose made Dune: House Corrino hard work to read. I bought this prequel trilogy because I consider Dune to be a classic space opera. But I'm far from happy about the surgery Herbert Jr and Anderson have performed on Herbert Sr's corpus.
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Postby GamePlayer » Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:18 am

A fine read and very entertaining. I also very much appreciated how you stayed on point the entire piece, yet your strong distaste/disapproval came across with flair. Well written.
"What are we to call him, this Player of Games?"

"The books of Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert lie in a realm of uncertainty between self-conscious absurdity and genuine failure"
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Postby SandChigger » Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:36 am

Well done. :)
"Chancho...sometimes when you are a man...you wear stretchy pants...in your room...alone."

"Politics is never simple, like the sand chigger of Arrakis, one is rarely truly free of its bite."

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Postby Omphalos » Tue Oct 28, 2008 9:22 am

But...but...but...You didn't call them "fucking idiots!"
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)



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Postby SandChigger » Tue Oct 28, 2008 1:45 pm

Sure he did. ;)
"Chancho...sometimes when you are a man...you wear stretchy pants...in your room...alone."

"Politics is never simple, like the sand chigger of Arrakis, one is rarely truly free of its bite."

Arrakeen is an unawakened ghola.
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Postby tanzeelat » Wed Oct 29, 2008 12:37 am

Good reviewers imply it...

:-)
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Postby SandChigger » Wed Oct 29, 2008 4:17 pm

But sometimes it just feels too good to go ahead and say it.

...

Well, OK, MOST times. ;)
"Chancho...sometimes when you are a man...you wear stretchy pants...in your room...alone."

"Politics is never simple, like the sand chigger of Arrakis, one is rarely truly free of its bite."

Arrakeen is an unawakened ghola.
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Postby SandRider » Wed Oct 29, 2008 8:38 pm

Impressive. Thank you.
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