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House Atreides by Brian Herbert

House Atreides (1999)

by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson

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Copy of my Launchpad review from 2001 of D: Atriedes and D: Harkonnen:
A second instance of ‘add-a-chapter-to-an-existing-series’ syndrome. The first two books in the Prelude Trilogy (as far as I know one - and only one - more is to be printed sometime in 2001). This time written by the son of the creator, and a man with many credits for books in long running sci-fi universes.
Again, as a lover of both the book and the film I really liked these books; they capture the way in which the universe-spanning politics of CHOAM, the Landsraat, and the Imperium (shame on anyone who does not know what these are!) are really just a school-yard brawl with bigger catapults. They also introduce the young Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck and give insight into the motivations of Duke Leto and his generation.
However, and this is a small thing, I re-read Dune recently and these do not have the seminal epic vision. If you liked the film, these are great; if you love Dune then they fill in gaps but are not the fix you seek.
Obscure Fact: Kyle McLachlan, star of the cult series Twin Peaks, regards Frank Herbert’s Dune as his Bible, and reads it at least once a year. ( )
  Tyrshundr | Feb 6, 2014 |
Review courtesy of The Literary Snob
My brother-in-law and friend is an avid reader, even more than myself. Our reading tastes overlap somewhere in the middle and go in two very different directions. For years he has been trying to convince me to read Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and other similar titles, but I have been stubborn, telling him that once I finish the 1,568 real books on my current to-read list, I will get around to one of those.
One of his favorite series, however, sounded promising. Seeing a crack in my resistance, he took full advantage and delivered two books in the series. Thus, I became a reader of Dune.
He thought it best I begin with the "House" books, three prequels written by Brian Herbert, son of original Dune author, and Kevin J. Anderson. He also felt it important to let me know that the titles written by these second generation Dune writers do not live up to the original Frank Herbert series. With this information, I set off for a very long adventure across the universe to a planet named Dune.
Initially, I was pleased with House Atreides. The plot didn't seem overly sci-fi. The plot was interesting. The plot grew. The plot, the plot, the plot; and soon I realized the plot is all there was. A major event happens every four pages, and then the reader is asked to skip to another part of the universe and read about another major event. Fifty pages later, the reader is taken back to the first plot, but five years have passed, just in time for another major event. How incredibly action/adventure.
For all its many characters, House Atreides has not one ounce of character development. This is not the future of mankind, it is a future of automatons. Further, there are the good guys and the bad guys and their every action is reflective of their respective stance in life. In the incredibly patriarchal society of the future, women have two roles as well: simpleton and manipulator. Apparently an additional ten thousands years of human evolution closely resembles our modern perception of the middle ages—complete with sword fights and castles.
Despite my mockery, I do see some potential for this Dune-thing. I don't foresee having an enamored love for it as my brother-in-law does, but I do recognize a backstory that might be really quite good. Unfortunately, Herbert the lesser and Anderson do not have it. I have heard many fans of Frank Herbert's Dune bash on Herbert/Anderson's. I am one of the few who has a different perspective having read the newer books first; nonetheless, I agree with these "fanatics": this is not a good book.
I have little hope that the next two will be much better; regardless, I will trudge on down the road to Dune. ( )
  chrisblocker | Mar 30, 2013 |
After I began to read all the various Dune novels in chronological order, I was worried the Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson books would burn me out. So many people have given them such drastically negative reviews, I was unsure what would happen. First I read the Legends of Dune trilogy, which I enjoyed quite a bit as a space opera on it's own, but now I am getting into the direct prequels and was worried they would fall flat. Thankfully I discovered the book was very enjoyable, even more so than the Legends trilogy. They are not quite as good as Frank Herbert of course, but very few writers in history have been. This book focused a bit more on politics than action, a stark contrast to the Legends of Dune trilogy, and while I thought this would be boring it ended up providing a really interesting view of the Dune universe leading up to the original novel. Overall the novel did a great job fleshing out the various characters, one could easily read this without ever touching the original novel and not feel confused or lost. I still do not understand the hate and vitriol people have for Brian Herbert deciding to continue the story his father created, and feel he definitely does the original series justice. Even if you don't like the books, they do nothing to take away from the original. I for one am glad he decided to finish the original series and write various other books in the Dune universe. ( )
1 vote bjh13 | Dec 28, 2011 |
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
Although I genuinely enjoy Frank Herbert’s original novels, these 2nd generation novels furtive attempts at capturing the essence of his universe lack finesse as well as grace (at least this one does). Having grown up reading Kevin J Anderson, I know him to be a strong writer with a firm grasp on characterization and form. I can only surmise that he deferred too much steering of the authorship to Brian, who I will refer to by his first name rather than his last to denote that he in no ways live up to Frank Herbert’s legacy. While the various plot points do manage to solidly encapsulate the evil vindictiveness of the Harkonnens and the Corrinos, the book is fracturous, with too many points of view in too many places with little connectivity, too few of which are female. In an effort to set the stage for the latter two books in the trilogy, a great many characters are introduced. While some lose their POV after the first couple chapters, other characters are given a great deal of time to develop.

The three characters that one would hope would have the most consequence, both from being original Herbertian characters, as well as figuring as protagonists on the buildup toward their birth rite novel, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Duncan Idaho and Leto Atreides are all varieties of static. The Baron is given no valid reason for his early viscous attitudes, although Brian cleverly fashioned the impetus for his eventual bloated suspensor-assisted treachery. I considered labeling the Baron as an antagonists because probably anyone who's seen Dune would say that he is, except in this case everyone is an antagonist--virtually all of the book's characters are hedonistic, self-righteous and seek to sabotage everyone else (except for Pardot Kynes). Duncan Idaho wins the hand-wave grand prize for being a completely unbelievable pre-pubescent lone, cunning, planet-hopping soldier based solely on the death of his paper-pusher parents. To claim this character is “larger than life” would be ironic and ridiculously understated. Unnaturally lucky, 8 year old Duncan manages to thwart seasoned Harkonnen hunters and cross multiple hemispheres of a planet with no resources. Leto Atreides, raised by a doting much-beloved king in a wholesome fishing monarchy not unlike Scandinavia, comes off as sadly both stupid and weak willed. Leto’s naiveté and regurgitation of his mother’s rhetoric paints him as useless during a planetary revolt, forcing his business-minded hakoiri musume playmates to orchestrate their escape. This book does little if anything to set Leto up as the eventual martyred hero, though it should be noted that for this book Jessica hasn’t been born yet—the claim could be made that her influence changes him irrevocably…
Yet, these three are still given far more development than any of the female characters. A possible love interest for Leto, Kailea, is given one brief scene to introduce her personality as haughty and profit-driven, seemingly devoid of girlish fantasies and friends. Afterwards she fades into the background, apparently since her goal of joining court in the Imperial planet Kaitain is no longer viable. Although it’s not clear if Leto actually has a crush on her, if so it’s difficult to understand why. But speaking of women connected to Leto, his mother is also quite the puzzle. Helena is possibly the worst choice to marry Paulus. Frigid, aloof and Orange Bible-thumping, Helena barely shows any warmth for her son and is constantly concerned with appearances. Leto doesn’t understand her, and the reader isn’t given the chance to. The one female narrator Brian offers us for more than one chapter is the Bene Gesserit Gaius Helen Mohiam. Helen comes to as something of an unwilling participant in the Landsaard. We understand that she has a great many powers to control her physical being and that she willing follows the edicts of the Bene Gesserit. Beyond that the only part of her personality that the reader really sees is her taking pleasure in seeing Baron Harkonnen undone. Clearly Brian doesn’t understand enough about women characters to write them with any contributing value, a huge a disappointment since he is probably the only one who will ever be able to publish in the Dune universe. Why Kevin J Anderson, a writer who has proven he can work with strong female protagonists didn’t fight harder for their inclusion is mystifying.

The one aspect of House Atreides that appeals to the reader is Brian’s land and mindscapes. Doubtless Brian recognizes and tries to duplicate the use of the acid trip in his father’s work, which is definitely an important touch. Additionally, Brian paints beautiful vistas such as the cavernous stalactite city of Vernii, obviously an homage to D’ni (they even rhyme) and some descriptions of Arrakis, Kaitain and Caladan. The setting Brian paints isn’t always complete and it could stand a little improvement, but it does set the scene well.

The obvious answer to the question of why House Atreides fails to impress is found in its nature. Being the first part of a trilogy that seeks to setup all the behind the scenes plot devices and innuendos for Dune, House Atreides obviously has a great deal of ground to cover. Yet, some things appear totally superfluous, such as Mohiam’s giving birth to one child that didn’t measure up to the Bene Gesserit expectation from Vladimir Harkonnen. Thus the reader has to revisit the distasteful “sexual” encounter between her and Harkonnen again, supposedly to show how serious the Bene Gesserit are about their breeding program. Beyond which it seems to contribute nothing and wastes the reader’s time. In any film adaptation (which hopefully will never exist), these two scenes would be merged but perhaps Brian found something compelling in that scenario that isn’t at first obvious.

Brian also skillfully uses another homage to help the story past its built-in handicap of no faster-than-light communication between worlds. No doubt suggested by Anderson, in one case a character is given an acid trip vision of an incredible invention that he afterwards goes about creating. This device allows him to gestalt his telepathic abilities (the reader is expected to buy into his telepathic abilities since he was a candidate to be a Guild Navigator) across the light years to connect synchronously with his twin brother. The concept is lifted from Anne McCaffrey’s Talent and the Hive series (and perhaps from other places) and in addition to its nostalgic factor, the idea plays on the edict of from the Great Revolt of the Butlerian Jihad to develop the human rather than the machine mind… although its execution in story is another rudimentary hand wave.

In conclusion, House Atreides, taken by itself, does little to live up to the precedent of highly sophisticated science fiction novel writing set by Frank Herbert. For the purposes of fairness, House Atreides' numerous stomach-churning bouts of amoral behavior shouldn't be wholly foisted on Brian for inheriting such a series, but too few of his characters are capable of taking the moral high ground and those that are could still benefit from further characterization. With a multitude of shallow characters, the reader is left with a bad taste and the beginnings of a search for science fiction that centers around a few characters with actual development. ( )
  senbei | Feb 14, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brian Herbertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, Kevin J.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Linden, Vincent van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is for our mentor, Frank Herbert,
who was every bit as fascinating and complex as
the marvelous Dune universe he created.
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Lean and muscular, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen hunched forward next to the ornithopter pilot.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553580272, Mass Market Paperback)

Acclaimed SF novelist Brian Herbert is the son of Dune author Frank Herbert. With his father, Brian wrote Man of Two Worlds and later edited The Notebooks of Frank Herbert's Dune. Kevin J. Anderson has written many bestsellers, alternating original SF with novels set in the X-Files and Star Wars universes. Together they bring personal commitment and a lifelong knowledge of the Dune Chronicles to this ambitious expansion of a series that transformed SF itself. Dune: House Atreides chronicles the early life of Leto Atreides, prince of a minor House in the galactic Imperium. Leto comes to confront the realities of power when House Vernius is betrayed in an imperial plot involving a quest for an artificial substitute to melange, a substance vital to interstellar trade that is found only on the planet Dune. Meanwhile, House Harkonnen schemes to bring Leto into conflict with the Tleilax, and the Bene Gesserit manipulate Baron Harkonnen as part of a plan stretching back 100 generations. In the Imperial palace, treason is afoot, and on Dune itself, planetologist Pardot Kynes embarks on a secret project to transform the desert world into a paradise.

Dune remains the bestselling SF novel ever, such that three decades later no prequel can possibly have the same impact. Yet in House Atreides the authors have written a compelling, labyrinthine, skillfully imagined extension of the world Frank Herbert created, which ably commands attention for almost 600 pages. It is powerful SF that continues a great tradition, and in itself is a very considerable achievement. --Gary S. Dalkin, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:35 -0400)

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A prequel to Frank Herbert's Dune, written by his son, based on a recently found manuscript. It is the story of a paleontologist sent to study the planet Arrakis, home to spices which give longevity.

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