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Dune: House Atreides
Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Bantam Spectra, 624 pages

Dune: House Atreides
Brian Herbert
Brian Herbert is the eldest son of SF giant, Frank Herbert. An honour student, he graduated from high school at 16 and married while a full-time student at UC Berkeley, where he received a BA in Sociology. His first two books were humour collections, Incredible Insurance Claims and Classic Comebacks. After that he moved on to novels, including Sidney's Comet, The Garbage Chronicles, Sudanna Sudanna, Man Of Two Worlds (with Frank Herbert), and Memorymakers (with Marie Landis).

Dune Website
ISFDB Bibliography
Bantam Spectra -- Dune Website

Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson was born in 1962 and was raised in Oregon, Wisconsin. At 10, he had saved up enough money from mowing lawns and doing odd jobs that he could either buy a bicycle or a typewriter -- he chose the typewriter and has been writing ever since. He sold his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., by the time he turned 25. Anderson worked in California for 12 years as a technical writer and editor at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he met his wife Rebecca Moesta and his frequent co-author, Doug Beason.

Kevin J. Anderson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Lethal Exposure

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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I must admit I approached this with some trepidation. I have never been a fan of writer A working in the universe of writer B books -- and Dune isn't just any old science fiction series; it's one of the top achievements in the field. But the last two Dune novels, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, instead of forcing the story into a narrower and narrower structure as some other writers have done, broke free from the original story-line and left the possibilities wide open for whatever would come next. Plus Brian Herbert had written with his father before, and Kevin J. Anderson is a writer who works very well in collaboration with others. So mixed with the apprehension was hope that Dune: House Atreides would be equal to the better efforts in the Dune epic. I am happy to say that those hopes were, for the most part, fulfilled.

Instead of exploring the new universe opened at the end of Chapterhouse: Dune, Herbert and Anderson have stepped back a generation and decided to tell the story of what preceded the events detailed in the original Dune. This approach works best when the narrative focuses on characters who at the time of Dune are either legendary, or background power figures; Reverend Mother Helen Mohiam, Crown Prince Shaddam and his friend and political ally Hasimir Fenring, Pardot Kynes, the planetary ecologist who is assigned to study Arrakis and the spice, and most importantly, Leto, the future Duke and father of Paul Muad'dib. Through these characters we learn much of the competition and enmity that fuel the relationship between the Atreides, the Harkonnens, the Bene Gesserit, Ix, and the Emperor. The authors have done a good job of picking characters that were familiar from Dune, but not so familiar that we wouldn't like to know more about them. And the characters draw us into the story.

There are some problems with the book. They extend from the occasional archaic phrase, (a young Ixian muses about "thinking out of the box"), to the slow realization that the invented quotations heading each chapter aren't quite as clever and thought-provoking as in earlier Dune novels.

But the biggest problem with Dune: House Atreides is the lack of strong female characters. Helen Mohiam's part in the story is important, but it is relatively small. Other female characters range from the one-dimensional mother of Leto to an Ixian girl who is reputed to be a financial expert, but never gets a chance to show it. While there is hope for the sequels, (we know that Helen Mohiam will rise in importance in the Bene Gesserit, and Leto has yet to meet Jessica), this is primarily a story about guys.

In the end, though, by showing us the lives of some interesting people just as they are first achieving prominence in their world, Dune: House Atreides becomes a worthy addition to the Dune series. Herbert and Anderson weave an interlocking story that, like the first Dune, slowly rises to an action climax that occurs before the end of the novel, giving us just enough look at the aftermath to know that the story will continue. The world of Dune, like all great creations, has outlasted the death of its creator and shows every sign of renewed life.

Copyright © 1999 by Greg L. Johnson

Duncan Idaho's part in Dune: House Atreides has convinced reviewer Greg L. Johnson that his copy of The Dune Encyclopedia must now be considered apocryphal, at best. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction and Tangent Online.


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