I had the benefit of reading many negative reviews about this book before I decided to read it. My expectations were so low that I found myself enjoying it far more than I’d expected. To be clear, this book is not high literature. It’s not nearly as deep or rich as any of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. Nevertheless, it provides a fun and even sometimes interesting backstory for Paul Atreides.
The book has two interwoven parts, one set before and one set after the events of Dune. The chapters set before are less interesting and resemble the more space operatic aspects of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s Houses of Dune Trilogy. Also, there were several a few pointless contradictions, most notably the fact that we see Paul (yet again) traveling off Caladan before the events of Dune (Frank Herbert’s original novel clearly states Paul had never been off world).
However, the scenes set after Dune held my interest. I thought the authors actually did a decent job balancing the tyrannical aspects of Paul’s reign with his inner emotional turmoil. While not portrayed particularly subtly, it’s a fascinating dynamic. We also get further character development for Stilgar, Gurney, and Irulan. I also appreciated the subplot with Count Fenring. I always felt Dune hadn’t sufficiently explored his character and was glad to see his story finally resolved.
Does this book really add much to your understanding of Paul Atreides? Not really. Most of the important plot points are told or strongly implied in Dune Messiah. However, if you want to see more of Dune during the period after Dune and before Dune Messiah, those parts of the book at least hold some promise. Just go in with your expectations low.
My journey through Dune continues next week with Winds of Dune…