As with Paul of Dune, I came into this book with low expectations, so Winds of Dune did not have to work too hard to surpass those. As others have noted, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson tend to repeat themselves quite a bit, reminding readers of basic plot points that they probably still remember. Moreover, this book has a weaker narrative structure than even Paul of Dune. It loosely follows Bronso of Ix, Paul Atreides’ former friend and leader of the rebellion against Paul’s empire. The plot straddles three separate time periods: just before Dune, several years after the jihad starts, and just after Dune Messiah.
The three periods are connected by the character of Bornso, but sometimes sloppily so. The middle period is supposedly told by Jessica, but the narrative voice does not change at all. The pre-Dune story seems to exist merely to set up backstory for Paul and Bronso’s friendship (both spent time with the Jongleurs, a group of troubadours). In Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, this type of backstory would only have been hinted at through an offhand reference or quote, creating the illusion of depth. By spending so much time on this backstory, Winds of Dune seems to confirm that sometimes less is more.
At its best, Winds of Dune contains some fascinating ideas. I especially liked how Bronso’s rebellion forms. The book does help explain Paul’s disillusionment with power and set up the events of Dune Messiah. Jessica’s reaction to Paul’s jihad is illuminating (although definitely implied in Frank Herbert’s books). Jessica becomes a much more interesting character through the excruciating choices she is forced to make. However, there are so many different subplots that the main thread sometimes gets lost. In particular, we see quite a bit of the Corrinos, even though they play almost no role in the story.
There are some compelling moments in Winds of Dune. Unfortunately, a handful of moments doesn’t necessarily make for a great book. Some of the parts are there, but on the whole the book feels like less than the sum.
My journey through Dune continues next week with Hunters of Dune, the sequel to Frank Herbert’s Chapterhouse Dune…