“Hunters of Dune” by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

HuntersofDune

I had mixed feelings about the direction Frank Herbert took the Dune saga after God Emperor of Dune, but the cliffhanger at the end of Chapterhouse Dune piqued my interest. Unfortunately, Frank Herbert passed away before he could finish the story. Nearly 20 years later, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson wrote Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune in attempt to wrap the story up. They claim to have developed the story based on a draft outline left by Frank Herbert in a safe deposit box. Unfortunately, the book carries on some of the worst writing instincts of the pair’s House trilogy, including the meandering plot lines and thin characters.  

Oddly enough, Hunters of Dune feels more like a setup for Sandworms of Dune than a sequel to Chapterhouse Dune. The Face Dancers are mobilizing to seize control of the galaxy, while the mysterious old man and woman from the end of Chapterhouse Dune continue to stalk the Bene Gesserit. Meanwhile, the protagonists, refugees onboard the starship Ithaca, create gholas or clones of several key historical figures – including Paul, Alia, Jessica, and just about everybody who had a cameo in the original Dune novel – to help fight against the coming Ominous Threat™.

The use of gholas could have created an opportunity for fascinating character studies. What might Alia have been like had she not succumbed to the Baron Harkonnen? Are Harkonnens inherently evil or is their behavior simply a product of their upbringing? Instead, Hunters of Dune feels like a victim of fan service, as if the authors thought it would be neat to get the band back together one last time, but didn’t know what to do once they arrived. For the most part, the gholas behave just like their previous incarnations, individuals who lived thousands of years before. For example, the 9-year-old Vladimir Harkonnen just loves torture.

Moreover, at several points the story jumps ahead years in the future, but the characters show no sign of change over that time. This book covers years if not decades of time, but it felt far more insular and self-contained than any of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. I got the sense that the only reason for these jumps was to provide the gholas time to grow up. After all, who really wants to read about a pre-pubescent Paul?

The subplot with Mother Commander Murbella had some potential. I’d grown to appreciate her character in Chapterhouse Dune. The book follows her attempts to unify the sisterhood against the Ominous Threat™. Unfortunately, her story is undercut by the fact that she conveniently doesn’t remember anything about that threat. Is it an army of giant robots? A plague of locusts? It’s tough to share her sense of dread when the authors are obviously attempting to drag out the mystery as long as possible. Speaking of which…

My journey through Dune continues next week with Paul of Dune

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4 thoughts on ““Hunters of Dune” by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

  1. Great review of a completely mediocre and very disappointing book. As much as I found this book mediocre, Sandworms is what really hurt.

    Speaking of Sandworms of Dune, the link you included goes nowhere, just so you know…

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  2. I try to keep these reviews very light on spoilers, but the whole idea of making a ghola of every single character from Dune was such blatant fan service. One of the things I most appreciated about Frank Herbert’s sequels is that he wasn’t a afraid to “kill the past.” Messiah deconstructs the hero of Dune. God Emperor takes place 3,500 years later with a new cast of characters and tells a very different type of story. Even Heretics and Chapterhouse, which are far from my favorites of the series, explore new time periods and tries telling a story from the point of view of the Bene Gesserit. Aside from the Duncan Idaho ghola, there wasn’t actually all that much to connect these stories together. Yet Frank Herbert didn’t just pander to Dune nostalgia, he wrote the story he wanted to tell in that universe.

    Incidentally, I’m working on a bibliography of Dune scholarship and some other projects, so stay tuned!

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