Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another WindTrap, Disappointingly Holding No Water

To anyone familiar with the original DUNE universe, Frank Herbert's vision was so rich and majestic that as a reader I did not want the story to end. Well, at this point I very much wished it had.

Paul of Dune had everything going for it: an interesting timeline, a detailed setting and unresolved cliffhangers. Yet it manages to fail.
This book picks up the action just after the first book (and the movie) of the series (Dune) and before the second (Dune Messiah), a very interesting period of 12 years for which, so far, we only had hints and suggestive glimpses of. At the same time, a number of flashbacks flesh-out the details of the life of an adolescent Paul Atreides.
Wheels within wheels? No. Rather more like a lone, rusty wind-wheel turning in the soft breeze of decadent Kaitain. Let the good times roll...

According to Dorothy Parker, there are books "not to be tossed aside lightly, [but] thrown with great force". This is one of these books. My study coffee-table now has the indentation to prove it.

I received this book for free from the publisher and for over 6 weeks I tried to read it numerous times. I kept getting so discouraged that I was this close in giving up. The first 100 pages can be summarized in just one phrase: "Paul is devastated by the ongoing Jihad but it is inevitable and the lesser of many evils according to his prescience". Paul says it. Irulan makes notes about it. Alia has inner voices echoing it. OK, we get it, please move on!
Which prescience, one must note, apparently is a very fickle commodity as we keep hearing of it but never actually see it in action.

What has became of Paul, the leader of men and conqueror of worlds? That little man is the...Kwizats Haderach? That is what the Bene Gesserits were selectively mating people for, for thousands of years? That is what the Tleilaxu were trying to duplicate? Well, someone must tell both the the witches and genetic abominations that they are not missing much!
To keep the new emperor human is one thing; to make him dull and cruel, spineless and indecisive is quite another.

This is a book of science fiction so, yes, suspending one's disbelief is a requirement from page one. Nevertheless, a basic logical scaffolding is required for the whole world not to collapse. Taking over entire planets with only a handful of unruly Fremen and some Sardakaur fresh from switching their allegiance? Paul having delegated almost every important decision to...Korba and his Qizarete priests? Where has the unstoppable momentum of Paul gone? If he had lost steam so soon, there is just no way that his vision would materialize by others.
And just how did Fremen become so bloodthirsty and lost all sense of honor in a few weeks?

The young Paul stories fair a bit better but are cursed with the readers'...prescience of the Dune future: every new storyline must serpentine and eat its own tail before the end. After all, the Golden Path future has been set by Frank. And Writing is not a hereditary ability.

It feels like a bad batch of semuta to be sold anyway only, once more, to take advantage of the hardened addicts.

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