Frank Herbert was undoubtedly one of the most prolific creative minds to ever see the light. To say that the man was a genius would be like saying that Harvard and Oxford are good schools. It doesn't begin to do justice to the man and the talented writer he was. The Dune saga will indubitably be considered the monument of science fiction for years to come. And if anything ever surpasses Dune, I just wish to be alive to read it.:-)
In their previous effort, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson fell short on several levels. Although entertaining, Dune: House Atreides, Dune: House Harkonnen, and Dune: House Corrino never came close to capturing the essence of the original Dune novels. It was neat to return to Herbert's universe and characters, but the books themselves left a lot to be desired.
Which explains why it took me so long to give Dune: The Butlerian Jihad a chance. And what a pleasant surprise to discover that this one more than lives up to the hype. This compelling story about humanity struggling for freedom would certainly have made Frank Herbert proud. With this book, the authors have managed to capture much of the essence of the original Dune series. And that is quite a feat.
Dune: The Butlerian Jihad is, in my humble opinion, the perfect starting point for any newcomers interested in the Dune saga. It is much more accessible than the original series, which could generate interest in a younger fan base that has not yet read the classic novel. And for aficionados, it is quite a treat to see the plotlines that will ultimately converge in Dune.
This book goes back in time: 10, 000 years prior to the events chronicled in Dune. As the title implies, The main story revolves around humanity's rebellion against the thinking machines' tyranny. And it's a multi-layered epic saga which should satisfy most readers.
The characterizations are at times brilliant and at times lacking. First and foremost, this novel is a tale of men and women, making this a character-driven storyline. And as such, the characterizations are well-developed and interesting, at least for the most part. We are introduced to a host of characters whose actions will set in motion the events that will lead to Dune, millennia later. The tables are turned on both Vorian Atreides and Xavier Harkonnen, and it's kind of neat to see an Atreides and a Harkonnen with different roles. Serena Butler plays an immense role, and I was totally taken by surprise by the incident which will mark the starting point of the jihad. Norma Cenva and Tio Holtzman are scientists who are taking science beyond new horizons. Tuk Keedair is a Tlulaxa slaver and flesh merchant who makes an interesting discovery. Omnius, the computer evermind, and Erasmus, the free-thinking robot, provide some insight pertaining to the thinking machines' social structure and agenda. Iblis Ginjo will, without realizing it at first, create the spark that will change humanity forever. And on Arrakis, a young outcast will become the legendary Selim Wormrider.
New concepts such as the evermind, the cymeks, the Cogitors, the Sorceresses of Rossak, the Titans, etc, give another dimension to this tale. And the revelations concerning the Zensunnis and the Zenshiites give us a bit of insight concerning the people who will one day become the fearsome Fremen. And we finally discover what atrocious role the atomic warheads stockpiled on numerous worlds for centuries played in the war against the thinking machines. And just how enormous the price to pay turned out to be. . .
The worldbuilding is interesting enough. But it is often overdone, which prevents many planets and systems to be quite as fascinating as they could be.
All in all, a terrific novel and a very good addition to the Dune saga. I will eagerly read the two sequels.
The final verdict: 9/10