dimanche 4 mai 2014

Mentats of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

The great Mentat School was his - from the initial concept seven decades ago, to choosing this location in the remote marshes of Lampadas, to the many graduates he had trained over the years. With quiet efficiency and determination, Gilbertus Albans was changing the course of human civilization.

In the aftermath of the Butlerian Jihad, when mankind overthrew its robot overlords, the Empire struggles to survive the turmoil left behind. As the Corrino Emperor strives to strike a balance between the remnants of the Jihad, determined to assert control over humanity, and Venhold Spacing, who hold the only key to safe travel through foldspace, two rival schools who will one day play key roles in the galaxy take their first faltering steps. The Mentat School especially finds itself thrust into the centre of intrigue and danger.

Dune is one of the seminal science fiction novels of the 20th century, a philosophical space opera full of great concepts, multifaceted characters and musings on family, power and fear. It inspired such great speculative fiction as Star Wars and the Wheel of Time series. A handful of sequels followed, whose reception varied, before Frank Herbert died leaving the series unfinished and poised on a cliffhanger. Fast forward a few decades and Herbert's son, along with prolific scifi author Kevin J Anderson, picked up the torch. Beginning with a prequel trilogy detailing the fued between the Atreides and Harkonnen that forms such an important part of the original book, the Herbert/Anderson duo have gone on to complete the original series, before returning to the deep past of the Dune universe. Mentats of Dune is the latest in the series, a sequel to 2011's Sisterhood of Dune.

The obvious question to be asked with all of the prequel/sequels written by the duo is whether they bring anything to the universe Herbert created or whether they are nothing but a cynical use of a beloved saga. While I don't think the motives of Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson are cash related - their love for the universe is obvious - I also think that it may be time for them to let the Dune universe lie.

By this point, it is difficult to have a conscious discussion about plot when it comes to the Dune books without going into a long rambling explanation. And that is one of the main faults with this book - it relies so much on connect-the-dots scene setting and winks to the audience that it is hard to discern a clear plot to discuss. The book is called Mentats of Dune and yet for large parts of the book the main Mentat characters are almost secondary to what is happening. There is very little tension and few characters I personally felt invested in.
The writing is fine - clear, crisp, without major infodumps or long descriptive passages. However I found myself skim reading the book, reading just enough to discern what was happening and how each situation would be resolved. There is very little of the sense of wonder left - it feels like each planet is similar to the one before, and even Arrakis was missing that special something that once made it so compelling.

The book ends without any major surprises. It left me without any major expectations for the follow-up, beyond a mild interest in seeing how the Atreides will rise from their current position to the powerful house we see later. I imagine I will pick up the final book of the trilogy, but unfortunately I think that may be the last Dune book I pick up for a while.

Mentats of Dune may be the bridge too far for some fans, though from what I have seen on other blogs and forums that bridge was reached a long time ago for many others. Lacking the sense of wonder that made Frank Herbert's original such a hit, this is paint-by-numbers space opera. I didn't hate it but it did leave me numb. Not a book I will be remembering at the end of the year by any stretch of the imagination. I gave Mentats of Dune 2 disembodied robot overlords out of 5.

Buy It For Kindle
Series Website

From the Blogosphere:
Flickering Myth
Giant Freaking Robot
Sci-Fi Pulse

From the Author's Mouth:
Older interview with Kevin J Anderson at MediaMikes

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