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Dune: The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Published by Tor Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

This volume concludes the Butlerian Jihad trilogy, and it pretty much lives down to the first two volumes. Even the climactic Battle of Corrin with its Bridge of Hrethgir sequence feels like a piece out of an action-adventure anime rather than the deeply philosophical original novel that first drew me into the Dune universe. We've got human shields and terrible moral choices, but no real insights into what it means to be faced with such a situation.

I still have no sense that any of the characters have any real inner lives, for all that the authors are trying harder and harder to explain how such institutions as the Tlielaxu, the Spacing Guild and the Bene Gesserit came to be and how the Zensunni turned into the Fremen of Dune. Compare that with the nuanced treatment of the various characters in the original Dune, who struggle with their own inner conflicts as much as they do their external enemies.

All of it adds up to a story that would have been a readable, if forgettable, potboiler if it had been in an original universe unconnected to the Dune universe. There are plenty such stories out there, and when I was a kid growing up in a rural community with a tiny library and only infrequent access to bookstores, I read them for the simple reason that they were better than having nothing at all to read. For all that they were junk food for the mind, they were still better than going without altogether.

But by putting the Dune name on the cover and using names derived from the backstory of Dune, meant to evoke the rich canvas that was only suggested in the original stories ("we were slaves for nine generations on Salusa Secundus" called out during the evening memorial service), the authors create certain expectations on the part of the readers. And those expectations are simply not met, no matter how many flashy plot twists the authors may come up with.

In fact, one of my greatest frustrations with this book is that now I can no longer use the term "Butlerian Jihad" to discuss anti-technological backlash in a serious discourse. When we just had the original series, we could imagine the Great Revolt as a social upheaval against the use of computer technology as a tool for ever-increasing intrusion upon and management of people's lives. But such a dystopian vision and the nuanced social understanding it would have required seems to be beyond these authors, so instead the term "Butlerian Jihad" is now so inextricably intertwined with their cartoonish battle of man and robot that evoking it in a serious discussion would actually be apt to demolish whatever credibility one had previously possessed.

Review posted January 15, 2009

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