Frank Herbert wrote 5 instalments of his celebrated Dune series, only to leave the story arc unfinished at his untimely death in 1986. But a few years later his son, Brian Herbert, who had already written a series of Dune tie-ins with Kevin J. Anderson, found his outline of how he intended to finish the series with a final book in a safe deposit box.
This is what Brian and Kevin made from this material, or, to be precise, this is the 2nd half, as they turned it into two books instead (the first one was Hunters of Dune). Editing/cutting might have been the better option, in my opinion; there might have been material for one good book, but definitely not for two.
But, before I go any further a word of warning – this, by its very nature, contains spoilers for the 6 books (5 by Frank, one by Brian & Kevin) that went before in the series. If this bothers you then stop reading now.
Ok, back to the book. The story picks up exactly where the previous book, The Hunters of Dune, has stopped (no wonder, as this was planned as one book by Frank). The fugitives in the No-ship are still on the run from the 'old couple' only Duncan Idaho can see, and who attempt to snare them in their 'tachyon net' every so often. Sheana and her sisters (and the Rabbi with his Jews) have been joined by an ever-increasing number of ghola children from the past (Miles Teg, Jessica, Paul, Leto II, Chani, Thufir, etc...) from a nullentropy capsule Scytale, the last Tleilaxu Master, carries. Murbella, meanwhile, keeps training her joint sisterhood (Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres) on Chapterhouse, organizing humanity's last stand against the renewed onslaught of the thinking machines, led by Omnius and Erasmus. And the new Face Dancers have infiltrated Ix, the Guild, and most other planets, and are quietly sabotaging the shipyards at Junction where the sisterhood's fleet is being built.
Yes, there are fewer threads to juggle than in the previous book, but the number of players is increased significantly with all the gholas (the Face Dancers also have a ghola of Paul, so we're looking at two potential Kwisatz Haderachs as we're heading into Kralizec, the final battle...) has increased instead.
You might have gathered that I'm not entirely taken with the book, and you're not wrong. What is wrong? Besides the fact that this is at least twice as long as it would need to be (either they were afraid to cut material Frank put down, or they decided that two books made twice as much money ?) we get a lot of shoddy work: continuity errors from the original story (and yes, I've red the 5 books by Frank recently), there are factual error when compared to the canon, there are twists and turns which do no make any sense, and the internal structure of this book also shows contradictions. A lot of the logic Frank built up for his universe seems to have deserted the story now, and it's hard to tell if this is something Frank did in his draft notes, or if Brian & Kevin are to blame for this.
The structure of the book is in chapters, timed in years since the flight from Chapterhouse, and I'm willing to bet that this is how Frank put down his outline. But, despite the metronomic rhythm of the storytelling this is rather unevenly paced, and in parts also deeply sentimental. Sirupy. Not really something I though I'd ever say about Dune.
The writing emulates Frank's, but frequently falls short of its target. And, whilst Frank's extended verbal sparring could be tedious this book manages to take tedium to a new level, even with some of it's fight/action scenes, which is in itself quite an achievement. Sandworms of Dune is more readable than Hunters of Dune, but this is damning with faint praise. Only for completists who have read the rest of the series (er, like me. And I'm not going to hang on to the book, either …) and who really really need to know who Frank thought it might all end. Else stick with Frank's own books, and shun these inferior efforts by Brian & Kevin (I cannot comment on the tie-ins they keep churning out, but I have very little inclination to find out).
Title: Sandworms of Dune
Series Number: 7/7
Author: Brian Herbert
Author: Kevin J. Anderson
Reviewer URL: http://www.thierstein.net
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 2007
Review Date: 100201
Price: UKP 7.99
Topic: Space Opera