Brian “Son of Frank” Herbert and Kevin J Anderson are putting the finishing touches to “Dune 7”, aka the latest cash-in book in the Dune series. I’m really getting sick of these.
The ostensible explanation for these books is that Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, had huge numbers of notes for his books sitting around in safety deposit boxes. Herbert Jr and Anderson found them and together, have been putting flesh on them to create new novels that fill in the gaps that Herbert was probably going to fill himself.
Now, fair-dues, the last three books of the original series weren’t great and even the second and third lacked the spark of Dune itself, but with each new book these two produce, the quality average keeps going down. So far, they’ve written a series of prequels set in the early origins of the Dune universe, a series of prequels set just before the original series of books and a collection of Dune short stories.
But what’s noticeable is just how bad these books are.
They’re clichéd, have rubbish characters, have barely a trace of originality, add nothing to the Dune universe that wasn’t there already and don’t even have a tenth of the imagination of the originals. They’re cranking these books out at the rate of one a year and they bare all the hallmarks of books dictated into a dictaphone rather than written. I imagine an authorial Ed Wood saying, “That’s perfect! It’s a wrap!” after every scene, so little real editing has gone into them. I also wonder exactly how much Brian Herbert has to do with them, really, since they read exactly like Kevin Anderson’s X-Files novels.
The perfect example of their mediocrity was Prelude to Dune, the collection of short stories. The first half of this is Frank Herbert’s work. The centrepiece is a ‘proto-Dune’, the original version of the entire first novel that Herbert wrote; the plot is more or less the same, but with many different characters, character names, themes and so on. The second half was a bunch of stories by Anderson and Herbert Jr.
The first half was great, even though it was essentially the original Dune story and therefore one I’d read before. He, at least, knew how to write and edit. The second half was utterly unreadable. I just couldn’t get through it after the first half had effectively ‘spoilt’ me.
So I’m going to be giving the next series of books a wide berth. It’s going to be two books of 700 pages. How long would it take you to write a good book of 700 pages’ length? They’re belting them out at the rate of one or two a year…
Incidentally, one of the Anderson/Herbert short stories, Hunting Harkonnens, was originally available as a PDF download from their web site. I downloaded it and put it on my Palm Pilot for reading during my commute. What was fun was that the converter software made all the annotations Herbert Jr had added to the story appear in the text. Not only did it make clear that Anderson had done all the writing, you also got gems like “Are you sure this makes sense, Kevin?” popping up at regular intervals.
PS Does anyone else think those voiceovers on the radio from the London Assembly, warning about saving water, sound exactly like the warnings to the Atreides army in the movie Dune: “Londoners, our effectiveness as a fighting force relies on water conservation…”?