Review – Dune: The Duke of Caladan
With Dune: The Duke of Caladan, first book in a new trilogy, authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson bring us back to a familiar time period to revisit the most celebrated characters of the Dune saga. This prequel begins just one year before before the generationally enduring story told by Frank Herbert in his original Dune novel (1965), making it a timely read ahead of the 2021 movie adaptation. I’ll be avoiding spoilers in this book review, however am referencing well-known characters and events from the original.
When we first meet the Atreides family–Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and, their son, Paul–at the beginning of Dune, the Great House is already mandated to depart their ancestral home, Caladan, to take over spice production on Arrakis. The inhospitable yet coveted desert planet, also known as Dune, is the only source of the precious substance. Dune: The Duke of Caladan, titled after the ocean world and it’s just ruler, explores the chain of events that drive House Atreides and their treacherous rivals towards the fateful conflict that will forever change the course of civilization.
The story opens, almost, serenely with the nobles of the Landsraad convening on Otorio to attend the Emperor’s celebration in honor of 10 thousand years of House Corrino rule, however it’s not long before illusions of peace are shattered. With the Imperium facing an especially turbulent period; the Great Houses, CHOAM, Spacing Guild, Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, and several clandestine factions vie for power and survival through political maneuvering, sedition, and open warfare.
Herbert and Anderson have structured the narrative into brief chapters, zooming in on key situations taking place across the universe–exploring Caladan and visiting the Imperial capital Kaitain, Bene Gesserit Mother School on Wallach IX, Giedi Prime, and of course Arrakis. Developments are brought at a fast pace and, although this was an easy read, there’s a sizable cast and a lot happening. In addition to several new characters, we get to experience events from the point of view of familiar faces from Dune, including Baron Harkonnen, Reverend Mother Mohiam, Count Fenring, and the Emperor himself, Shaddam Corrino IV.
At it’s core, Dune: The Duke of Caladan is a tale of family: we see how the titular Duke Leto Atreides shoulders the weight of leading his people while caring for loved ones, increasingly conscious of how deeply his actions impact the next generation. Jessica and Paul have many moments in the spotlight individually, however this story shines in the interaction between the three of them, as they share moments of joy, pain, and face the fallout of difficult decisions. The book also explores their relationships with the key retainers of House Atreides–Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, Thufir Hawat, Dr. Wellington Yueh–who all have a role to play as the honorable house faces new dangers, both from off world and unexplored regions within their own home planet.
The book is a satisfying journey by itself, though it’s apparent that this is the first part of a trilogy. Multiple story threads are built up and, by the time the last page is turned, key conflicts remain open. The ending is not a cliffhanger, given we know where these iconic characters are headed, though you may be left wanting to dive straight into next book. Fortunately the authors have already drafted the first manuscript of book two, Dune: The Lady of Caladan, so that can be expected to arrive in 2021.
This latest Dune story can be picked up by new readers without prior knowledge of the previous novels, however, as a prequel, it is best experienced in follow up to the original Dune. For those already familiar with the original, this new entry is a great companion that serves to enrich the characterization and further expand on the rich lore of the Dune saga. Although the writing styles are quite different and the books were written 55 years apart, the stories still feel interconnected.
Dune: The Duke of Caladan takes readers on new adventures with the cherished characters of Dune, honoring what has come before while remaining accessible. This entertaining and fast-paced read is recommended for newcomers and hardcore fans alike, especially as a lead up to the upcoming Dune movie adaptation directed by Dennis Villeneuve.
Dune: The Duke of Caladan is out now and available in print, eBook, and audiobook formats. Shop on Amazon or click on the cover below to start reading a free preview.
Special thanks to Tor Books for providing us with an advance review copy for this book review.