Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of The Road to Dune by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson

Review of The Road to Dune by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson

Bri and Kev keep scraping the barrel that is Dune and saps like me keeping buying their books (although I did get this for three or four pounds from a remainders shop). The Road to Dune is a moderately more worthwhile read than the Legends of Dune books. It contains: a novella written by the two barrel-scrapers based on an outline by Herbert senior called Spice Planet; some correspondence to and by Frank Herbert; various deleted scenes from the first two Dune books; and four short stories by Herbert the younger and Anderson.

While, as with Legends of Dune, the characterisation and dialogue is woeful, Spice Planet is an interesting glimpse of what Dune might have been. The story is a lot simpler – there are no Fremen (although there are ex-convicts known as freedmen), no Bene Gesserit, none of the messianic musings – and many of the names are different – the main character is Jesse Linkam, his son Barri is a minor character, and the villain is one Valdemar Hoskanner. If Frank Herbert had written it it might have been something on a par with The Dragon in the Sea.

Fortunately for us, he had other ideas. In the middle of this book we get a feel for what they were. Herbert had done some research into efforts to curb encroaching desert and was trying to sell an article. Later on, he started writing Dune and his and his agents attempts to sell it as a novel fell flat at first. Eventually they sold it to a publisher better known for producing car manuals. The letters included here are the highlight of the book and help one appreciate what Herbert went through in creating Dune.

After the correspondence there are a number of passages from Dune and Dune Messiah that were either cut to keep the serialisation short or changed in the final version. It was a pleasure to read something by a decent writer after the mediocrity of his inheritors, but these fragments are pretty irrelevant – many of them could have been incorporated into the final novel version of Dune, but weren’t and they don’t add that much.

Lastly, the book contains four short stories by Herbert and Anderson – the first, from 1999, is set on Dune at the time of the Harkonnen raid on Arrakeen; the others form preludes to each book in the Legends of Dune trilogy. Because they’re short, they’re not so bad as the aforementioned trilogy. The final story, ‘The Faces of a Martyr’, works least well because it really ought to be part of one of the books – with three main characters, its focus is too diffuse. The final line should give you some idea of just how bad the dialogue is: ‘Forward! […] We have enemies to destroy!’

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