One of the first observations of the last book was that it didn’t quite feel like a book about House Harkonnen. I can say without any hesitation that I don’t have that same feeling about the finale of this trilogy, Dune: House Corrino. While the Houses Atreides and Harkonnen are most definitely present, it’s the activities of Shaddam IV, Emperor of the Known Universe-and equally importantly, his plots-that drive this book.
Shaddam is a little uneasy on the throne, of late; firstly, he’s still very eager for a plot on the world of Xuttuh, formerly known as Ix, where production on an artificial substitute for the miracle spice melange is finally beginning to reach fruition. Secondly, he learns that his father managed to father another son, who could conceivably be a threat to his throne. And of course, he still wants sons from his wife (not realizing that his wife, a Bene Gesserit, will never give him one).
His plans may be thwarted in an unexpected manner, however. Grief-stricken from the events of House Harkonnen, Leto Atreides decides to make a point that he hasn’t become weak by his losses-and one of his plans involves aiding his longtime friend, Rhombur Vernius, in his goals of freeing his world of Ix from the Tleilaxu; an expedition consisting of Gurney Halleck and the mentat Thufir Hawat is sent to speak with the rebel C’tair Pilru, who has made a pest of himself there for the last couple of books.
To make matters even more interesting, Baron Harkonnen has no clue that the Emperor is planning to make his fiefdom of the planet Arrakis obsolete; he is aware, however, that the Emperor is beginning to act against Houses stockpiling the spice, and that makes him just a bit nervous; in addition, he is becoming aware that his last strike against the Atreides hasn’t gone quite as well as he’d hoped for the long-term, and is looking for a way to recoup his own influence. I’ll say right now that if any reader doesn’t shudder at the thought of the Baron and the Beast taking lessons from an etiquette advisor, they really don’t know the characters!
The Fremen of Arrakis are also moving forward with the vision of Liet-Kynes; Kynes himself attempts to convince Shaddam that Arrakis could be made a relative paradise, with the Imperium’s help-not to mention putting a leash on the Baron. This doesn’t really fit in with Shaddam’s plans, though, so Kynes returns with a clear message for his people.
Finally, Jessica, Leto’s concubine, is with child, and is sent to the Kaitain, the Corrino world, by the demand of her Bene Gesserit masters; of course, they don’t realize she’s not carrying the daughter they demanded; the Bene Gesserit also have to figure out how best to get rid of the no-ship technology used so effectively in the previous books.
If you get the impression that there’s a lot of plots rotating within each other here…well, that is the hallmark of the Dune novels. It amazes me how well it holds together, especially given my long-standing prejudice against Kevin Anderson. Incidentally, I’ll take a moment to admit that I have been impressed with his writing for this entire trilogy. He’s blended together the bits that were known about this period, and managed to pull off a story well worthy of Frank Herbert. Also, I don’t want to neglect Brian Herbert; I really don’t know how the division of labor went in this book, but the pair have managed to recapture the magic I enjoyed years ago when I first read Dune.
Dune fans should find this novel to be very satisfying, and there’s enough “easter eggs” that old readers will enjoy spotting. They really can’t go wrong with this series; and new readers would do well to read this series, and then hit the original books. As I recall, the original plan was to write the final book of the Dune series, a sequel to Chapterhouse: Dune. I’ve also heard rumors of a new trilogy of prequels. I’m not sure what will come next, but with this pair of writers, I’m eager to find out.