Book Review: Navigators of Dune
I know, I know. Don't judge me. Dune books are like drugs for me. I'm so in love with the world that I can't stop reading them, and while the original Dune is clearly the best by an astronomical margin, I enjoy revisiting the world as Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson craft new stories in it.
Saying all that to say, I got this book two weeks early at DragonCon in Atlanta, and I met Kevin Anderson and he signed it for me. I WAS VERY HAPPY. I REGRET NOTHING.
Now, to the book:
Navigators of Dune is the conclusion to the Great Schools trilogy, set in the years after the Butlerian Jihad as humanity finds itself able to focus on other things than simply the great war with machines. Manford Torondo and his fanatical Butlerians have seized even more power than before and vehemently oppose Josef Venport and his enterprises (the beginnings of the Spacing Guild). Josef, on the outs with new emperor Roderick Corrino after the details of his brother's death came to light, struggles to fight on two fronts and keep his business going - and the light of science strong. And meanwhile, Vorian Atreides and Valya Harkonnen, Mother Superior of the Sisterhood, are spiraling toward a final confrontation that will surely be fatal for one of them.
One of those axioms that writers repeat ad nauseum is "show, don't tell." It's not always true, as there are instances where things must be told, but it generally makes for a stronger novel. That was one of my main issues with this book - there's so much telling in the first half of the novel, telling us what happened in previous books, telling us what characters feel instead of showing it through their actions, etc. In a few chapters, recapping and telling what so and so feels such and such takes up 90% of the chapter. It bloats the first half and makes it drag, which is frustrating because SO MUCH happens in the second half.
The other thing that bugs me is that the book sets you up to root for Josef Venport (Roderick Corrino too to some degree, but he hasn't been in the series as long). You can't really root for Manford because he's very anti-progress, Valya is kind of a jerk, Vorian isn't in it enough to be your primary character, so you're left with Josef. And despite his choices and his use of cymeks against humans, I wanted Josef Venport to win so badly.
That's the problem though - you know he can't. We know how this ends, how this has to end, to bring about the world of the original Dune. As a result, Josef has to make some exceptionally stupid decisions that don't fit with his character. It's immensely frustrating to read in places, and I wish it hadn't been framed the way it was. There had to be a better way to handle Josef's plotline.
But there are good moments, and Erasmus is one of them. It's interesting to see how his memory core pans out in this final book, and almost touching that he develops some feelings for Anna Corrino. I've always liked Erasmus as a character, in part because he is so unique, and so this book was satisfying on that front.
Roderick Corrino is also a much more interesting character than his brother Salvador. I don't often find myself liking the Corrinos, but Roderick is an exception and I wish he'd been more of a focus in previous books. He's front and center here, making the best of a difficult situation, and I appreciated his chapters greatly.
We also get a bit of the Atreides/Harkonnen feud. Vorian is desperate to bring it to an end with his death, and while he succeeds in making Valya think she's won, he doesn't get the result he ultimately wanted because we know the feud continues.
On the whole, it's a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy and there are some good setpieces that are fun to read (like the attack on Lampadas). Is it the strongest of the Herbert/Anderson books? No, it's not. I would only recommend this particular spin-off series if, like me, you just can't put the world down.