Posted by: Kevin | October 16, 2006

Disgrace, thy name is Brian Herbert

I love the original Dune series by Frank Herbert.  L.  O.  V.  E.  them, all 6 books.  The complexity of the plots, the subtlety of the writing and the wide range of issues addressed forces you, the reader, to think.  The Dune series doesn’t dumb things down or spoon-feed you anything.  As a result reading these books is an intensive and rewarding experience. 

When Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson released the first book of their Dune prequels, “Dune:  House Atreides” in 1999, I was skeptical.  It is one thing for Christopher Tolkien to take his father’s extensive notes and compile them in “The Silmarillion”.  It’s quite another for someone to take scant notes and materials and then team up with a writer as pedestrian as Kevin Anderson.  The result sucked, bigtime. 

Amazon reviewer Andrew Hartof the UK sums up my feelings quite well.

Frank Herbert managed to create a Universe populated by big people with grand schemes, sharp intellects, deep motivations, and competing philosophies, all locked in a deadly eons long battle for supremacy and survival.

This book is populated with dim wits with petty concerns, short term goals and shallow desires, all bouncing along fairly aimlessly and counting on luck and coincidence.

No gravitas. No substance. No imagination. This book is to Dune as lift music is to a Beethoven symphony.

I read the rest of the 3 book series in the foolish hope that somehow the writing would improve.  Sadly, “House Harkonnen” and “House Corrino” sucked every bit as much as the first one.  Since then I’ve been avoiding the continued desecration of Frank Herbert’s legacy like the plague.

That was until today, when I came across “Hunters of Dune“, the latest effort of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson.  No longer content with just raping the back-story, they are taking up the story line of the original Dune series where it was left at the conclusion of “Chapterhouse Dune“.  And how have they handled this material, from the greatest and most popular science fiction series of all time?  Based on what I’m seeing in the amazon reviews, not so good.  Here are a few.

A great example of damning with faint praise
Clearly, Hunters is written for a different generation of readers and aspires to a more “mass-market” than the elder Herbert’s original stories. The pacing is much faster, the prose more direct, and the plot threads easier to pick up and follow.
Good thing they improved the “mass-market” appeal, because the original Dune was only the highest seller SciFi book ever.  This reviewer actually gave it 4 stars too, which doesn’t speak well of his intelligence. 

A few more to the point reviews
They shouldn’t have bothered!
Burn This Book!
Unbelievably Bad … Even by the standard of Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson

Brian Hebert, to steal a phrase from another SciFi epic I finished not too long ago, you have forgotten the face of your father.



  1. Totally right. They try so hard to to come with surprising plot twists but it just comes across as pretentious at best. Pathetic is the word I find most apt. But the thing that I just cant stand is the corporate language bullshit that they come out with.
    The sad thing is that they dismiss McNelly even though his book was much closer in spirit to the real Dune.
    I just want them to publish the plain old notes, the selfish money grubbing bastards.

  2. Joe, it’s the whole corporate thing that’s getting me here. Frank Herbert spent something like 5 years writting the original Dune. The whole series of 6 books was written and released over the course of some 20 years. They weren’t rush jobs. Time and care was taken to tell these stories with the depth and substance that has made them so popular.

    Contrast that with Brian Herbert’s “contributions”. He’s been churning out these novels like they were widgets, 9 in 8 years. It shows in the final product. They’re indistiguishable from any other serial science fiction series on the shelf. That’s fine if you’re writting star wars novels for middle school kids, those are already a commodity. The Dune series wasn’t.

    • It’s not good practice to write bad Star Wars novels, or any bad novels, even for middle school kids. It’s just that it’s also a crime against art to write bad Dune novels, for anybody. Brian Herbert is no Leto II, that’s for sure.

  3. I agree with you completely. The original 6 Dune novels blew me away. I have gone back over each of them and continue to find new and interesting plot point that I missed the first time around. I was so excited to hear that new novels were going to be produced in the Dune universe…..then I read them.

    Saddened is how I would put my reaction to the whole situation. IMO they are milking it for all it is worth with the crap they keep spewing out based on the “notes” found in a safe deposit box. Yeaaaaah I bet you found special “notes” outlining all of the situations the books are based on. Hell i don’t think Brian even read his fathers works until his mid-twenties, he just doesn’t understand what they are to so many people.

    The whole Buterlian series destroyed any hope I hope for redemption of the authors after the preludes. Utter crap, suitable for pre-teens. I will not read the Dune seven novels, I am sticking to the ending put forth by Frank Herbert,.

    For anyone interested the same feelings are felt by many readers, you can even find a majority of posts on the official Dune discussion board are negative towards the new novels.

    And thats the end of my little rant……

  4. I tried to read the first of the “new” Dune books. I was extremely excited that their might be more Dune. I LOVE DUNE… I love it for it’s complexity about the meaning of human life, and about the greater questions of consciousness in the universe.

    I threw the book across the room. The only other time I have been so infuriated by an adaptation or spin-off, was in seeing the Sci-Fi Channel’s “adaptation” (rape) of Usula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy.

    I went looking for reviews that share my point of view on Google, and so much marketing stuff came up first that I was dismayed. And that they’re quoting reviews of the father to promote the books of the son is pretty sleazy. I think I’ll go back to the beginning. The good news is that the originals can be read over and over for one’s lifetime, with things still to learn.


  5. My thoughts on the Herbert and Anderspn books are mixed. On the one hand, I absolutely lo-o-o-o-ove the original series. Nothing else in literature ever compares, not even the pretentious Tolkien crap so many fantasy fanboys rave about. I don’t think Tolkien gets anywhere near as deep as Herbert, and I mean it.

    I semi-enjoyed the Herbert/Anderson books… more as just adventure-ish Sci-Fi books. definitely nowhere near the level of Frank Herbert himself. No bleeping way. I do believe Brian Herbert when he says it is based off of notes from Frank Herbert found in a safe deposit box. However, I think these books demonstrate only one thing: How far only notes can take you. Now, the Brian/Anderson books might have been REALLY something if they found a damn rough draft instead, something with more substance. And of course if Brian Herbert never brought failed Sci-Fi writer Kevin J. Anderson in on it. As far as I know, Anderson only really suceeded with the Star Wars book series… and we all know that Star War, while good, is nowhere near the par of things like Dune. I don’t even think the Ender series has anything on Dune.

    My verdict is a little more friendly: Herbert/Anderson works from an adventure, no-substance quick-read sci-fi story, but they won’t get anywhere close to the mettle of Frank Herbert. I’ll read the Dune 7 books and the interquel Heroes of Dune series purely for completeness-sake. But I’ll never say “Boy… Paul of Dune is just as good as Dune: Messiah or Dune itself.” because it isn’t. I can say that without even reading those books.

  6. Yeah well Paul of Dune is one of the most boring in the failures that Brian spewed out with Kevin. Even from a ‘sci-fi adventure’ point, they are pretty bad and boring. It’s like reading ‘General Hospital’ in space but written by morons instead of semi-competent writers. General hospital is far more entertaining and profound than the new dunes series AND it is more believable with all its miraculous cure and people coming back from the dead… 😉

  7. Ugh! The “Dune” books written by Brian Herbert are such trash…His father has died so many times now, with each new offering his son constructs. Pure offal.


  8. I tortured myself through the House series and then the legends series and then I picked up Hunters and I put it down 3 chapters in. The cause was now the fact that they had shat all over FH’s world since I had put up with the raping of that very world for 3 consecutive books filled with junk but i put it down because I could not longer deal with the bad writing.
    There was a chapter explaining something and then the very next chapter restated it the same thing so I could not forget… I read a little farther and then it happened… they wrote a sentence and the follow up sentence refereed back to the sentence I had just read so i would not “forget” what was just said in it.
    And that was it. As far as I’m concerned Dune ended when FH died.
    I think the reason the writing is so damn bad is because KJA speaks into a tape player and someone else writes it out and then they both trade the chapters back and forth and in order to not forget what each one of them is doing they constantly write restatement chapters to remind themselves. This however makes it almost impossible for a sane reader to read. They truly are VERY bad writers. The Bourne series is currently going through the same thing which is a shame because the original Bourne books were really good too.

  9. Joe, I’d like to invite you to visit, THE discussion forum for FH’s Dune series. You’ll find many like minded people there.

    Long live the fighters!

    • The invitation is for everyone, not just Joe. 😳

  10. Fear not, Faithful of Frank, there is a very special place in literary Hell reserved for the likes o’ KJA and BH. And their assorted publishing Pimps, Panderers, Groupies and suchlike. Alas, it is likely true that the Dynamic Duo will continue for some time raking in $M, Kudos and Plaudits, churning out ever more foetid Pulp for the Masses, but at some point it has to end. Has to. And they will Pass Away……..
    They will enter that funky trans-dimensional tunnel so often described by those with near-death experiences……and at the end, radiant Light! There they will be met with the Souls of Frank, Heinlein, Clement, Asimov, Campbell, Van Vogt, Verne, Clarke, Wells…….all carrying the spirit-world equivalent of truncheons, and the Stomping will begin……

    Hey, we can hope, can’t we?

  11. A cursory glance at the Brian Herbert books (a few sentences or a paragraph) is enough to show conclusively that they suck. It’s too bad, because Dune was so great. How can anyone say that BH’s Dune rip-offs do not suck? it’s just annoying/sad.

  12. Part of the beauty of Dune was that Frank Herbert wrote beautifully and his thinking was fascinating and interesting — BH lacks both of those qualities unfortunately. I’m sure he’s good at other things, but writing isn’t one of them.

  13. English is a language ill-equipped to describe how despicably disgraceful the Brian Herbert books are. There simply aren’t sufficiently derogatory words.

  14. I read Dune when I was 12 and it expanded my consciousness. Then I read House Atreides and thought it was adequate. I just reread it at 26 and can’t believe how bad it is. I would love to know what percentage of KJA’s readers are middle school kids buying Star Wars books.

  15. I tend to take a leaf out of Marvel’s book, and think of the new books as part of the ‘Dune Cinematic Universe’. I see hints that they had the film in mind when they started writing, and certainly you can follow the all the new books if you’ve just seen the film (and it wouldn’t hurt to scan through Children of Dune quickly too, or a potted history of the FH Dune universe, but it’s not essential).

    On that basis, I can then enjoy them as rollicking space opera in a universe I love without it affecting the original universe or my memories of it.

    Sure, they are no ‘Dune’, but it’s better than nothing at all (though some of you might disagree on that point!).

    I absolutely agree that it would be nice if they spent more time plotting, polishing and editing, and a little less time pumping out novels, but that’s clearly not going to happen.

  16. Every book they write is worse than the previous one. For me, Dune saga is just Frank Herbert (Dune to Chapterhouse). Brian and Kevin just care about changing the original Dune plots, turning characters incompetent, clones (gholas) and droids. I think they watched too much Star Wars prequels.
    Hunters and Sandworms of Dune were an excuse to link their work to Franks work.

  17. Like everyone here, I love Frank’s 6 Dune Books. I have not read any of the prequels: the synopses were enough. All the Prequel books I could accept. However my real disgust is with the Hunters and Sandworm books. Chapterhouse ended on a great cliffhanger with so much promise for future books.

    I have wanted to learn more about Marty and Daniel more than anything else in fiction. It was obvious they were incredibly powerful Free Face-Dancers. The prospect of this concept was wonderful. What is was not is what Brian Herbert turned it into. Marty and Daniel were not Machines, Duncan Idaho was not The Ultimate Kwisatz Haderach. (That title says it all about the maturity of Brian Herbert’s ideas and writing.) Let’s not even get into what was done with Miles Teg.

    Brian Herbert you should be ashamed of what you have done with your father’s work.

  18. @JackDiamond

    “Sure, they are no ‘Dune’, but it’s better than nothing at all (though some of you might disagree on that point!).”

    Indeed, I for one disagree. Even if you’ve never read the original Dune series, there are about 100’000 (probably more!) better books you could read than this utter trash. Probably including a lot of free internet fan fiction, and I don’t rate this highly.

    They are intrinsically bad books. Boring, badly written, and with childish, paper thin characters and plots. If you buy these books you are supporting an awful leech rather than encouraging some other new more interesting author. They are worse than nothing at all. Much worse.

  19. I just stumbled upon this blog. I just wanted to add my 2 cents. I’ve read and bought the original 6 books by F.Herbert several times and I will read them several times again. They are epic with many things to think about.

    And I’ve read and bought the “House” series and Butlerian Jihad books by B.Herbert/Anderson and then…. I just stopped to care. These books have nowhere the complexity, the storyline is simple and boring. For me, sadly, the Dune franchise finished with the last book by F.Herbert (Chapterhouse: Dune).

  20. Brian Herbert’s books are ridiculous. It’s full of inconsistencies and the characters became simple and predictable.

  21. Perfect reviews of these books. A shame that this doesn’t come at the top of the google search list for a query. It is such a shame that a whole generation will have Frank Herbert’s works confused and muddied by these low quality efforts to cash in on the originals. The only defence for Brian Herbert is that perhaps his father should have spent more time with him and less writing. Perhaps then he wouldn’t feel so inclined to abuse his fathers legacy.

  22. While reading each chapter I found myself screaming at paragraphs and spoken phrases. If Paul Muad Dib had seen this book coming he might have started the Golden Path to avoid it.

  23. I don’t think there should ever have been any backstory books or “filler” books. We already know the basic history/background including that of the Butlerian Jihad and did not need it spelled out for us. I do like my great Dune Encyclopedia, though… it’s a worthy companion to the original novels.

    Wanting to give the series a “conclusion” of a sort, on the other hand, was a reasonable objective, but bringing in an unimaginative, workmanlike writer like KJA was a bad mistake. I realize great science fiction writers are few and far between, especially these days, and few if any will ever match Frank Herbert–but they should have found someone who was at least near his intellectual and literary equal and shared his love and passion for the material and wanted to do it justice (including committing several years to research and writing). And really, a true “Dune” book should have had an ambiguous ending–I feel FH would have denied us any really “satisfying” (by ordinary standards) conclusion.

    Also, FH gave us few unambiguously “good” or”bad” characters, and was very sparing in assigning purely idealistic motives to any of them. His “good” guys were mostly just somewhat less Machiavellian than his “bad” guys. Paul and Leto II were directly responsible for millions or billions of deaths, the only “saving grace” being that their ultimate goal was ensuring the survival of humanity, rather than just protecting and advancing the fortunes of their own House, like the Harkonnens.

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