FSFH Book Review

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Abnett, Dan
Adams, Douglas
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Allston, Aaron
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Barclay, James
Barnes, Steven
Baum, L. Frank
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Bisson, Terry
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Bowen, Carl
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Card, Orson Scott
Chadwick, Paul
Clarke, Arthur C.
Clarke, Susanna
Clemens, James
Collins, Paul
Crichton, Michael
Crispin, A. C.
Cunningham, Elaine
Daley, Brian
David, Peter
DeMatteis, J. M.
Denning, Troy
Dick, Philip K.
Dickens, Charles
Dietz, William C.
Dixon, Chuck
Donaldson, Stephen
Eddings, David
Edginton, Ian
Elrod, P. N.
Erikson, Steven
Feist, Raymond E.
Foster, Alan Dean
Fraction, Matt
Furman, Simon
Gaiman, Neil
Gemmell, David A.
Gerber, Michael
Gibbons, Dave
Golden, Christopher
Goodkind, Terry
Goodwin, Archie
Graham, Mitchell
Grant, Alan
Green, Jonathan
Green, Laurence
Guggenheim, Marc
Hagberg, David
Hambly, Barbara
Hamilton, Laurell K.
Hand, Elizabeth
Harras, Bob
Harrison, Mick
Heinlein, Robert A.
Herbert, Frank
Herbert, James
Hine, David
Hobb, Robin
Howard, Robert E.
Jacques, Brian
James, Charlie Hamilton
Jenkins, Paul
Jeter, K. W.
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Jordan, Robert
Jurgens, Dan
Karpyshyn, Drew
Kennedy, Mike
Kerr, Katharine
Keyes, Greg
King, Stephen
King, William
Knaak, Richard A.
Kube-McDowell, Michael P.
Lawhead, Stephen
Layman, John
Le Guin, Ursula K.
Lewis, C. S.
Lieberman, A. J.
Loeb, Jeph
Lorey, Dean
Lowder, James
Luceno, James
Lumley, Brian
Macan, Darko
Manning, Russ
Martin, George R. R.
Marz, Ron
Matheson, Richard
McCaffrey, Anne
McIntosh, Neil
McIntyre, Vonda
Michelinie, David
Millar, Mark
Miller, John Jackson
Miller, Karen
Milligan, Peter
Moench, Doug
Moesta, Rebecca
Moore, Alan
Nicholls, Stan
Nicieza, Fabian
Nylund, Eric
O'Neil, Dennis
Ostrander, John
Paolini, Christopher
Perry, S. D.
Perry, Steve
Pratchett, Terry
Pullman, Philip
Quinn, David
Reaves, Michael
Reed, A. W.
Reed, Brian
Rice, Anne
Richardson, Nancy
Roberts, Adam
Rowe, Matthew
Rowling, J. K.
Rubio, Kevin
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Salvatore, R.A.
Shelley, Mary
Shultz, Mark
Simone, Gail
Simonson, Louise
Simonson, Walter
Smith, L. Neil
Spurrier, Simon
Stackpole, Michael A.
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Stewart, Sean
Stoker, Bram
Stover, Matthew
Straczynski, J. Michael
Stradley, Randy
Strnad, Jan
Sutcliff, Rosemary
Tolkien, J.R.R.
Traviss, Karen
Truman, Tim
Turtledove, Harry
Tyers, Kathy
van Belkom, Edo
Veitch, Tom
Wagner, John
Watson, Jude
Whitman, John
Williams, Sean
Williams, Tad
Williams, Walter Jon
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Woodring, Jim
Wurts, Janny
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Zahn, Timothy
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Reviewing Literature
The Books of Frank Herbert

Born in 1920, Frank Herbert became one of the most influencial science fiction writers of all time and his novel 'Dune' is widely considered to be the best book of it's genre ever written.  He died in 1986, but his son Brian Herbert and the sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson have been using his notes and plans to create new novels in the Dune universe, with the plan of creating the seventh and final Dune book that 'Chapterhouse: Dune' was leading up to, but which Frank himself never got to write.
Average Review Score: 4.3 out of 5

The only comparable work of creative fiction written to date is Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'.  Never before or since has a science fiction writer created a novel so intricate and believable whilst being very much a work of pure imagination.  I can't really put into words the sheer wonder of 'Dune' but I'll try to take it a step at a time.  First, the characters are cleverly written and realised and their interaction is perhaps the novel's finest element, be it Paul's relationship with his father or the unlikely bond between Guerney and Stilgar or even the resentment-laden relationship between Baron Harkonnen and the mentat Pieter DeVries.  One problem I did have with the book's characters is the fact that you get the impression that Herbert himself dislikes them all.  He highlights their moral and intellectual faults and in the end has Paul betraying his own ideals.  Throughout the book Paul is adamant that he won't allow a Jihad in his name and that Chani will be his wife.  However, at the end Paul decides to marry Irulan for political power and seems to say "Ah well, perhaps I will let the Jihad go ahead".  The story is the sort of epic that lends itself more to fantasy under usual circumstances, with the noble House Atreides gaining control of Arrakis, the most important planet in the galaxy, only to be betrayed from within and attacked by their enemies the Harkonnens.  Paul and his mother Jessica are forced to flee and find sanctuary among the harsh but honourable Fremen.  Paul then rises to fulfill a Fremen prophesy and leads them on a crusade to reclaim Arrakis.  The sandworms are one of the finest elements of the book, being primal creatures, their actions almost seeming acts of God.  Another truly unique element of 'Dune' is the fact that human machinations (especially those of the Bene Gessirit) are behind almost everything, as even the prophesy of Paul's coming turns out to be an ancient Bene Gessirit artifice created in the off-chance that a Sister might one day use it to control the Fremen.  One of my personal favourite ideas introduced into the story is when it becomes apparent that the Emperor's super-warriors, the Sardaukar, are trained on a brutally harsh world.  It is then revealed that the life on Arrakis has created even more potent warriors in the form of the Fremen.  The words 'God created Dune to train the faithful' will forver remain in my mind as one of the most memorable words in literature (that and '"What has it got in it's pocketses?"' from a different novel).  Ultimately, though, what makes 'Dune' the best SF book ever is Dune itself, the planet Arrakis.  A world so carefully established and described that you will believe in it completely and perhaps even feel the beat of it's unrelenting sun.  I've hardly even scratched the surface in this review and I'd say that anyone claiming to be a science fiction fan has to read this book.  I would warn you though, it's not light reading so be prepared for a pretty heavy and involved novel.  Finally I would like to give special credit to the book whose film adaption brought us the unforgettable image of Patrick Stewart ('Star Trek: TNG' and 'X-Men') charging into battle with a flag in one hand and a small dog in the other!
5 out of 5
Dune Messiah
Many people have said bad things about 'Dune Messiah', but I think that although different from 'Dune' and never that book's equal, this second story of the Atreides is nevertheless a masterpiece.  Herbert now shows Paul's attempts to govern the galaxy that he and the Fremen have won.  Mua'dib must juggle politics and religion with his personal life and more and more he finds himself dissatisfied with the power he has aquired.  To my mind, this book is the perfect follow up to 'Dune' and it develops Paul's character in ways that not even the first book managed, making him more human, more believable.  Also, we see the return of Duncan Idaho, killed by Harkonnens in the first book.  Duncan quickly becomes one of Herbert's finest characters and the choice he makes at the end of the book is the sort of scenario that really makes a great character.  Duncan (or rather the Duncan gholas) go on to become a pivotal element in the later books of the Dune saga and his introduction here is perfectly orchestrated.  Another brilliant element to this book is when Paul is blinded and, so perfect is his prescience, that he can effectively see the world around him using that power.  'Dune Messiah' is an excellent science fiction book and at around 200 pages, it won't eat into your social life like 'Dune' may have done.
5 out of 5
Children Of Dune
This book deals with the development of Paul Atreides' children, Leto and Ghanima.  We see them as their innate powers of prescience begin to develop and the reaction of those around them as the gifted children become a threat to their positions.  Most interesting of all is the development of Alia as she becomes an insane tyrant and as her beloved Duncan comes to realise that she has lost herself to power.  This is all set to the background of Rakis, once the desert world Arrakis, but now turning green and fertile as it's mighty sandworms die out.  This book contains many excellent elements, of particular note are the scene where Leto bonds with the sandtrout and (my personal favourite) the actions of the Preacher (I won't reveal his identity, but you'll be very pleased when you find out).  I found it interesting that Leto undergoes a similar journey to his father, as he is at first reluctant to sieze power but comes to decide that he must.  In general, 'Children of Dune' lacks the potency of the previous two books, but is nonetheless a very worthwhile read.
4 out of 5
God Emperor Of Dune
This is the weakest of Herbert's Dune books by a long way.  Not only does it suffer from the fact that the story is chronologically very distant from the previous books, therefore making a lot of the element feel unfamiliar, but it also lacks much in the way of things happening.  Most of the book is spent in either philosophical posturing or political debate.  In themselves, those two elements are not necessarily a bad thing, but there is not much else here to add a bit of pace or excitement.  Another failing this book has is that Herbert's apparent dislike for the characters he puts into the forefront is very strong here and he constantly is picking and ripping apart poor old Duncan Idaho, who is to my mind Herbert's best character.  An even larger failing in terms of the characters is the fact that Leto II, the God Emperor in question, is unrecognisable, having none of the vision or subtlety that he had in 'Children of Dune'.  I understand that he is becoming more and more sandworm, but I still think that turning him into a psychotic tyrant was a mistake on Herbert's part.  Finally, in this book's favour, I will add that the ending, with Leto's fiendishly clever plan to put his paln for mankind into effect, is such a twist that it may well make up for the book's other failings in your eyes.
3 out of 5
Heretics Of Dune
I thought that this book ranks right up there with the first two.  The Scattering initiated by the God Emperor Leto Atreides has ended and the galaxy is very different.  Also, a new threat has entered the frame as the Honoured Matres, deadly, violent women who use sexual technique to enslave men return from the Scattering.  The Bene Gessirit must break their usually passive standpoint and begin a war against the Honoured Matres, for the invaders seem to have primitive Bene Gessirit training and they could very well destroy civillisation itself.  Amongst the rumbles of impending war, the Bene Gessirit are undertaking an important experiment as the military genius Miles Teg begins to train a young Duncan Idaho ghola.  Where to start?  I really enjoyed the subtle tension with which Herbert builds up the foundations of this cataclysmic war between the Bene Gessirit and the Honoured Matres.  Another masterstroke is the training of Duncan Idaho, through whom we get to ask questions and discover the answers.  I also like the way in which familiar things from the original 'Dune' novel reappear here slightly changed, for instance, the calm world where Duncan is trained was once Geidi Prime, home of House Harkonnen.  The new characters introduced here are also of superb quality in particular Darwi Odrade, who is a Bene Gesserit with a difference and may well be the only hope for their order; Sheeana, a remarkable girl who can speak to the great sandworms and, the finest of them all, Miles Teg.  Miles' transformation towards the end of the novel will leave you gaping with wonder, one minute you'll be fearing that he is about to be written out and the next you'll be all but dancing with glee at his new state of being.  In 'Heretics of Dune' we also get to learn alot more about the Bene Tleilax.  You'll find yourself underestimating them often, believing the Bene Gessirit have them under control and then suddenly discovering that the Tleilaxu are quite capable of holding their own.  I apologise if I'm about to give too much away, but I thought it was genius of Herbert to have the Honoured Matres destroy Dune, Arrakis, itself.  He shows that in this war, the outcome is far from certain and nothing will ever be the same again.
5 out of 5
Chapterhouse: Dune
The last Dune novel written by Frank Herbert, before his death, this novel will have you wishing that he had had the chance to complete his epic.  Following one from, and very much akin to, 'Heretics of Dune', the war against the Honoured Matres does not go well for the Bene Gessirit.  The psychotic Honoured Matres, unable to locate the Bene Gesserit homeworld, Chapterhouse, have begun destroy planet after planet as they did Arrakis.  However, the Bene Gessirit are not beaten.  They have many assets in preparation including the young clone of Miles Teg, the captive Honoured Matre Murbella and the offspring of the last sandworm.  Whilst this book isn't quite as good as it's predecessor, it is nevertheless a very good book.  Characters who we know well are developed excellently here, Darwi has to deal with the pressures of being the leader and most powerful of the Bene Gesserit, Sheeana begins to come into her own as she works with and trains the last sandworms in the hopes that they will turn Chapterhouse into the new Dune and, most interestingly of all, Duncan Idaho must now train young Miles Teg, the clone of the man who in turn trained Duncan.  This reversal of roles allows Duncan and Teg both to break free of their indenture to the Bene Gessirit by forming stronger bonds with each other.  The changes undergone by Murbella are also a very interesting element and her new position at the end of the book is very surprising, but not as ridiculous as it might have been had attention not been payed to her development.  The threat of the Honoured Matres maintains the tension throughout, but we are also introduced to a new and more frightening concept; the Bene Gesserit have reason to believe that the Honoured Matres have returned to the Old Empire because they are fleeing an even more terrifying scourge from the Scattering.  This new and almost unseen threat adds a whole new depth to the book and it is because this new factor is never resolved that we see the tradgedy of Herbert dying before he could complete the story that he clearly had planned.  The finale, in which Duncan, Sheeana and Miles decide to begin a new Scattering is entirely enthralling.  This book's one major failing is that it can really drag in places, making you want to put the book down and come back later to see if the scene you're bogged down in has gotten any more interesting.
4 out of 5

If you liked Herbert:
As I say, the Dune series is effectively peerless, but you may wish to check out the works of the equally brilliant science fiction authors Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.  If it's the gritty harshness of Arrakis itself that you loved, then you may well enjoy 'Salt' by Adam Roberts, which deals with a similarly hostile planet.

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