The Machine Crusade (Dune series)
Tor, September, 2003.
Hardcover, 624 pages.
Twenty-four years have passed since the events described in The Butlerian Jihad, the earliest of the Dune prequels written by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson. The war against the thinking machines and their leader, the Omnius Evermind, rages on, killing millions of humans. Serena Butler, the murder of whose son Manion by the robot Erasmus sparked the human rebellion, is still the spiritual leader of the humans, although she spends much of her time in seclusion, being manipulated by former slave foreman and self-proclaimed political guru, Iblis Ginjo. Vor Atreides and Xavier Harkonnen lead the human fleet and display great courage and intelligence in their defeats of the machines. But it never seems to be enough to win the war. So when Omnius makes a surprising offer of peace, Serena Butler is given a terrible choice to make. Meanwhile, the brilliant physicist Norma Cava is about to make her discovery that will change the world -- she will discover how to fold space time. And on the desert planet of Arrakis, Selim Wormrider carries on his own jihad to stop the government of Arrakis from exporting the addictive spice melange to off-worlders. For Selim's visions tell him that, unless he stops the trade, Dune and the giant sandworms will be destroyed forever.
Stepping into Frank Herbert's world and providing the pre-history for the original Dune series is an ambitious project, one which Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert (son of Frank Herbert) are well-equipped to handle. The scope of The Machine Crusades is vast, but the authors skillfully take multiple plotlines and weave them together in an exciting mix: Serena Butler's heartbreak and bravery, Norma Cava's brilliance, Xavier Harkonnen's ambition and regrets, Vor Atreides' charm and intelligence, Iblis' evil plotting and the horrifyingly evil Erasmus are all vividly portrayed with real, heartfelt emotion. As the rest of the galaxy begins to learn about the addictive spice melange, the stakes are about to be raised when Norma's breakthrough in space travel occurs. Anderson and Herbert explore themes of artificial intelligence, ethics in science, politics, religion, freedom, slavery and the power of love, against the backdrop of a rousing good adventure. This is a must-have for Dune fans. For those who never entered the Dune universe, by all means, pick up a copy of The Butlerian Jihad to see how it all started. But a warning is in order: like the spice melange, this series is addictive.
--Claire E. White
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This review was published in the September-October, 2003 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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