I've finished Sandworms of Dune, the final installment of the Dune saga. Originally conceived by Frank Herbert, who wrote six novels before his death, his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have written six prequels based on the material left behind by Herbert. Since then, they tackled the challenge of completing the famed "Dune 7", the conclusion of the story arc begun in Chapterhouse Dune. This book they split up into two: Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune.
I love the Dune saga. It is perhaps my favourite serious science fiction novel, because it's just written so well, and it's so wonderful to read. The prequels will never be as good as Frank Herbert's original works, even if they are based on his notes and plot ideas. I like Kevin J. Anderson as an author--but that's one problem. The books have more of Anderson's voice than Herbert's. They are pale shadows compared to the original six novels--enjoyable, but not as fulfilling. I experienced the same problem with these last two sequels, and now that I've read the conclusion, I must say that I'm disappointed.
Spoiler warning below.
So basically in Sandworms of Dune, it is Dune meets The Matrix. I'm not kidding--all the parallels are there. You've got the thinking machines waging a war against desperate humanity. They have two avatars: the Oracle, a woman; and the Architect, a man. Both of these avatars are independent machine personalities. In Dune, you've got Erasmus and Omnius, respectively. Then, you have Duncan Idaho as the Kwisatz Haderach--the Dune universe's version of the One. Those of you who have seen The Matrix Revolutions can guess what happens next: rather than destroying the thinking machines, Idaho bridges the gap between humanity and machine. To put it in his terms, instead of choosing victory, he chooses peace.
I was fairly disappointed with most of the novel's plot. It seemed like a contrived series of deus ex machinae. While a miracle plot twist at the right moment can do wonders, when used too often--or too fantastically--it begins to be hard to believe. The entire characterization of the thinking machines was just so cliche--a word that I cringe using, but it applies here. Erasmus is delightfully sociopathic; Omnius is completely megalomaniacal. But I got no enjoyment from watching the Oracle of Time defeat him in the face of his bluster--I wanted to, but I didn't. After that event, the book continued its sharp turn downhill. It felt like it took way too long to end, even though one of my complaints is that it didn't tell us enough about how the universe changed after Kralizec. Also, it seemed like the authors were in a hurry to just dispose of each character now that the climax was over. Leto II just climbs into a worm. Waff dies on Rakis. So what?
Even if this is the ending that Frank Herbert intended, I'm still disappointed. :/ Sandworms of Dune is a conclusion, yes, but it is a plodding one that beats at the same tired old themes with no new revelations. It lacks the descriptive genius and scope of Frank Herbert's original novels, and Duncan Idaho is not as cool as Neo.