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Dune: House Harkonnen
Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Narrated by Scott Brick, unabridged
Tantor Media, 26.5 hours

Dune: House Harkonnen
Brian Herbert
Brian Herbert is the eldest son of SF giant, Frank Herbert. An honour student, he graduated from high school at 16 and married while a full-time student at UC Berkeley, where he received a BA in Sociology. His first two books were humour collections, Incredible Insurance Claims and Classic Comebacks. After that he moved on to novels, including Sidney's Comet, The Garbage Chronicles, Sudanna Sudanna, Man Of Two Worlds (with Frank Herbert), and Memorymakers (with Marie Landis).

Dune Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dune: House Atreides
SF Site Review: The Winds of Dune
SF Site Review: Dune: The Battle of Corrin
SF Site Review: Dreamer of Dune
SF Site Review: Dune: House Atreides
Bantam Spectra -- Dune Website

Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson was born in 1962 and was raised in Oregon, Wisconsin. At 10, he had saved up enough money from mowing lawns and doing odd jobs that he could either buy a bicycle or a typewriter -- he chose the typewriter and has been writing ever since. He sold his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., by the time he turned 25. Anderson worked in California for 12 years as a technical writer and editor at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he met his wife Rebecca Moesta and his frequent co-author, Doug Beason.

Kevin J. Anderson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Landscapes
SF Site Interview: Kevin J. Anderson
SF Site Interview: Kevin J. Anderson
SF Site Review: Horizon Storms
SF Site Review: A Forest of Stars
SF Site Review: Dogged Persistence
SF Site Review: Resurrection, Inc.
SF Site Review: Dune: House Atreides
SF Site Review: Lethal Exposure

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Gil T. Wilson

After the death of Frank Herbert, son Brian Herbert discovered some manuscripts left behind with more information on the universe of Dune. Teaming up with Kevin J. Anderson, the two authors began a quest to add more stories to the "Duneverse" based on these manuscripts and their own talents in writing science fiction. Their first effort was the Prelude to Dune series. House Harkonnen is the second title in this series and as such, gives even more information on the buildup of events which created the situations leading to the epic novel Dune.

The book is read by Scott Brick, a narrator who is no stranger to the Dune series. He has voiced many of the audiobooks and is thoroughly familiar with the material. I'd have to say he is the perfect choice as narrator for these books.

This book takes place approximately 20 years after House Atreides and about 30 years prior to the original Dune series.  Shaddam Corrino IV is the emperor and wants a son, yet his Bene Gesserit wife produces only daughters, leaving him without an heir to the throne. The emperor is aware of the Bene Gesserit's ability to determine the sex of their children and grows annoyed at Anirul for not giving him a son. Along with this stress factor for the Emperor, the Tleilaxu have yet to produce a synthetic equal to the Spice Melange. This was the reason the planet of Ix was taken over and House Vernius went renegade.

Dominic Vernius is still in hiding as a renegade but his children, Kailea and Rhombur, are living with Duke Leto Atreides on Caladan. Leto arranges for Rhombur to take in a concubine from the Bene Gesserit and Kailea becomes Leto's concubine. Kailea gives birth to Victor, the son of Leto and heir to House Atreides. But due to politics and the fact that Kailea is considered renegade, Leto cannot marry her. Besides, the Bene Gesserit have other plans with Jessica, the daughter of Vladimir Harkonnen and a Bene Gesserit witch.

Leto does arrange to have a lady-in-waiting to help Kailea. Kailea's lady-in-waiting, Chiara, is actually a Harkonnen agent sent to poison Kailea's mind against Leto. Kailea and Chiara scheme to assassinate Leto, thus making Victor the Duke and Kailea a Regent. However, the plan backfires and the planned explosion kills young Victor and mutilates Rhombur.

The Tleilaxu offer to make a clone (a ghola) of Victor in exchange for the barely alive body of Rhombur Vernius. But instead, Leto hires an expert in the field of cybernetics to fashion a cybernetic replacement body for Rhombur. Leto and Jessica fall deeply in love, leading Jessica to decide to conceive a son for Leto's sake, directly disobeying the Bene Gesserit's order that she have a daughter.

Baron Harkonnen grows weaker due to his disease, but he becomes more vicious, destroying his half-brother's life (first figuratively, then literally). A Suk doctor determines the cause of the illness is from the Bene Gesserit he raped. Harkonnen seeks revenge on the witches, but through mind tricks they show him who is really in charge.

Meanwhile, the Baron's brother, Abulurd, uncovers an illegal stockpile of spice on Lankiveil. Rather than turn his brother in to the Emperor, Abulurd, a benevolent ruler and the polar opposite of his brother Vladimir, uses the stockpile to benefit his people. Upon discovery of this, Abulurd's firstborn son strangles his father to death, an act which earns him the nickname of "Beast" and is a portent of things to come. Baron Harkonnen also kidnaps Abulurd's other son, Feyd-Rautha, and tries to raise him as his own.

This novel also introduces the character Gurney Halleck. Gurney's village is raided and his sister is taken away. He later finds she is forced to work in a "pleasure house" for the Harkonnen military. He tries to rescue her but is captured and made a slave. He then tries to attack Rabban, but is outnumbered and Rabban punishes him by killing his entire family. Gurney escapes to Salusa Secundus to help Dominic Vernius with his attacks against the empire.

Dominic learns of the atrocities being committed on Ix and gathers all his stockpiles of atomics to the south polar region of Arrakis in order to deliver them to the home world of the Emperor and destroy the House Corrino. But his plan is discovered and the Sardukar guards are sent to stop him.

On Arrakis it is learned that the Bene Gesserit have been mixing with the Fremen in order to blend prophecies of the Qwissatz Hadderach and the myths of the Missionaria Protectiva. All of this may be plenty to keep up with, but it's only scratching the surface of this wonderful adventure into the Duneverse.

Copyright © 2010 Gil T. Wilson

Gil T. has spent a quarter of a century working in radio and has lots of spare time on his hands and reading or listening to books takes up all that time. Check out his blog to find out what he's up to at any given moment.

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