Title: Dune: The Duke of Caladan.
Series: The Caladan Trilogy #1.
Writer(s): Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
Publisher: Tor Books.
Format: Digital Copy.
Release Date: October 13th, 2020.
My Overall Rating:
There’s something both exciting and dreadful at the idea of revisiting characters and worlds set before the stories that are known and loved. On one hand, the thrill of discovering more about them is a high that all fans want deep down. On the other hand, the deception of unnecessary plotlines can tarnish one’s memory of all the good things associated with their favourite stories. But no one can stop these stories from being told and one can only pray that the result will be satisfactory. In anticipation of director Denis Villeneuve’s movie adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, fans were gifted a variety of brand-new world-expanding content including the first book of a brand new trilogy written by the authors who had taken on the mantle of building up the Dune universe, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. This time around, they present to us a prequel trilogy set a year before the classic masterpiece and exposes the politics, values, and stakes that defined House Atreides.
What is Dune: The Duke of Caladan about? The story follows Leto Atreides, Duke of Caladan, father of the Muad’Dib, and ruler of Caladan. Surrounded by his bound concubine Jessica and their fourteen-year-old son Paul, he persuades those around him of his sense of leadership as he works to earn the ire of House Harkonnen’s favor while sniffing and dodging the traps laid by his enemies who fear the rise of House Atreides. Juggling both his responsibilities as a duke and the well-being of his loved ones, he finds himself in the midst of political machination and a mysterious drug war that holds a grip over his reputation and the safety of his family and himself. The question remains if he can handle the pressure of the Imperium or succumb to the assault of his adversaries.
“The first responsibility of a Duke is the safety of his people.”— Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
It is highly recommended that readers pick up the original Dune novel before exploring this brand-new prequel as the authors build upon prior knowledge of upcoming tragedies and prominent characters, focusing little on introducing them but rather dissecting established bonds. In this story, fans will be able to witness firsthand how Leto Atreides operates and note down the very qualities that make him an ideal role model for the little Paul in the future. On top of better understanding his appreciation of loyalty, honour, and authority, this book exposes his interaction with his concubine Jessica and son Paul, further establishing the type of relationship that they value and maintain. The former isn’t portrayed as insignificant as readers watch her walk a fine line between respecting the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood and secretly embracing her love for Leto. The latter isn’t yet the legendary man he will turn out to be but a boy coming to terms with his faith in becoming a duke like his father. Fans will inevitably have some kick out of reacquainting themselves with these characters as it serves as a great refresher for a movie to come but won’t find the authenticity that was originally brought up by Frank Herbert.
Unfortunately, it’s the run-of-the-mill narrative that makes this a bit tedious. Set a year before the decisive events in Dune, the story explores a myriad of subplots while setting up the antagonists of this trilogy. Among many others, love is a recurring theme, explored first through Jessica’s character and her role as a concubine and responsibilities as a Bene Gesserit, and second through Paul’s predicament of a marriage alliance to establish House Atreides in a powerful political position for the future. While nothing’s wrong in infusing the narrative with a bit of emotional conflict, these sequences never really grab the reader’s attention. Often times, these authors foreshadow crucial events in Dune rather than build an organic and self-created life event. The story also tends to skip around between multiple narrative threads to focus on different schemes at play, highlighting the ongoing and eventual problems that the noble family of House Atreides has to deal with as they prepare for their mission on the desert planet Arrakis. This forces the story to play on with the objective that readers are to accept their realization rather than embrace these moments and connect with characters and events.
Dune: The Duke of Caladan is a nostalgic trip revisiting House Atreides as they rise to power before the events in Dune.