Prelude to Dune, review: Casa Atreides before the rise of Muad'Dib

Prelude to Dune, review: Casa Atreides before the rise of Muad'Dib

Prelude to Dune, review

Looking at the large volume with which Mondadori wanted the prequel novels of Dune, one would wonder if Frank Herbert had forgotten something in giving life to his complex future universe. Prelude to Dune, in fact, has very little of the original meaning of the term 'prelude', which is inevitable if we consider that it contains three novels and a short story, written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, the two heirs to role of canotri of the universe of the Atreides, focal within the complex definition of the chronology of Dune. For Italian readers, who for decades have seen the universe of Dune only in the six books written by Frank Herbert, in recent years a further glimpse of this space opera has finally opened, which since the early nineties had been enriched with a series of new novels that went to collect the legacy of Herbert the father, but turning his gaze to the past.

When Herbert died in 1986, a few months after the publication of the last chapter of 'his by him' Dune, it was discovered that the writer already had further episodes of his saga in the pipeline, which should have revealed neglected details of the rich universe of him. On closer inspection, the first Dune (1965) was an exciting opening for his story, but it asked the reader to accept as axiomatic some aspects of the imperial society of the Landsraad and its customs, generating a great curiosity that had hardly found answers. Herbert's idea was in fact projected to the future, at the end of an order consisting of the ashes of which the next evolutionary step of the human species could be born. Yet, in Dune there were figures whose past would have deserved greater prominence, some characters were so charismatic that one would have liked to know more about their past, about the vicissitudes that had forged their character.

Prelude to Dune: the Landsraad before the rise of Paul Atreides

Questions answered by the novels released after the death of the creator of the saga, developed by his son Brian and his associate Kevin J. Anderson, starting from his father's notes. A journey back in time, starting from the events closest to the rise of Paul Atreides up to the dawn of imperial society, recounting the times of the Butlerian Jihad and the formation of the Landsraad. If desired, these later novels could be considered as the foundation of Paul Atreides' world, a retroactive definition of a society that from a monolithic presence eventually becomes the culmination of millennia of history, intrigue and betrayal. In short, all the mythology of which Dune is imbued finally finds its origin in these books, a knowledge that Italian readers have not been able to enjoy for a long time. Except for a timid attempt in the 1990s, Dune's prequel novels had never been published in Italy, so much so that Mondadori's edition of the first three prequels (House Atreides, House Harkonnen and House Corrino) had become an object of cult for fans of the series. All this, while overseas Herbert and Anderso continued to travel back in the history of the saga, reaching the times of the domination of the much feared Thinking Machines.

At the center of the story of these three chapters of the saga we have the choice of the emperor Shaddam to create a synthetic version of the melange, with the help of Bene Tleilax, opposed by all for their immoral approach to genetic experimentation. A choice that the imperial throne pursues on the advice of Count Fenring, Shaddam's longtime friend and determined to bring about a radical change in the Landsraad, freeing the Emperor from the yoke of CHOAM. A plan that threatens to upset the entire social order of the Empire, enveloped in such secrecy as to force anyone to kill anyone who undermines its confidentiality.

An essential piece of the myth of Dune

The reading of Prelude to Dune may surprise readers of the saga who have not yet confronted with the different approach of Herbert and Anderson. Where the creator of the saga was inclined to indulge in extended narrative times and an often suffocating construction of the social and political framework of his universe, the authors of the prequel novels preferred a more narratively friendly approach, limiting world building to the definition of aspects already outlined. in chronologically subsequent novels, focusing on portraying more spontaneous characters, always subservient to a socio-cultural logic rigidly divided into castes and subject to power games, but capable of becoming protagonists of moments of events with a more lively rhythm, inviting the reader into a adventurous world that also welcomes themes more akin to the narrative tradition of the saga. The result is a pleasant reading, which offers space to various protagonists often quickly forgotten in the original narrative corpus, but who with this new occasion enjoy a greater caliber and charm.

Mondadori collects the three volumes of the Prelude a Dune cycle (House Atreides, House Harkonnen and House Corrino) in a generously sized volume, embellished with a simple cover graphic that best interprets the spirit of the 'Opera. Although without illustrations, this edition is enriched by the presence of maps of the main worlds in which the events take place: Arrakis, Giedi Primo (Harkonnen world) and Caladan (Atreides world). These maps, created with care and easy to interpret, are also an excellent support for reading two recent Mondadori proposals linked to the myth of Dune, The Duke of Caladan and The Lady of Caladan, parts of a trilogy set between Prelude a Dune and Dune , the final chapter of which Mondadori should soon be printing.

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