The Cranky Old Reader

I'm a Goodreads refugee, looking for a new home. Old books for children, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and humor are my main areas of interest. I've little interest in books that were written after 1975 or so, and prefer books that are older still. There are, however, a few still-living authors that I respect.

The Butlerian Jihad (Legends of Dune, Book 1)

The Butlerian Jihad - Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson

Jesus only hung on the cross for three days. I have read four hundred and fifty-four PAGES of Dune: The Butlerian Jihad.


And I did it to save your soul.


When I was ten years old I was quite precocious. I read and loved Asimov's Foundation trilogy, and had a voracious appetite for new books. So I picked up Frank Herbert's Dune without a second thought.I never saw it coming.A hundred pages later I was startled to feel tears pouring down my young face; tears of pure frustration. The book was hard, too hard and complex for my ten-year-old mind to cope with. In a fit of fury, I threw the book across the room.I hated Dune for years. Herbert, too. But my reading speed is way too fast, so by the time I was sixteen or so I couldn't avoid reading some other Herbert books. Not in the Dune series, of course - the memory of those tears still stung - but Whipping Star. It was also hard, quite complex, but not (I thought) as hard as Dune had been. It certainly made me think. And more and more I came to realize that it was a damned impressive book, one worth reading again and again. The concepts were difficult to grasp, but each re-reading brought something new, a fuller understanding; and it was a really good book. So I looked up the sequel (also good, although not quite as endearing). I looked up other short stories that Herbert had set in the same universe. Excellent, and all too rare. From there it was natural to move into Herbert's other short science fiction; the early stuff was a little bit clunky and formulaic, but the later stories were masterful and quite deep.And so of course I found myself moving, step by step, back to Dune.And it was good.Not perfect, but very very good indeed; it could easily even be called "great". Over the years my mind had developed enough to be able to take on Frank Herbert's vision and comprehend it. I went on to read all the books in the series, and while some of the later ones were uneven, I enjoyed them all.Cut to 2003. I am desperately poor, struggling to pay the mortgage and support my family (including our toddler) on a single income. This is a deadly situation. Where once I went to Avenue Victor Hugo and other great used bookstores at least two or three times a week and bought a dozen books at a time, now I haven't picked up even ONE new book - new or used - in months.Thank Shai-Halud for the public library! I hadn't been to the library in years, but I started taking Sebastian (my son) there on Saturday mornings. He loved it. While the Woonsocket library is comparatively small and poorly-stocked, it still has a number of books worth reading - and of course far more are available through inter-library loan. Since I spend two hours a day on the train, I need lots of reading I've been taking out a lot of books. I'll write about most of them later, but right now there's one that is crying, screaming, howling for treatment.The Son Is Not The FatherOh dear god. I cannot express the horror. The sheer...stupidity that is Dune: The Butlerian Jihad. Frank Herbert wrote with incredible depth and complexity, giving hints of a world far deeper than the portion he showed in his books. It gave a feeling of magic, a sensation of thousands of years of unknown (and unknowable) history underlying every paragraph. At the same time he took elements of modern culture and extrapolated from them brilliantly. I will be kind to Brian Herbert, Frank's son. His hands should not be cut off. He simply commited the sin of cashing in on his famous father's talent, and prostituting his family name - which is unforgivable, since he isn't a writer. But he should never have been allowed to "write" a book, particularly not a Dune book.Good god, he sucks. The writing is dreadful; where his father's prose was complex, Brian's is not just simplistic, but downright childish - even moronic. Where Frank used hidden depths to intrigue and add luster, Brian has taken many of those elements and simply ruined them, directly tying them to modern Earth issues and repeating them over and over. Frank had the gift of names, occasionally tying them in with ancient Earth history; Brian names ALL of his characters after famous historical figures from Earth history, for NO &^%#ing REASON. Ah yes. Over and over. The degree of repetition in this hellish book is more extreme than anything I have ever seen in my life. EVERY point is hammered home with astonishingly dull and lifeless prose, and then repeated again every twenty pages or so. EVERY moral point (cretinous as they are) is made so clear that a vegetable couldn't help but get it, and then repeated again a few dozen times for good measure. Let me give you a taste of what I went through:



The mighty robot Evil Badd entered the room. As he did, his mekkano-taste-probe tasted the brain of the baby human child he was gnawing on. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed tot had died in Evil Badd's cruel mekkano-claw with scarcely a whimper.


The lovely human slave Beauty Goode looked up lifelessly at the entry of the mighty and evil robot.


"Ah-ha, Beauty Goode, I see you have awoken from what you humans call "unconsciousness", said Evil Badd. "I am Evil Badd, your new master. I am a robot. I like to eat babies. Some think that I am evil and bad. But I am a robot of pure logic."


"Yes, Master", said Beauty Goode submissively. Secretly she thought "I must find a way to resist the evil Evil Badd. He is evil, and that could be...bad!"


"Mind if I rip your uterus out for no reason, and eat your baby?" asked Evil Badd, ripping out Beauty Goode's uterus with his rapacious mekkano-claw.


Sorry to inflict that on you. But what you have just read is ONE THOUSAND TIMES BETTER than the hundreds pages of fetid so-called writing that I had to wade through. Ah, but nothing could prepare me for the horror of 3. 2. 4.Page 324, not a parody this time but the ACTUAL TEXT:


[There has been a huge accident, and a number of slaves have been killed. The nobles look on at the carnage.]


"In a wry voice, Bludd said, "Not one of your most successful efforts, Tio."


"But you must admit, the concept shows promise, Lord Bludd. Look at the destructive potential," Holtzman said, looking at the unruffled nobles without even considering the dead and injured slaves. "We can be thankful that no one was hurt."


Get it? There were lots of dead slaves, but the nobles were saying that no one was hurt! That's irony! Get it? Don't you GET IT, you moron?I'll give Brian Herbert this: he certainly knows his audience.Okay. Now, apart from the fact that any book with a character named "Lord Bludd" should automatically earn the death penalty for its authors, please note that the authors nonetheless feel it necessary to point out the TOTALLY OBVIOUS. "without even considering the dead and injured slaves" - gosh, thanks for pointing out that irony, because we readers are SO STUPID that we'd have missed it, yes sirree!


I don't know if the authors assumed that the readers were total morons, or if they're just so incredibly stupid themselves that they didn't realize that hammering the irony breaks it. Enough. I've tortured myself enough with this astonishingly inept and painful book. Let it be noted that some moron named Kevin J. Anderson co-wrote it, and that since he is NOT related to Frank Herbert, there is no reason that his hands shouldn't be cut off. Supposedly he has written 29 national bestsellers. If that's the case, it only justifies my belief that virtually all modern genre fiction is utter garbage.


Speaking of which, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Oregonian, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly all apparently have had rave reviews of the new "Dune" books, according to excerpts printed on the back cover. Unless these have been taken wildly out of context or out-and-out fabricated, they merit the death penalty for every one of these publications and everyone associated with them. It need not be painful; I am not vengeful by nature. As long as they never kill a single tree or brain cell with their so-called "writing" ever again.That is all.


P.S. - That is not all. In the process of moving this review from GoodReads after its sale to Amazon, a friend mentioned a comic strip review of this book on Penny Arcade. I don't know how I missed that comic, but it expresses my feelings about Dune: The Butlerian Jihad perfectly. And it made me laugh my ass off, too.


Oh, I suppose some might be offended by one or two words in it. Fair warning.

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