Review: THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD, by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert
Frank Herbert’s DUNE is the best-selling sci-fi novel ever. He penned six books in the series while he was alive, and had a seventh in the oven before he died. A few decades would pass before his son Brian would lead the charge to create more books in the Dune series, and with the help of prolific author Kevin J. Anderson, he did just that. THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD is the first of many collaborations between the two men that expand Frank Herbert’s legendary saga.
The eponymous jihad is an event often referred to by Frank Herbert in the Dune novels, but only with a hint of a whisper, explaining why mankind outlawed artificial intelligence in the future.
This is because they had thinking machines in the past, and the machines pulled a Skynet, wiping out millions of people. It cost many lives and entire worlds to end the machines’ rule, and the event was called the Butlerian Jihad. This book is the story of that event.
Fans of DUNE will recognize some familiar house names right off the bat, like Xavier Harkonnen, Vorian Atreides, and Serena Butler. It was really cool to see what these houses were like 10,000 years before Paul Atreides stepped on Arrakis; Xavier is a rugged warrior with connections to the nobility, while Vorian is a test-tube baby descended from one of the first “cymeks”—human brains transplanted into robotic bodies so they’d live forever.
As the story unfolded, I loved seeing the origins of the conflict between the Harkonnen and Atreides houses. While it doesn’t explode outright, the smallest seed is there, and you begin to understand what could have made these two men dislike each other, resulting in a rivalry that would span centuries and many planets.
It’s epic, it’s heartbreaking, and it was very well done. Nailing the characters made the rest of the story a cakewalk.
Despite the time difference from DUNE, this is still the same solar system, just not with the imperial government…at least not yet. Interplanetary space travel is normal, Earth is the known cradle of humanity, the “thinking machines” have synchronized several worlds under their rule, and Arrakis is just some distant desert planet with a bunch of Buddhist/Islamic refugees hanging out on the sand.
The seeds of the future are there, and we get to watch them sprout.
This is less a political book and more of a wartime book. While it doesn’t ask the same kind of big philosophical questions that Herbert did in the 60s, it does still present big ideas and prompt you to think about things you might not have considered before.
A few sensual lead-ins, but you don’t follow the characters into the bedroom for it. Xavier and Serena are horny on main, however it actually plays into certain events in the story. Also as a central turning point in the story, there’s a pretty horrific infanticide. No language.
Who is it for?
Fans of DUNE, and fans of sci-fi.
Why read it?
This is the biggest reason: it’s a prequel that honors what came before it, written by a couple of guys who didn’t create the original. They cared about the canon, and they cared about making something good. With all the defacing that goes on around properties like Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel comics, and more, it was such a breath of fresh air to read an expanded timeline novel in a property that was actually good.
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