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The Machine Crusade: Dune    by Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson order for
Machine Crusade
by Brian Herbert
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Ken Lux

You would be hard pressed to find a Science Fiction reader not familiar with Frank Herbert's Dune saga. This feudalistic epic of dynastic ruling families, a powerful Emperor, and the precious spice found only on the planet Dune, has captivated generations. It's a classic Shakespearian tale of intrigue and treachery, placed in a dark futuristic setting, simultaneously frightening and thrilling. Sadly the tale spun on past most readers' thresholds for repetition - as sequels and prequels appeared in print, many of the faithful had moved on.

Dune: The Butlerian Jihad was the 4th prequel to the original Dune novel and the first in a series of two books set generations before Paul-Maud' Dib walked the sands of Arrakis. This strong opening novel, written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, told us of the time of the Titans (cyborgs intent on the total domination of Humankind), and their eventual enslavement by the Galaxy spanning Artificial Intelligence Omnius.

The story continues in Dune: The Machine Crusade, where we find the familiar families of Atreides, Harkonnen and Corrino - not as enemies, but standing shoulder to shoulder. Humanity has become united in an effort to stop mankind's destruction at the hands of Omnius and the thinking machines. The cruelty of the robot enemy has created a religious fanaticism in the populace, a momentum that the ruling elite does whatever it feels it must to maintain. The reader is tantalized by glimpses of the origins of the Fremen peoples, the Bene Gesserit witches and the invention of instantaneous travel, 'folding space'.

This novel weaves a well plotted back story. Detailed, it answers many questions but avoids the pit of mind numbing historical droning that can bury a novel. The characters have depth, the story is compelling, and few fans can deny the allure of Sandworm Riding 101, or a blossoming romance on a remote backwater planet called Caladan. I don't claim that this saga reaches the artistic heights of Frank Herbert's original Dune, but I found it a solid, very satisfying read. I recommend it to series devotees, and as a tale worthy to stand on its own for the Dune neophyte.

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