Fiction Reviews

The Road to Dune

(2005) Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson's, Hodder & Stoughton, 11.99, trd pbk, 489 pp, ISBN 0-340-83745-4

I will make an assumption that if you are reading this then you will have read Frank Herbert's classic and landmark 1965 science fiction novel Dune: if not then checkout the afore link. So now, 40 years later, we have The Road to Dune.

The Road to Dune contains material not previously published and so owes much to the files, records and notes left behind by Frank Herbert who died in 1986. In this sense his son Brian and Kevin Anderson have done the SF community a considerable service in going through 'cardboard boxes stuffed with folders, manuscripts, correspondence, drawings and loose notes'....'And this was just the material in the attic of Brian Herbert's garage. It didn't include the two safe-deposit boxes of materials found more than a decade after Frank's death'.... 'In addition Frank had bequeathed dozens of boxes of his drafts and working notes to a university archive'.

And so our archival archaeologists have managed to compile in The Road to Dune unpublished chapters and scenes from Dune and Dune Messiah. These are illuminating in providing an insight into how an author refines his or her work, distilling down the rough creation into the refined product. Nearly as revealing is Spice World an alternate 'Dune' novel Herbert and Anderson have written firmly (we are led to understand) based on an outline of the original novel ('along with scene and character notes') from which Dune evolved. Dune aficionados will no doubt read this with curiosity, though some (who knows how many) may feel a twinge of guilt at seeing something, not intended for the reader, that is really a work in progress, but then Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have filled in the gaps. Nonetheless I suspect then that The Road to Dune will have the sort of sizeable readership as Arthur C. Clarke's The Lost Worlds of 2001 (1972) which does a similar job for that man's own novelization of the screen story of the film inspired by Clarke's own 1951 short story The Sentinel, if you follow my drift...

In addition to the afore mentioned material, The Road to Dune features four of Brian Herbert's and Kevin Anderson's co-authored short stories based on their own spin-off series of works. These sit a little uneasily (I shy from saying sacrilegiously) within the collection and might better (with perhaps other of their own material) been more appropriately published in a separate work. As an addendum to Frank Herbert's Dune work, purists might argue that The Road to Dune should, as far and as firmly as possible, be based on Frank's own notes and records. Had they been omitted then The Road to Dune would still have topped 400 pages and so commercially viable from a publisher's perspective. Indeed, on a personal note, I would have preferred having some of Frank's drawings (mentioned in the book's introduction) included instead of the non-Frank material; not to mention that The Road to Dune does not even have a map of the 'Dune' planet or even the pre-cursor drafts of these. But then I purely have an SF reader's perspective, whereas the archival compilers and publisher would value the advertorial benefit the inclusion of these non-Frank items accrue to the spin-off series.

All in all, there is much within The Road to Dune that Dune aficionados will derive benefit. Indeed those who read SF for more than passing enjoyment of individual works (such as to gather a feel for dimension of the genre) will welcome this collection and the effort that Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have made to realise this volume. Further, if it prompts discussion of the original Dune sequence then we might be fairly confident that Frank may well have approved.

Jonathan Cowie

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