Now I really and truly know the meaning of the deceptively simple term “fan book.” And I’ve learned, the hard way, that a fan book in its highest developed form is not for the faint of heart --- not even for the earnestly interested. SISTERHOOD OF DUNE, by the relentlessly productive duo of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, is just such a book. It is in fact a virtuosic poster-child opus, a blazing definitive example, of this rarified sub-species so often found within the sci-fi universe.
"By far, the larger issue that grabbed and held my attention throughout was a gradual and vicious escalation of pre-existing tensions between science and technology and those whose concept of religious purity opposed all forms of 'thinking machines.'"
Despite numerous examples of rich, evocative and just plain brilliant writing; despite having built my interpretive foundation on every word of the incomparable Dune chronicles by the patriarch Frank Herbert; and despite having immersed myself in most (but not all) of the Herbert/Anderson Dune legacy, SISTERHOOD OF DUNE became for me the marathoner’s “wall”.
Yes, you can run through the wall and eventually reach the end, yet still feel the finish line itself to be anti-climactic. That was my humbling literary experience with this latest in what some disparagingly have called the “McDune” phenomenon. I wouldn’t casually apply such a low-end label, however, even if the big picture, populous cast, and scores of surprisingly brief chapters in this hefty novel persistently eluded and overwhelmed me. I still think the authors are on a higher plane than that, so I’ve settled for the more respectful fan book designation --- all the while realizing that my fan-spirit falls short of what SISTERHOOD OF DUNE demanded.
Admittedly, I was lured by the title itself, expecting to be drawn into the origins of the secretive, powerful sect of mentally and psychically gifted women who figure so prominently in the original Dune saga as the Bene Gesserit. I was tempted and teased along the way with glimpses of it through a few compelling characters whose overall roles in the plot remained vague.
By far, the larger issue that grabbed and held my attention throughout was a gradual and vicious escalation of pre-existing tensions between science and technology and those whose concept of religious purity opposed all forms of “thinking machines.” This is a strain of extremism that present-day humans can deeply relate to, and the war is far from over.
Perhaps Herbert and Anderson should have re-jigged the structure of their latest opus and drawn out the fundamentalism-versus-science stream, rather than trying to fulfill the expectations of a title that carried little hope of becoming its own story on such a crowded stage. As wonderfully as this gifted duo paints vast empires with words, I’m still feeling rather lost in space, still waiting for the promised Sisterhood.
Reviewed by Pauline Finch on March 15, 2012