Mentats of Dune
Power. Betrayal. Revenge. All these things rise in the wake of the jihad that saw the demise of the thinking machines and the slow ascension of the Bene Gesserit, Mentat and Suk Schools (events detailed in SISTERHOOD OF DUNE). Now, in the aftermath of the Butlerian Jihad, anti-technologists seek to establish their own new path for mankind in the pages of MENTATS OF DUNE.
Gilbertus Albans has established the Mentat School, a place where these special humans can explore and examine the thinking machines. Mother Superior Raquella opts to rebuild her Sisterhood School on Wallach IX as Sister Dorotea and her faction of the Sisterhood have their own designs. Josef Venport is finding life as the man behind VenHold Spacing Company to be quite difficult thanks to the fanatical actions of the Butlerians.
And fanatical is the key word for much of what occurs in MENTATS OF DUNE. It is a book of extremes, on both sides -- the anti-technology-minded and the technologically enslaved/reliant. Of course, in the middle are those who will suffer as these two extremes go to war.
"By the time the novel reaches its conclusion, you feel that you've been through hell and back. In a good way."
As readers of the Dune series have come to expect, MENTATS OF DUNE is rife with warring houses and seething anger that can be sated only by bloodshed and payback. Vorian Atreides, the renowned Jihadi hero, is the main target of Valya Harkonnen. Valya steadfastly believes that Vorian brought down her family, and her bitterness erupts in actions that have long-lasting implications for both houses.
Manford Torando leads the Butlerian Zealots in his anti-technology crusade. He uses his skills to persuade worlds to join his cause, because if they don't, the destruction he will rain down will be catastrophic. And he has turned his eyes toward the Mentat School where human students are being trained to essentially become human computers.
MENTATS OF DUNE has numerous story arcs and threads, and they are worth the digging into. The only drawback is its drawn-out beginning. This is not a failure of Brian Herbert or Kevin J. Anderson, for the writing is rich and engaging, but rather the downfall of a story spread across galaxies. There is so much jumping from world to world, and, quite rightly, none of the worlds are identical, which means they must be explained and detailed. It is truly wondrous worldbuilding, but it drags the pace of the story to a crawl. Be prepared to take your time through at least the first quarter of the book.
Once things start to heat up and the threads of the story are being pulled together into a noose, pages begin to turn at a steady clip, and the heart of the story explodes. By the time the novel reaches its conclusion, you feel that you've been through hell and back. In a good way. MENTATS OF DUNE is a dense, historical, satisfying book that's half as big as it feels like it is, and offers some glimpses and even answers to questions concerning the rise of the Schools that Dune readers may have often wondered about.
A note of warning, however. You do not have to be a devoted reader of the Dune franchise to get some serious enjoyment out of MENTATS OF DUNE. At the very least, you must read its predecessor, SISTERHOOD OF DUNE, or you may very well be left adrift in a confusing area of space.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on March 21, 2014