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Audiobook Review:

Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

Released on CD by Audio Renaissance

August 2007

16 disks, 18 hours

Retail Price: $59.95

ISBN: 1427201129


Hardcover published by Tor.


Review by John C. Snider © 2007


It is a showdown 15,000 years in the making.  After millennia spent marshalling his forces beyond the frontiers of human space, the "Thinking Machine" Omnius the Evermind is ready to strike the final blow against the race that created him.  Aided by the independent robot Erasmus and legions of shape-shifting Face Dancer humanoids, Omnius is also in possession of Paolo, a "ghola" clone of the long-dead Kwisatz Haderach Paul "Muad'dib" Atreides.  Paolo has been twisted into a cruel child under the tutelage of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the long-dead nemesis of the original Muad'dib and now a tool of Omnius.  Omnius hopes that once Paolo's suppressed Muad'dib-memories are triggered, the ghola's prescient powers will enable the Machines to win the final battle with humanity.


But Paolo isn't the only Muad'dib ghola in existence.  A rogue faction of humanity, led by the latest ghola of military genius Duncan Idaho (who served the original Muad'dib), has their own ghola program, having resurrected Paul and several of his legendary allies.  Duncan is equally hopeful that their reawakened Kwisatz Haderach will lead to final victory over the "ancient Enemy".


Meanwhile, the rest of humanity struggles against overwhelming odds and internecine squabbling, unable to stop the advancing Machines.  Much of the internal conflict revolves around mélange, the rare "Spice" (produced only by the giant desert-dwelling sandworms) that is all things to all people.  Mother Commander Murbella oversees a program to introduce sandworms to the planet Chapterhouse and thus resurrect the Spice trade.  Unknown to Murbella, her "allies" in the Spacing Guild are engaged in a secret bio-project to genetically alter sandworms so they can live in oceanic environments.


Complicating everything is the fact that Omnius's undetectable Face Dancers have infiltrated humanity's organizations at the highest level, perpetrating acts of terrorism and waiting for their moment to take control.


Sandworms of Dune is the second part of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's epic finale to Frank Herbert's Dune series (the first part of their finale was Hunters of Dune).  Frank Herbert, who died in 1986, left fans with an über-cliffhanger at the end of his sixth Dune novel (Chapterhouse: Dune).  Herbert's son Brian eventually discovered a brief outline for "Dune 7".  Hunters and Sandworms are the result, resolving all the threads left dangling from Chapterhouse, and weaving in elements of Herbert & Anderson's six Dune prequel novels, which they've spent the last decade writing.


Sandworms has the same strengths and weaknesses of all the other H&A books: it can be a little too workmanlike and "space opera-ish" for those who admired Frank Herbert's flowing prose and esoteric ruminations. 


[Spoiler alert!]  The biggest head-scratcher in Sandworms, which was actually introduced late in Hunters, is the revelation of the secret identities of "Daniel and Marty", the mysterious old man and woman seen briefly at the end of Chapterhouse.  Fans have waited over twenty years to find out who Daniel and Marty are, and apparently Frank Herbert's answer is that they're Thinking Machines who've been watching and waiting for fifteen millennia.  That they are Omnius and Erasmus (inventions of H&A from the prequel novels) just doesn't fit.  The old folks in Chapterhouse are enigmatic, but they don't have the malevolent air that Omnius and Erasmus find unavoidable.  Further, neither Hunters nor Sandworms explain why the ludicrously evil Machines ever bothered to pose as kindly gardeners.  It just doesn't add up.  It also doesn't add up that Omnius, long established as puzzled by and averse to human unpredictability, would want to breed that ultimate ungovernable - a Kwisatz Haderach.  Maybe I missed something.  Sandworms also features a wild round-robin confessional for all the bad guys.  First Omnius, then Erasmus, then the leader of the Face Dancers has a "Here's what I did, and I'm glad I did it, and I'll tell you why" moment.  [End Spoilers!]


Let's face it - Frank Herbert left some big shoes to be filled.  It's hard to imagine any writer or team of writers who could have written a conclusion to Herbert's six-volume saga (which began with Dune and came to a semi-conclusion with Chapterhouse).  Sandworms definitely offers a tantalizing peek at what Frank Herbert had in the back of his mind when he passed away. 


Here's the kicker - even Sandworms of Dune leaves open the possibility that the story might be picked up again at some point.  Who knows?  H&A have already announced they're writing another trilogy (this one filling in the details of the years young Paul spent in exile in the deserts of Arrakis).  Maybe when they're done with that they'll turn their eyes toward Dune 8.  It would take a Kwisatz Haderach to know for sure.


The audiobook version of Sandworms of Dune is read by the talented Scott Brick.  See our review of Hunters of Dune for more on Brick's performance: his reading style is generally very good, but it can at times be too dramatic for the unintentional camp of H&A's text.


Sandworms of Dune (audiobook) is available at Amazon.com.



Dune Audio Official Website

Dune Official Website for All Things Dune-Related


Hunters of Dune (audiobook review) [Aug 2007]

Dune (audiobook review) [Jun 2007]

Dune Extended Edition (DVD review) [Mar 06]

Dune: The Machine Crusade (book review) [Oct 2003]

Dreamer of Dune (book review; biography of Frank Herbert) [Jun 2003]

Frank Herbert's Children of Dune (miniseries review) [Mar 2003]

Brian Herbert (interview) [Sep 2002]

Dune: The Butlerian Jihad (book review) [Sep 2002]

Dune vs. Dune by Byron Merritt

     (Frank Herbert's grandson compares the screen versions [May 2002]

Dune: House Corrino (book review) [Dec 2001]

Frank Herbert's Dune (miniseries review) [Dec 2000]

Kevin J. Anderson (interview) [Oct 2000]

Dune: House Harkonnen - (review) [Oct 2000]


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