In Review: Navigators of Dune

It's enjoyable, but not a "Wow" read.

Navigators of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Published by Tor on September 13, 2016. Hardcover of 416 pages at $27.99, eBook at $14.99, CD at $39.99, and Digital Audio at $23.99. 

The cover: Stephen Youll has created a gorgeous cover for this novel. Joseph looks upon his great grandmother Norma Cenva as she hovers in her spice filled tank. My introduction to Dune was the David Lynch film and the design of the Navigator in the film is something that continues to haunt me. Having this front piece mirror aspects of that character, brings me an immense amount of joy. Seeing the endless tanks behind her is simply awe inspiring. The colors of the setting give the location a sinister feel, which are increased by Norma’s barely visible image. Add to that the beautiful sky full of stars and planets, and this is perfection. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the inside front cover, “Navigators of Dune is a fascinating portal into vital components of the mesmerizing, intense universe of Dune, the climatic finale of the Great Schools of Dune Trilogy, set ten thousand years before Frank Herbert’s classic Dune. Every Dune fan knows of the Spacing Guild’s mysterious Navigators, the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood’s program to breed a superhuman, and the Mentats, trained as human computers to replace forbidden thinking machines. But until now, readers knew little of how they came to be. Navigators, mutated by spice into beings far superior to normal humans, make space travel possible across the burgeoning Imperium. Their prescient awareness allows them to foresee safe paths through the universe as starship engines ‘fold’ space. Only industrial magnate Josef Venport knows the secret of creating Navigators, and he intends to build a commercial empire to span the galaxy. But at every turn Josef is embattled by the forces of antitechnology fanaticism, ‘Butlerian’ zealots led by the charismatic and dangerous Manford Torondo. They aim to turn back humanity’s new renaissance and drive the Imperium into a dark age. And between those titanic forces stands the uncertain new emperor, Roderick Corrino, forced to take the throne after the assassination of his brother. The Navagators are the key to charting a glorious future for humanity…or the end of civilization.” I’ve really enjoyed all of Herbert and Anderson’s Dune books and am looking forward to seeing what happens next in this epic saga. Overall grade: A

The characters: There are several points of view this novel is told from, but the primary viewpoint is that of Josef Venport. He’s in the center of much of the action, as he tries to dig himself out of the hole he dug in Mentats of Dune. He killed the brother of current emperor, Roderick Corrino, so he’s enduring the wrath of a vengeful Imperium. He’s also being attacked by the followers of Manford Torondo. Venport simply wants to thrive as a businessman, but it seems as if the galaxy is conspiring to break him. I enjoyed him immensely, in his schemes and his relationship with his grandmother, Norma — the first Navigator. Roderick Corrino was also a very interesting character. Having read several other Dune books, I did not expect to see this Emperor be so smart. His plans are not perfect, but he is able to think quickly and maneuver his way through many problems, including others who want to make him a puppet. The most dastardly character of the novel, and there are several to choose from, is Manford Torondo, who abuses his followers in the most ghastly ways, thriving on their reverence. These three characters have the meatiest scenes in the novel and their decisions are the ones that will shape the universe’s fate. Also included are Vorian Atreides and Erasmus, two major characters from previous books. This novel, seemingly, concludes their stories, and I was sad to see them end, given how much had been revealed about them. One character’s ending is much more satisfactory than the other, but I was happy to get some resolution. Only one major character didn’t work for me, Valya Harkonnen, the new Mother Superior of the Bene Gesserits. Her actions with her flock didn’t sit with what I know of this order and her scenes took me out of the book. She doesn’t appear often, so she doesn’t destroy the novel, though she did diminish my enjoyment. Overall grade: B+

The settings: Yes, the book does indeed go to Arrakis, and it’s the world that long time readers are familiar with, but most of the action is set on Kaitain, the throne world of the Emperor, and the two worlds that Josef Venport travels to. There are two different sides to Kaitain, one is the court of the Emperor and the other is a collection of people that travel there. These opposites created a nice bit of visual tension to the world, as well as physical tension. The two worlds that Venport travels to, which I will be purposely be vague with, are very fun, containing many differing settings that always have something interesting for the reader. This book, as with the other prequels by Herbert and Anderson, does a solid job in creating locations that whisk a reader away. Overall grade: A 

The action: The book begins with two good action sequences that instantly pull one into the novel, followed by a story arc where the writing on the wall on can be seen for forthcoming conflict, though the characters don’t see the whole picture. When the final battle does begin between Venport and Corrino it’s impossible to put the book down. The unexpected betrayals that one character experiences do seem a bit overwhelming as one after another occurs, but I couldn’t stop reading. The action occurs in both space and on the ground, with and without technology, and it’s enjoyable. Overall grade: A-

The conclusion: There’s a conclusion, of sorts, but there are several teases of much more to be done with the Dune universe. The conflict between the two main characters is finished, but felt lessened with the final three chapters. This pulled the rug out from under me. Overall grade: B-

The final line: The focus of the book includes the Navigators, but doesn’t really focus on them, as the title indicates, until the final quarter. Instead the book focuses on Venport and what he’s trying to achieve personally. After the previous two books in this schools trilogy, I was turning pages waiting for them to have more of a presence. This hurt my enjoyment. The conclusion didn’t help. Did I enjoy reading the book? Absolutely, but not as much as the previous two. On it’s own, this is fun, but the not the “wow” conclusion when included with the other two. It’s more of an “Okay. Now what?” Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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