Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Legends of Dune

The "Legends of Dune" is a trilogy of books that tells the story of the Butlerian Jihad, a conflict that defined much of what is known in the Dune Universe. Dune, by Frank Herbert, is one of the best books I have read so far in my life. It is must-read book for any Science Fiction fan. But Dune is not the book I want to talk about here today.

The "Legends of Dune" trilogy is composed by: The Butlerian Jihad, The Machine Crusade, and The Battle of Corrin. The story of these books happens around 10000 years before the original Dune. By that time the human civilization had already colonized a great part of the Galaxy, but was in conflict with the Thinking Machines and the Cymeks. The Thinking Machines had rebelled against its human creators centuries earlier, and since then started to enslave humanity as a mean to create more efficient worlds. Not all human planets were under the influence of the thinking machines, and these planets formed the League of Nobles that fought the machines. The Cymeks are people with human brains and machine bodies, that before Omnius takeover were the ones that ruled humanity ruthlessly.

When the story starts the Machines have already rebelled against humanity around a thousand years earlier, and since then humanity is fighting against Omnius (the Machine Evermind). The Cymeks, led by the Titan Agamemnon, are not under machine control, but they help Omnius, secretly plotting against it, with the real objective of turning all humanity in slaves or cymeks, and ruling the Galaxy again, as was before the machine domination.

The Machines do not comprehend humanity, and just want to create a harmonious and efficient society, and because of that they started to enslave the human worlds. The Cymeks hate humanity, because of their frailty and because of the stagnation and bureaucracy that covered their worlds. And the humans, hate the machines and cymeks because they have enslaved and slaughtered billions of humans over the centuries of conflict.

The "two-sided" conflict was in a stand still, and neither side had gained any terrain against the other for some time. That is the Universe situation when the first book starts.

"The Butlerian Jihad" tells how this conflict that was in a stand still for so long turned into a full scale Jihad against the Machines. "The Machine Crusade" tells about the time some years after the beginning of the Jihad, and also tells about some developments that happened during that time of war in the human side, and also in the machine side. And "The Battle of Corrin" tells about how the war against the machine was won.

Very straightforward, but the fun of these books does not lie in the Jihad exactly, but in how the Universe has been shaped by it. You can see the influence of the Atreides and Harknonnen in the conflict, long before they were named Great Houses. How have begun: the House Corrino, the Bene-Gesserit Sisterhood, the Spacing Guild, the Mentats, and the Freeman. How people started to get addicted in Melange. Why the Tleilax are hated and outlawed all over the Empire. How some of the human technological breakthroughs like the energy shields, the space-folding engines were developed. And obviously why the use of thinking machines, and nuclear weapons was banned by the Empire.

You have to have read at least the original Dune, to savor these books properly, and I am sure that if you are already a Dune fan, you will love these books as I did.

By the end the fanaticism and zeal of humanity against the Thinking Machines were so strong that they seemed to be irrational beasts fighting the machines, using whatever means they could to attain victory. While the Machines were just defending themselves, and fighting because they could not understand the unpredictability of the human mind, always trying to replicate the actions of humans. I can not see any of the Thinking Machines in the books as the great villains, some of the cymeks could be seen as villains, but the greatest of all the villains came from the human side, and no, none of them were a Harkonnen.

The ending of the trilogy was a little too fast for me, a lot of unexpected, stunning and very decisive events happening in the last hundred pages. I did not like that very much, but overall the trilogy of books is a very good one, and I suggest it for anyone who likes Science Fiction.

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