Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

noticable flaws. 6/10.

Twelve years have passed since the events of Dune. Paul Atreides is firmly in control of an empire brought together through a jihad that has conquered most of the human universe and his control of spice; a drug most of the populace is addicted to. However things are not as secure as they first appear. The Bene Gesserit, the spacing guild and Tleilaxu are hatching a plot to unseat him. They are joined by Princess Irulan, Paul's wife, who is furious that Paul refuses to produce an heir with her and that he much prefers his concubine Chani. Through the powers of guild navigator Edric the conspiracy is hidden from Paul's ability to see the future. Although Paul might be aware of more than anyone guesses and the futures he sees are all grim.

The most striking thing about this sequal is how little action there is. Even the scenes that should contain it are absolutely sprinted through. Although only a fraction of the length of Dune; this makes Messiah really drag in places. Again there are times when Herbert suffers from the inability to convey the ideas running around in his head to the audience and while Paul's protagonists are certainly less one dimensional than Baron Vladimir their motivations remain rather unclear. Though some people might find Paul more whinny than the first novel I felt that his characterization was really the saving grace for this novel. I really thought the inner struggle between a man trapped and forced to choose from a number of undesirable futures was well portrayed.

Overall Dune messiah is not a bad novel but suffers from a number of glaring weaknesses 6/10.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Following on from the events of Empire of Ivory Captain Will Laurence has been branded a traitor and Temeraire has been sent to a breeding ground, believing Laurence's well being is subject to his good behaviour. Napoleon meanwhile has renewed his efforts to cross the channel and quickly succeeds in landing troops on British soil. Needing every dragon they can muster the British government despatches Laurence to retrieve Temeraire. However Temeraire receives false intelligence that Laurence has been killed in action and rouses the population of the breeding grounds into a militia to attack Napoleon's forces on their own. Laurence eventually catches up with Temeraire as he journeys through the countryside but even reunited their situation is still bleak.

Something that worried me in the early books of this series was that the structure of the plot was similar across those works so I'm glad to see Novik going in a very different direction with this one. The story very much focus on the different ways Laurence and Temeraire deal with their decision to bring the cure of the plague to France and for the first time a very big chunk of the story is told from Temeraire's perspective. What struck me about this is despite Temeraire's intelligence how incredibly naive he is which is rather unsurprising as he isn't more than a few years old now and I think Novik gets this spot on. It's also interesting to finally see Temeraire spreading his ideas about the treatment of dragons to the other dragons in Britain as the series has been building up to this for a long time. Laurence feels much darker than the previous book and his decision has hit him hard and leads him to some self-destructive behaviour, his inner turmoil is apparent and here Novik succeeds again. Finally after all the traipsing about the globe it is great to finally have a story set firmly in Britain with the war in complete focus.

Overall another strong offering from Novik. 8/10.