Book Review – The Butlerian Jihad

After a long year of resisting, I finally gave in to my friend and picked up “The Butlerian Jihad” the first book in the “Legends of Dune” trilogy that serves as a prequel story to main saga told in Dune. Set 10.000 years before the events in the original series, it tells the tale of how humans raise in rebellion against their machines overlords who have ruled humanity for the past 10.000 years. Only a small number of planets known as the League of Nobles still resist against the machines, although this planets are far from ideal with some of them having slavery. In this series we are able to witness the birth of some of the most important aspects of the original series, Dune, such as the birth of House Atreides or the Orange Bible.

This book completely blew me away. It had been very much hyped by my friend and whilst I was expecting it to be good, I did not expect it to be this good.  The book is written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (whom I know from when I used to read Star Wars novels) and they are able to really capture you and deliver a very complete story. Right from the get go you are able to feel the hopelessness of the human struggle and the beginning of this book is able to show this as well as the persistence and creativity of humanity, two of its defining characteristics.  We are immediately caught in this long conflict and the authors are able to introduce to two characters that I immediately fell in love, Serena Butler and Xavier Harkonnen (yes, Harkonnen, from THAT family in Dune). In that opening battle they are able to capture the terror of the enemy and the sacrifices it will take to defeat them, a theme that is present throughtout the entire novel.

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The novel also had some concepts that amazed me. The cymeks, humans that have let go of their bodies and moved their brains into machines, were simply amazing. They are the humans that took over a galactic empire, became awful and brutal tyrants and by being lax in their duties allowed for the rise of the machines that replaced their rule but did not kill them, instead becoming an important piece of the rule of the machines.  They are the enforcers and leaders in the war against humans. The fact that they use the names of classical historical figures such as Agamemnon, Ajax or Xerxes, made me, a history nerd, love them even more. The cymeks are truly complicated characters that you can’t help but love to hate. They are the perfect arrogant, brutal villains providing a great contrast with the cold Omnius, the leader of the machines.

Overall I found the first book in this saga to be delightful. It was fast paced and as a political scientist I took great pleasure in reading about the start of a revolution and how sacrifice and symbols are needed. The characters were amazing, especially Serena Butler, whose strength and pain really jumped out from the page becoming an inspiring character even in real life. At several points of the book I actually found myself cheering on the humans and becoming very involved with the story.

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If you are a fan of the Dune series or a fan of fantasy/science fiction this is definitely a series that you have to read, I should have listened to my friend a year ago, she was right. This was a fantastic book and I can’t wait to read the second one.

 

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