Frank Herbert wrote the original 6 books about the Dune Universe. Many science fiction fans treated this series as the Sci-Fi world's answer to the Tolkien "Lord of the Rings Trilogy." In Dune and the 5 books he would follow up with, Frank Herbert created a Universe not unlike our own, with its political, religious and business sectors always clashing. He even threw in some ecology lessons for the readers of these books. After Frank Herbert's death, his son, Brian Herbert carried on the tradition in writing more for the Dune Universe. Another book in the series will be published August, 2007, rumor has it that this may be the last of the Dune Universe.
Some die-hard Frank Herbert fans don't like what the son has done to the Dune Universe. His biggest contribution to the series is to write 2 sets of prequals "The Legends of Dune" and the "Prelude to Dune" series. What Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have done is establish an evolution of life on earth to what life is like at the time of "Dune." My guess is the die-hard fans liked the mystery created by the father.
This book is in the "The Legends of Dune" series and takes part 10,000 years before the original book. It is also book two in the series and takes place 20 years after the first in the series "The Butlerian Jihad." The Jihad against the thinking machines is 20 years in force and neither side can claim any victory. The rise of power of former slave to the machines, Iblis Ginjo, has created a monster. After discovering human spies for the machines Ginjo, the Grand Patriarch of the Jihad, has created the JiPol, Jihad Police. The JiPol are used to round up spies, but they are also used to do Ginjo's bidding, when a noble crosses paths with Ginjo and goes against his plans they are soon "discovered" to be spies for the thinking machines. Very similar to jack-booted thugs during world war II or even closer to home much like the McCarthyism of discovering Communists.
Serena Butler the Priestess of the Jihad spends most of her time in mourning for the loss of her son Manion, the start of the whole Jihad. This seclusion is after an attempted assassination on her. Which was planned and put into motion by Ginjo, so that he may hold more power.
Many battles over planets are waged against the thinking machines meaning the loss of millions of lives of humans. This creates the need for more recruits in the war and for body parts for the injured soldiers. Tluaxan slavers are known to sweep through un-allied planets and take slaves for the planets that do support slavery. They are also known for their ability to clone body parts for the soldiers of the Jihad. But, they are also harboring a secret that could destroy Iblis Ginjo. To recruit more soldiers a planet of mercenaries, Ginaz, led by Jool Noret, become the warrior fighting class.
In the meantime the Cimeks, human brains in robot forms, led by General Agamemnon, grow weary of being under the Omnius and the thinking machines rule and plan a revolt by recruiting many humans that were slaves on synchronized worlds the cimeks have invaded.
Another Cimek, Hecate, makes an appearance after going into hiding for hundreds of years. She claims to be fighting the other Cimeks and Thinking machines to help the Jihad. Ginjo does not pass on this opportunity for more help in winning this what seems to be an un-winnable war.
Meanwhile on planet Arrakis, Salim Wormrider is making a name for himself and his group of bandits raiding all people involved in the mining of Spice Melange and selling to offworlders.
Norma Cenva has created the technology to fold space. Creating a means to travel to any point in the universe in the blink of an eye. But just as she is getting this started a human slave revolt destroys the planet Poritrin and soem Zensunni slaves escape in a space-folding ship to Arrakis. On Arrakis Salim Wormrider has died a Martyr, leaving the "bandits" with no leader. The leader of the Zensunnis, Ishmail, becomes leader of what will be forever known as the Fremen.
With these first 2 books of the "Legends of Dune" a lot has been explained, maybe or maybe not in the way Frank Herbert would have, but definitely these Legends become more understandable and actually more realistic. Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have kept to the Middle eastern religious symbology, and even building on that.
I would like to make a remark here, I may explore this further in another post, but for now I would like to point out the remarkable similarities to the Dune Universe Frank Herbert created in 1965 to what is happening in the world today. In Frank's Universe the Emperor Shaddam (Saddam?) runs the universe and controls the flow of Spice (oil?). Arrakis (Iraq?) is the only source of the spice. HMMMMM....
Now you could read the books in any order you would like, but for fun, and since I've already read a couple of the Frank Herbert Books, I'm going in the order of timeline not in order of publication date. It seems more fun this way. So the next book will be the "Battle for Corrin," I can't wait.
While this may seem like a lot to read, the authors keep it interesting with battles, loves, and conspiracies. Great formula for sci-fi.