House Harkonnen is book number two in the House trilogy by brian herbert and kevin j. anderson. it continues where House Atreides left off.
when i reviewed the first installment of this series, i was excited and energetic, thrilled at the possibility of a never-ending stream of engaging books set in the Dune universe. sadly, i can’t summon the same enthusiasm after reading House Harkonnen.
i won’t bother with the same in-depth synopsis i provided for House Atreides. Harkonnen does provide some interesting back story on several characters, but falls short, in this reader’s opinion, when it comes to providing true insight into character development and motivation. the harkonnens seem mindlessly malevolent; some are stupid, some are smart, but they’re mostly evil (aside from peace-minded abulurd harkonnen who winds up in utter ruin at the hands of beast rabban). the atreides are just and wise, but occasionally misstep. and everyone else (the bene gesserit, the bene tleilax, count fenring, blah blah blah) has plans within plans, plots within plots, clichees within clichees.
i am a big fan of space opera, and the Dune series has provided that for many years, but this novel felt like space soap opera, and a dull one at that. as i read the book, i just kept waiting for something to happen, something that didn’t feel too predictable or formulaic. this is not to say that the book is without incident — things happen. they just seem to happen without much dramatic tension or import. everything just felt like a big setup for something else, like foreplay for a climax that has already come (i.e., with the original Dune series). the first Atreides book didn’t feel this way.
maybe i’m being too harsh. i probably am. even so, i’ll keep reading. there’s something comforting about visiting the Dune universe, and i’ll probably keep going back for the rest of my days, through one book or another.