Dune: The Butlerian Jihad

Frank Herbert was undoubtedly one of the most prolific creative minds to ever see the light. To say that the man was a genius would be like saying that Harvard and Oxford are good schools. It doesn't begin to do justice to the man and the talented writer he was. The Dune saga will indubitably be considered the monument of science fiction for years to come. And if anything ever surpasses Dune, I just wish to be alive to read it.:-)

In their previous effort, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson fell short on several levels. Although entertaining, Dune: House Atreides, Dune: House Harkonnen, and Dune: House Corrino never came close to capturing the essence of the original Dune novels. It was neat to return to Herbert's universe and characters, but the books themselves left a lot to be desired.

Which explains why it took me so long to give Dune: The Butlerian Jihad a chance. And what a pleasant surprise to discover that this one more than lives up to the hype. This compelling story about humanity struggling for freedom would certainly have made Frank Herbert proud. With this book, the authors have managed to capture much of the essence of the original Dune series. And that is quite a feat.

Dune: The Butlerian Jihad is, in my humble opinion, the perfect starting point for any newcomers interested in the Dune saga. It is much more accessible than the original series, which could generate interest in a younger fan base that has not yet read the classic novel. And for aficionados, it is quite a treat to see the plotlines that will ultimately converge in Dune.

This book goes back in time: 10, 000 years prior to the events chronicled in Dune. As the title implies, The main story revolves around humanity's rebellion against the thinking machines' tyranny. And it's a multi-layered epic saga which should satisfy most readers.

The characterizations are at times brilliant and at times lacking. First and foremost, this novel is a tale of men and women, making this a character-driven storyline. And as such, the characterizations are well-developed and interesting, at least for the most part. We are introduced to a host of characters whose actions will set in motion the events that will lead to Dune, millennia later. The tables are turned on both Vorian Atreides and Xavier Harkonnen, and it's kind of neat to see an Atreides and a Harkonnen with different roles. Serena Butler plays an immense role, and I was totally taken by surprise by the incident which will mark the starting point of the jihad. Norma Cenva and Tio Holtzman are scientists who are taking science beyond new horizons. Tuk Keedair is a Tlulaxa slaver and flesh merchant who makes an interesting discovery. Omnius, the computer evermind, and Erasmus, the free-thinking robot, provide some insight pertaining to the thinking machines' social structure and agenda. Iblis Ginjo will, without realizing it at first, create the spark that will change humanity forever. And on Arrakis, a young outcast will become the legendary Selim Wormrider.

New concepts such as the evermind, the cymeks, the Cogitors, the Sorceresses of Rossak, the Titans, etc, give another dimension to this tale. And the revelations concerning the Zensunnis and the Zenshiites give us a bit of insight concerning the people who will one day become the fearsome Fremen. And we finally discover what atrocious role the atomic warheads stockpiled on numerous worlds for centuries played in the war against the thinking machines. And just how enormous the price to pay turned out to be. . .

The worldbuilding is interesting enough. But it is often overdone, which prevents many planets and systems to be quite as fascinating as they could be.

All in all, a terrific novel and a very good addition to the Dune saga. I will eagerly read the two sequels.

The final verdict: 9/10

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 23rd)

Nothing to report in hardcover. . .

In paperback:

Troy Denning Star Wars: The Joiner King debuts at number 31.

On another note, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince still holds the number 1 position on the USA Today bestseller list.


A friend of mine called me to tell me about this website. . . Unbelievable! It's so ridiculous that I can't even comment on it. . .:-)

Check it out at www.rent-a-midget.com

Hero by Nature

I don't normally do movie reviews. People frequently ask me why, and I'm forced to reply that I'm just not the right person for such a gig. Many of my friends would tell you that it's invariably because I find something wrong with every movie I see. As for me, I would simply tell you that it's indubitably because I am demanding. And in all honesty, the truth probably falls somewhere in between.:-)

Short films are generally not my cup of tea. Some are just plain bad. Some are just too odd. You need to have someone explaining every little detail, and then have another person explain the explanation.;-) And a lot of it gets lost in the translation. It's a bit like Modern Art!

By now, most of you are aware that I will shamelessly plug anything that really touched me, or anything that I really liked. Hell, it's my website and I can do what I want!;-) Which explains why I'm doing this movie review. I was invited to the wrap party of the short film Hero by Nature. A good friend of mine, Géraldine Macagno, co-produced it, so I was more than happy to accept the invitation. She had told me a lot concerning the filming and everything which surrounded the production, but very little about the story itself. Hence, I was curious to see the final product.

Hero by Nature was written and produced by Luke Bélanger, and directed by Roger Cantin. Starring in this short film are, among other actors, Frédérick De Grandpré, Laurent-Cristophe De Ruelle and Joe McComber. The soundtrack was composed by Pierre Marchand, whose music truly captures the essence of the story. The music definitely adds layers and textures of emotions, giving another dimension to this short film.

Given what I knew, I was expecting this short film to be of a certain quality. But I never would have thought that it would be this good. Every facet that comprise this movie was well-planned and well-executed. A lot of hard work went into this production; that much is obvious. But I also have a feeling that everyone went the extra mile to give this short film a very special feeling.

Hero by Nature is probably what I would call a social drama. The Oka crisis, which pitted the population of the city of Oka and the surrounding region against the Native Americans, is the backdrop for this story. This is still a very touchy subject in the province of Québec and in the rest of Canada, but the script just brushes over it to set the tone.

The two main themes, at least according to yours truly, appear to be intolerance and hope. It's a short film, which means that it's relatively brief -- about 15 minutes. And the most satisfying aspect of this movie is that it's not a second too long. The timing, the pace, the rhythm deliver the emotions and the message of hope the creators obviously attempt to convey to the public.

I truly enjoyed it. This short film doesn't preach, which was my biggest fear. It's done with a very humane touch, something that really grabs hold of you and makes you wonder. The image quality is excellent, as is the sound. All in all, a very, very nice movie.

I know that Hero by Nature will be competing in different film festivals during the next few months. And since I'm now read by people from over 30 different countries, it's the least I can do to try to spread the word around and to get the ball rolling.:-) You can check Viking Film's website at www.vikingfilm.com/hero/ And if Hero by Nature can be seen during a festival in a town near you, give it a shot. I'm persuaded that you will not be disappointed.

I would like to congratulate everyone who helped bring this short film to the screen for a job more than well-done. And I wish you all continued success. If Hero by Nature is any indication, the potential is definitely there.:-)

Knife of Dreams Review from Dragonmount

Just found this review on wotmania.com and dragonmount.com. . . As a big WoT fan, I have to admit that I'm eagerly awaiting the release of this new RJ book! And with such a review, I just can't wait to get my hands on it!;-)


Knife of Dreams: spoiler-free review

Posted by: Jason on Monday, August 22nd, 2005I have copy and pasted by review below. But if you pass this link around, please link to:http://www.dragonmount.com/Books/Knife_of_Dreams/review.php. Thanks!

Standard Disclaimer: This "spoiler-free" review will not give away specific plot elements, but it will likely hint at a few things. Also, by the very nature of the fact that I'm going to talk about the book, I can't exactly hide some things which some die hard fans consider spoilers. (You know who you are). By reading this, you're going to find out who's in the books. But overall, I'm not going to ruin anything.


Well once again, here we are, waiting for the new Robert Jordan book to come out. I think it would be an understatement to say that anticipation amongst fans for Knife of Dreams is really high, and a lot of people are still grumbling after Crossroads of Twilight.

Before I get into Knife of Dreams, though, I should remind you that a lot of you didn't agree with my review of Crossroads. I said CoT wasn't all that bad, and if you look at the big picture, it's actually enjoyable. Some of you thought I was nuts, but many of you seemed to agree with me on my other New Spring review. So maybe we're not all that far apart.Anyway, I don't think it will matter this time. You're going to love this book as much as I did.

Time is running out. No doubt about it: The Dark One is breaking free. Oh, he isn't free yet of course. But he's getting there. Remember all those weevils in CoT? Remember those "scary" but harmless ghosts? They're all back, but the weevils aren't so rare, and the ghosts aren't so harmless. Even the infamous wind from the opening of chapter one is (as many of you already know), touched with ash and not just a gentle breeze.

Practically every chapter gives us signs that something isn't right in the world anymore. The stakes are higher, time is running out, and the heroes -- as well as Jordan -- know it. The result: stuff happens. Better yet: stuff finishes.I was surprised when the first plot thread was completed. I thought to myself, "Will I ever read about this person again? Could it actually be possible that I've read their entire story now?" I stopped thinking that to myself by the time Jordan wrapped up his 4th or 5th plot line.

Then more story lines got wrapped up, at least to the extent where I don't need to hear about a certain character again without feeling cheated. All of the major plot lines advance. Some are completed. (Have fun with that statement on the message boards). Lots of smaller plot lines are resolved or brought near conclusion. I haven't done a full count, but a few days after the book's released I'm sure every website will have a tally going.

One particuarly refreshing thing I noticed in this novel, more so than the other most recent novels in the series, was how Jordan introduces new elements: people / items / places / stories, whatever, and then resolves them completely in the same book. Also, remember all those chapters in previous books that you read where you wondered who this person was and why were you reading about him or her? Knife of Dreams answers a lot of those. Sometimes in very big or surprising ways. More than one tiny character suddenly bumps into a much bigger character and, well, things happen.

Even when the pacing slowed down, RJ suddenly hits us with some interesting tidbit. Little snacks for the long ride, with the promise of a big dinner coming up.So, stuff happens. But is it any good?

In the words of Grandpa from The Princess Bride: "Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love...!" It's all there. All of it, and more. And not just at the end of the novel. The middle of the book is packed with stuff. I can honestly say, without hyperbole, that this novel is the most focused, most action-packed book in the latter half of the series. This book contains more death and dying than any other WoT novel. Talk about a body count! Not to mention a lot of answers to questions we've been asking for a while.(That little chill that may have just run down your spine, or the excited giggle that you let escape, was how I felt several times when RJ delivered some long over-due answers or shared a particuarly good action sequence.)

But despite all the Deathgates, zomaran, and bolt cranks, the best parts of this book center on the main characters finally reaching what is probably (or will be) the pinnacle of their destinies. To Emma, the webmaster of the official Nynaeve fan club: your heroine might have played out her biggest plot point by helping to cleanse saidin, but she stole the show in this book with one particular chapter about half-way through. All of you will know which chapter it is. After that powerful, emotional chapter, I had to put the book down for a while. Sign me up for Emma's club.All good stories are filled with iconic moments. They're those moments that are so good that they stick with you and are often all you remember years later when the details of the books fade. Moments like Rand taking Callandor, Mat hanging from the Tree of Life, Dumai's Wells, and Elayne putting on her 5th robe in as many pages. (Okay, kidding about that last one. You get the picture). Knife of Dreams has several of those iconic moments. The above mentioned Nynaeve moment, a certain vision coming true, a critical change in Rand, and yes, even Egwene's special tea. (That's not a joke). All of them are iconic moments in my mind. Not too big, however. You can tell that even now Robert Jordan is holding onto his best cards for the final novel. The biggest battles and encounters are yet to come. The end of the novel is not as abrupt as CoT, but it was just enough to whet my appetite for the last book.Boiling it downKnife of Dreams is a strong, strong addition to the series. It is not, however, all action and secrets revealed. Like the rest of the novels, the narrative is long and conservatively paced. It wouldn't be Robert Jordan if we didn't get every detail of armor, every insight into the situation, and yes, a description of every dress in the room. It's his style and you probably would not have made it this far if you didn't enjoy it on some level by now. Also, although I understand that the sub-plots need to happen, but I confess I wish there was more of Rand in particular. Don't get me wrong: he's in this book (way more than he was in CoT), he does a lot of stuff, gets in trouble doing it of course, and all the things that Rand normally does. But oh how I wish we had just a little more time with him.

Fortunately, Jordan cleared up enough plots in this novel that I'm guessing we're going to see an abundance for al'Thor in the final novel. I mean, we've got to, right?As every chapter reminds us, the Last Battle is coming. Plots are burned away, minor characters fade, and long kept secrets are revealed. All eyes are turning towards the same direction, and the question is being asked: Who rides for Tarmon Gai'don?

After reading Knife of Dreams, easily the most enjoyable overall book in the series in years, I am absolutely certain that I'll ride with Robert Jordan into the final Wheel of Time novel.

The Amber Spyglass

Sadly, I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed by this novel. It's not that The Amber Spyglass is a bad book. Far from it, to tell the truth. And yet, it doesn't live up to the expectations generated by its predecessors. The story falls short on certain levels, which prevented me from enjoying this book as much as I would have wanted.

Given the size of this one, I believed that The Amber Spyglass would continue to explore those concepts which, in the previous volumes, seemed to hint at a definite moral complexity. The theological and philosophical aspects, a bit more present in The Subtle Knife, are once more a part of the tale. But unfortunately, the author fails to elaborate on several issues, such as the Church and everything that surrounds it and its power in every world, Mrs. Coulter and her powers, Lord Asriel, etc. Incidently, every secret which I hoped would be revealed in this last volume remained hidden or half disclosed. That was a major disappointment for me.

As was the case with both The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife, the imagery was arresting. But the worldbuilding could have been much better. Pullman basically had carte blanche to create whatever his imagination fancied, so I was hoping for far more interesting worlds and universes. . .

The characterizations and dialogues are much better in this novel. Will and Lyra continue to be a well-balanced duo. But other characters, such as Dr. Malone and Father Gomez, were not fully realized.

The ending was anti-climatic, but I expected as much from a YA book. Volume 2 of His Dark Materials was too short. I'm of the opinion that The Amber Spyglass was a bit too long. The pace is at times sluggish.

All in all, a nice enough series. Yet it certainly doesn't live up to all the hype which has surrounded it since its initial release.

The final verdict: 7/10

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 16th)

Once more, nothing to report. . .

Meanwhile, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Hlaf-Blood Prince still holds the number 1 position on the USA Today bestseller list.

And Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams has just appeard at the number 21 spot on the amazon.com bestseller list, although it won't be out till October 11th. Jordan answers a few stupid questions on their site, if anyone is interested. But don't rush there in the hope of learning anything of value. . .;-)

The Subtle Knife

As mentioned in my previous book review, altough not a bad book, The Golden Compass undeniably remained a YA novel. But I had heard so much concerning Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials that I kept telling myself that there had to be more to this than what I first glimpsed in the opening chapter of this trilogy.

So I gave The Subtle Knife a chance, and I'm sure glad I did so. While its predecessor was definitely aimed at a younger audience, this one can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. There were a number of hints which appeared to point toward a moral complexity to this story in The Golden Compass. And I'm quite pleased that the author has been laying the groundwork pertaining to those by exploring concepts such as the unending conflict between Church and Science. The theological and philosophical aspects of this second volume give another dimension to what is shaping up to be a very good fantasy tale.

The worldbuilding is much better in The Subtle Knife. Now that the portal is open, we are exposed to a number of worlds. And since there are countless parallel universes linked by various doorways, I have a feeling that we might see more of them in the next volume. As was the case with The Golden Compass, the imagery is once more arresting.

The dialogues are better than in the first book. Definitely not as juvenile, which was a bit of a relief. Lyra is finally experiencing "character growth," which does her a world of good.

The characterizations have also improved. The addition of Will as a main character was perfect. Lyra was always some sort of brat, but Will is a child who was forced by circumstances to grow up too rapidly. Hence, they form a somewhat well-balanced team together. And Lyra becomes more mature as the story progresses. Secrets are revealed about Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel. Those secrets, along with the revelation of the great confrontation which is brewing, perfectly set the stage for The Amber Spyglass. We are also introduced to a number of new characters, such as Dr. Malone, who continue to give more depth to this story.

I felt that this novel was too short. It gives us a few glimpses of the depth of Pullman's work, but not enough. I can only hope that the final volume will live up to the expectations generated by The Subtle Knife.

The final verdict: 7,5/10

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 2nd)

Once again, nothing to report this week. . .

Although still number 1 on the USA Today bestseller list, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has yet to make an appearance on the NYT list. . . That's a little odd considering that no book in the world sold more than this one in the last few weeks.


Since there is an ever-growing number of people who visit these parts, and since no one wants to waste time perusing every post I've written thus far, here is a little index of what's been happening since the beginning of the year.:-) I have to admit that I am more than a little overwhelmed by the numbers. Since February 15th, over 21, 000 visitors checked things out, from more than 30 different countries, exploring more than 21, 500 pages!:-) Thank you all!!!


- The Book of Words trilogy (J. V. Jones): Book review (My very first. . . And worst!)
- Children of Amarid (David B. Coe): Book review
- The Outlanders (David B. Coe): Book review
- La Crème de la Crème (part 1): A list of my all-time favourites
- Eagle-Sage (David B. Coe): Book review


- Fall from Grace: David Eddings article
- Shadowmarch (Tad Williams): Book review
- Things that make you go hmmm. . .: Terry Goodkind article
- La Crème de la Crème (part 2): A list of my all-time favourites
- Ship of Magic (Robin Hobb): Book review
- Close but no cigar: A list of runner-ups that almost made it to my all-time favourites' list
- Mad Ship (Robin Hobb): Book review
- Around the World: Budget traveling article
- Ship of Destiny (Robin Hobb): Book review


- Top 5 Ongoing Fantasy Series: Poll results
- The Runes of the Earth (Stephen R. Donaldson): Book review
- Europe's Low-Cost Airlines: Budget traveling article
- Favourite Fantasy Authors of All Time: Poll results
- Tad Williams Interview: Interview
- The Silences of Home (Caitlin Sweet): Book review
- Best Fantasy Series of All Time: Poll results
- Hostels around Europe: Budget traveling article
- Quicksilver (Neal Stephenson): Book review


- L. E. Modesitt, jr. Interview: Interview
- So you want to be a book reviewer?: Article
- Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Matthew Stover): Book review
- Favourite Fantasy/Scifi Characters of All Time: Poll results
- The Confusion (Neal Stephenson): Book review
- Amazon's synopsis for Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams: Synopsis
- The System of the World (Neal Stephenson): Book review
- Darth Vader's Blog


- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: Soundtrack review
- The Darkness that Comes Before (R. Scott Bakker): Book review
- Check them out!: Websites of interest
- Best Fantasy Artists: Poll results
- Best Fantasy/Scifi Stand-Alone Novels: Poll results
- The Warrior-Prophet (R. Scott Bakker): Book review
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: Movie review
- Fool's Errand (Robin Hobb): Book review
- The Contiki Experience: Budget traveling article
- Golden Fool (Robin Hobb): Book review
- R. Scott Bakker Interview: Link


- Fool's Fate (Robin Hobb): Book review
- The Great Ladies of Fantasy: Poll results
- It's Only Temporary (Eric Shapiro): Book review
- In the King's Service (Katherine Kurtz): Book review
- Tad Williams Interview: Link
- The Curse of Chalion (Lois McMaster Bujold): Book review
- Paladin of Souls (Lois McMaster Bujold): Book review


- Robin Hobb Interview: Interview
- The Years of Rice and Salt (Kim Stanley Robinson): Book review
- Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman): Book review


- The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman): Book review

The Golden Compass

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy has been sitting on my shelves for many years now. Not totally forgotten, but not a priority for me to read, either. Indeed, I have way too many books that are patiently awaiting my attention. But as I wait for the arrival of Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing from HarperCollins, I wished to read something light. Hence, I finally decided to give this series a chance.

Pullman's series has garnered much acclaim, and deservedly so. But although quite entertaining, The Golden Compass remains a Young Adult novel. Which means that if you are not young at heart, you should perhaps consider skipping this book. Having said that, however, there are many hints pointing toward a moral complexity to this tale, which may or may not be explored in the two sequels. But the Church's involvement could give another dimension to this series. In any case, this novel's ending promises a lot of things to come.

The worldbuilding is all right, if a little juvenile. Yet, considering the book's intended readership, that was to be expected. The imagery is at times arresting, making The Golden Compass a visual and colorful story.

As was expected, the dialogues are rather juvenile as well. But the narrative, much to my surprise, is not. Pullman's prose is impeccable, and the narrative flows extremely well. The pace is crisp and quick.

The characterizations are better than I expected, although they are often too cute. But there is a lot more to the Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel characters, and hopefully the author will delve a little deeper into their lives in the subsequent volumes.

As I mentioned, concepts such as the Church, the Magisterium, the Oblation Board, the strong bond between children and their daemons, etc, could give a lot more depth to this series. I can only hope that we learn more about these things in The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

All in all, a good read for a younger audience. This could be the perfect series to introduce youngsters to the fantasy genre, although it is not as accessible as Harry Potter. And the fact that the heroine is a young girl makes The Golden Compass a book that can be enjoyed by both boys and girls of all ages.

This novel was as light as I expected. But it did offer a few unexpected surprise that will make me read the sequel.

The final verdict: 7/10