The Butlerian Jihad (Legends of Dune #1), by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

My Copy: 9781250208545 (image from goodreads.com)

Well, I’m still trying to absorb all I read about over the past month (I know, I’m surprised it took me that long to read it, too…but it’s been such an eventful past month, so maybe it’s not all that surprising in the long run). 

But wow–there was a LOT of worldbuilding in this book, a lot of things that led to one of the most unique visions of the future I’d heard about or read about so far. I mean, think it–we’re addicted to our computers, and by the time the original Dune story comes along, computers (or “thinking machines”) have been outlawed and humans must re-discover their own intellectual powers and become their own thinking machines in a sense (which is where the Mentats, Spacing Guild, Bene Geserit, etc. come in).

This was a crazy, absorbing read into a unique universe. Dozens of characters introduced and you get a feel for the different power systems. The main conflict of this book is the war against the evermind, Omnius, by the peoples of the League worlds, free humans who have managed to avoid being completely subjugated by the thinking machines. Earth has been totally overrun for over a millennium and the vast majority of people on the “Synchronized Worlds” are slaves. Some are trustees of the evermind or the Titans, the first overseers of many of the Syncrhonized Worlds before one of them made a mistake.

Probably the craziest thing in this book is that a couple-dozen ruthless leaders of the Old Empire decided to forego human form and attempt to live nearly forever thanks to having their brains put into reinforced canisters and attached to cybernetic bodies, all to exercise power over billions of humans… but yeah. That’s the titans (known also as “cymeks”). But, they themselves became overcome by the computer system known as Omnius, and they ended up having to work on Omnius’ behalf (since Omnius had a block that prevented it from killing off it’s own creators). Omnius and these titans rule the Synchronized Worlds. Omnius’ objective is essentially to know and find everything possible (think V’Ger from Star Trek with hella more resources), calculate possibilities, and tends to debate with Erasmus, another thinking machine who is not plugged into the evermind. Erasmus is a shocking character, a machine that seeks to understand humans and yet his lack of empathy, terrible experiments, and basis on logical thinking destroy and hinder more than anything… though Erasmus is probably one of the only things preventing Omnius from just ordering its thinking machines to wipe out all of humankind on the Synchronized Worlds.

That’s the baddies, as best as I can mention without spoilers. There are dozens of human characters to follow that all have different functions and act in different times and places. One of the main catalysts is Serena Butler, who is a young leader in the League Worlds and is impatient with the bureaucracy and it’s limited vision regarding the role of the League Worlds and their devotion to freeing humanity as a whole. After an attack on her home of Salusa Secundus by the thinking machines, the first in over 100 years, she creates a daring plan to attack and retake one of the newly Synchronized Worlds… and it all goes from there.

Familiar planets and family names come into play, like the Harkonnen and Atreides. The Fremen aren’t quite a thing, though their forebears are already on Arrakis (including Selim, the first wormrider). It’s a complex introductory book into the Dune-iverse, with philosophical questions (mostly asked by Erasmus), scientific discoveries vs. practicality (or greed in some cases), physical vs. mental powers, and the conundrum of having slavery in the human ruled worlds while professing freedom for humanity, among other things.

There is so much to this book. I would not be able to say that it’s a great stand-alone book, but as the intro to a whole new literary universe? Oh, hells yeah. There are so many pieces at play (i.e., characters) being moved around the chessboard. And then there’s the spark that sets the jihad off. I admit, I didn’t see it coming, and my eyes were glued to the book all the way to the last page after that point.

And I had that mental image of V from V for Vendetta flicking the domino to start that awesome montage shot as soon as I read that crazy moment.

I have only read Dune before this, and am going as close as I can figure to Dune-iverse chronological order with the books. I definitely couldn’t wait to start The Machine Crusade this morning when I was at the doctor’s office, and I gotta wonder what’s gonna happen to the crazy Dune-iverse now.

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