The final novel in the first Dune prequel trilogy, House Corrino, continues the pace set by the earlier books and brings events towards a close. Spanning the barren deserts of Arrakis, the subterranean caverns of Ix, the oceans of Caladan, the splendor of Kaitain, and even the forbidden Spacing Guild planet of Junction, 'House Corrino' is an ambitious novel which encompasses the entire universe of Dune. With the ending required to conform with the beginning of the original series, the book has no major surprises in store for us. However, the authors have made every attempt to make the journey an entertaining one, and on most counts have succeeded.
Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV is growing increasingly restless at his lack of absolute power. At his command, the Imperial government begins to crack down on spice hoarding, alienating the great houses of the Landsraad, and filling the coffers of CHOAM and the Spacing Guild with spice bribes.
As Project Amal nears completion, Count Hasimir Fenring is dispatched to Ix to oversee the final stages of synthesis under the direction of the repulsive Tleilaxu. All is not as it seems however, as the conniving head researcher has no intentions of handing the spice substitute over to Shaddam, but has eyes on the Imperial throne itself.
Meanwhile, Rhombur Vernius begins the long road to recovery from the explosion that claimed the life of Duke Leto Atreides' son. At the hands of the Suk physician Doctor Yueh, he is more machine now than man. Determined to seize Ix back from the clutches of the Tleilaxu and their mysterious Imperial benefactors, Rhombur and Leto begin the plan to free Ix, whatever the cost.
Leto's concubine, the Bene Gesserit Jessica, is pregnant with his son, in direct defiance of her orders to bring forth an Atreides daughter. The entire future of the Kwisatz Haderach program has become uncertain, and the future of humanity hangs in the balance.
On the desert planet of Arrakis, the Fremen have rallied under Liet-Kynes, son of the Imperial Planetologist who brought the hope of a green Dune to life. Determined to rid themselves of their Harkonnen overlords, the Fremen step up their underground campaign against their oppressors, and plan Baron Vladimir's downfall. The Baron himself and his twisted mentat Piter deVries have plans of their own to check the growing power of their blood enemies, House Atreides.
As with the earlier novels, 'House Corrino' is devoid of any real character development, making it difficult for the reader to establish any emotional connections with any of the protagonists, or even antagonists for that matter. Emperor Shaddam is especially two-dimensional, and his actions towards the end of the book defy any sense of rational explanation, except out necessity to bring the book into concordance with the original 'Dune'.
Despite the lack of fleshed-out characters, the plot manages to keep a frantic pace right up to the end, which seems rushed, and more than a little contrived. There seem to be a few extraneous plot elements which aren't necessarily required, but in general the story progresses in an interesting manner, and everything is wrapped up in the end.
The 'Dune' prequel series is far from spectacular, but it's a solid work of hard science fiction, in the spirit of one of the great classics of the genre. It's wonderful to be able to experience a familiar world in a new light, and add depth to such a vivid universe. House Corrino manages to entertain without stumbling under the weight of requirements which oft times plague prequels.