Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Paul of Dune

Paul of Dune (Heroes of Dune #1)Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson dedicate this yarn of the Duniverse to their wives, and acknowledge their publisher and the Herbert family. Like other books in the storied franchise, each new chapter opens with a philosophical quote, one of the earlier ones being that history is a moving target. Princess Irulan seems to get the bulk of these quotes, being the historian of Paul Atreides, with the story covering his youth after the Prelude to Dune trilogy and those between Frank Herbert’s Dune and Dune Messiah, during Paul’s Fremen Jihad that puts him in control of the Known Universe.

The first part opens a year after the fall of Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV from power, with the former leader’s Imperium crumbling, and Paul wanting to protect his father Leto’s resting place on Arrakis. The armies of the Muad’Dib have spread across the Known Universe, and several parts deal with Paul’s preteen years, the future Messiah having nearly died in the War of Assassins, his youth setting him up for adulthood. During his youth, The Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV marries again, with previous wives dying under mysterious circumstances, and still has no male heirs to the Lion Throne.

Paul’s sister Alia plays part in the story’s latter parts and chapters, with some decent twists and surprises towards the end that generally round out this story well, although it’s certainly not the best starting point for newcomers to the franchise, with readers likely wanting to read the original Dune beforehand, given the bulk of events that occur after it and before Dune Messiah, although this reviewer certainly found it an effective mix of political, religious, and scientific themes, and would certainly recommend it to series enthusiasts familiar with the general story of Frank Herbert’s original stories.

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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Art for 9/25/2021


Tom & Jerry (2021 film)

  Tom & Jerry (Official 2021 Film Poster).png 

A live-action / cel-shaded CGI adaptation of the neverending feud between the eponymous cat and mouse, with all animal characters, including products such as fish, depicted in the latter format, with the overarching human plot regarding a fanciful wedding that's somewhat cliched, although the scenes involving Tom, Jerry, and other animal characters were definitely well-executed and faithful towards the original theatrical shorts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Betrothal

The Betrothal (The Seven Kingdoms #4)The Betrothal by Cordelia Castel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth entry of Cordelia Castel’s Seven Kingdoms series opens with protagonist Cendrilla, Rilla for short, taking shock at hearing her birth mother is alive, with her promised husband Lord Bluebeard having more details, except is lifeless, with a kiss necessary to bring him back. There’s some good backstory on the Snow Queen, along with details on Rilla’s lineage, with Rilla further seeking to relocate witches in the Steppe, since the United Kingdom of Seven executes those with magical capability. Rilla surprisingly shows a caring side for Lord Bluebeard, contrary to their antagonism in prior books.

Rilla finds out that her hand in marriage had already been promised before Lord Bluebeard to another, King Rhinoceros of the Glaciers, although she can potentially nullify the marital contract if she is victorious in battle against him, consequentially seeking training in the art of swordsmanship. Another element potentially helpful to Rilla in her quest to weasel her way out of marriage to King Rhinoceros is the revelation of the location by Rumpelstiltskin of the monarch’s disembodied heart, and she seeks other allies in the forthcoming conflict as well, with the fated battle ending the book.

All in all, while I felt that this series was in a bit of a decline after reading the third book, the revelations about Rilla’s lineage definitely refresh the literary franchise, and the battles contain good action and description, with the fourth entry like its precursors scarcely being shy about its fairytale inspirations. There is a slight bit of confusion at times, for instance, regarding some elements such as one of the characters being turned into a cheek-rat, but I would definitely recommend this entry to those who enjoyed its predecessors, and the series still holds interest for me.

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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Dune: The Battle of Corrin

The Battle of Corrin (Legends of Dune, #3)The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson dedicate the third and final installment of their Legends of Dune trilogy to “Renaissance” editor Pat LoBrutto, with the acknowledgements singling out both authors, who are analogized to the Navigators in the Duniverse. The tertiary entry opens with fictitious quotes from various Dune characters such as the initiator of the Butlerian Jihad, Serena Butler, who says that the billions slaughtered by thinking machines in the Great Revolt shouldn’t be called victims or martyrs, but rather heroes. Princess Irulan further states that the gravest error one can make is considering one version of history accurate, with other quotations opening the countless chapters.

Nearly a century has elapsed since the Butlerian Jihad began, the time being 108 years before the establishment of the Spacing Guild, with the robot Erasmus helping to engineer a disease to decimate the human population. Meanwhile, Vorian Atreides has twin sons with Leronica Tergiet, and retains his youth with a combination of mélange and the cymek life-extension treatment his father Agamemnon effected on him. On the war front, the Army of the Jihad seeks to wrestle Honru from the thinking machines, with a massacre on the world near the start of the conflict being a blight in the Great Revolt. Furthermore, Titans such as Beowulf rebel against Omnius.

Norma Cenva is addicted to melange, while Aurelius Venport seeks to establish spice operations on Arrakis, although sandworms sabotage his work. A rift also arises between El’hiim and his stepfather Ishmael on the desert world, with a sandworm duel towards the end of the novel. In the meantime, Erasmus tests his retrovirus on unfortunate humans with the help of human traitor Yorek Thurr, although the robot doesn’t want his adoptive son Gilbertus infected, nicknaming him Mentat. The swordmaster Istian also wanders the islands of Ginaz, renewed with rainforests threescore after their devastation, with his sensei robot Chirox.

The mentioned retrovirus, identified as the Omnius Scourge, devastates the human population, killing about two-fifths of those infected, with several worlds quarantined, although the spice melange proves promising as a cure. Moreover, Rayna Butler uses aggressive means in her own personal crusade against the thinking machines, attacking even those without sentience, and Abulurd Butler, unashamed of his grandfather Xavier Harkonnen, adopts his surname. The humans fight a battle on the Synchronized World of Corrin, and the Jihad is proclaimed officially over, though this is but the novel’s halfway point.

Nineteen years elapse, and humans begin reconstruction of their civilization, with all former Synchronized Worlds except Corrin being uninhabitable. Quentin Butler feels guilt at the use of pulse-atomics against the Synchronized Worlds, given the collateral human casualties, and a stalemate exists between the human and machines on their core world of Corrin. Miniature piranha mites, not to mention occasional resurgences of the Omnius Scourge, occasionally threaten the human population, hitting hard worlds such as Rossak.

The final showdown on Corrin occurs, along with the treachery that antagonizes the Atreides and Harkonnen clans for ten millennia, with the House of Corrino established as well in commemoration of the titular conflict. Overall, this is an enjoyable conclusion to the Legends of Dune trilogy, which one could consider a modern War and Peace with a science-fiction milieu. It does continue to bear its resemblance to other sci-fi franchises such as Terminator and The Matrix, although Frank Herbert, forefather of the Duniverse, likely had the ideas before his decease. Those that enjoyed its predecessors will enjoy this concluding entry, with those new to the series obliged to start from the beginning.

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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Gaming Update, 9/18/2021

Currently Playing

Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel - In the middle of the Jefferson mission, where I have to destroy the generators. Taking it slow and easy.

Tales of Phantasia: Cross Edition - Sort of playing this with a translated script to aid in my quest to study Japanese, and can recognize a lot of the kanji though the font makes it hard at times. The game is definitely good, though.


Baldur's Gate & Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Editions - Low priority right now.

Dragon Quest (Nintendo Switch) - Don't know when, but I will get to this this year.

Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X - Will play after finishing Phantasia: Cross Edition.

Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress - There's a decent chance this will be the next game I start.

Ultima III: Exodus - Will of course play after the second game since I paid for it and its precursors.

Zack Snyder's Justice League


Sort of overstays its welcome, but is definitely better than the original theatrical version, and gives more depth to the DC superheroes that weren't covered in prior films.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD


More Hellbound than Skyward

Let me preface this review by saying that I do not care much for Nintendo’s big-name franchises such as Mario and Zelda, particularly regarding the three-dimensional iterations of either series, which to me don’t quite carry the spirit of their 2-D brethren. There are installments of the Legend of Zelda franchise that I did enjoy such as Link to the Past, albeit largely due to getting too good at the game through repeated playthroughs during my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. One of the entries I had missed out on was Skyward Sword on the Wii, although it would receive a remaster on the Nintendo Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD.

When beginning a new game, the player can choose motion controls similar to the Wii version or button-only controls that would rather prefer them, and as the former was one of the chief complaints with the original version, I opted for the latter choice. The game itself features the backstory of the Demon King Demise laying waste to the land in want of the Triforce, with the goddess Hylia leading the survivors into the sky so she can war with the demonic deity, with the existence of the Surface ultimately forgotten among the inhabitants of the sky island that comes to be known as Skyloft.

The backstory is good, although the narrative itself is fairly derivative, the initial skybound world above a surface somewhat filched from Final Fantasy III, a storyline twist later on resemblant of a plot element of Lunar: The Silver Star, and the concept of time travel done to death. The plotline ultimately delves into the cliché of Link rescuing Zelda, not yet a princess, from the forces of evil, and is generally a disappointment. As well, while the translation is certainly legible, the localization team made some irritating dialogue decisions such as having the spirit of Link’s sword, Fi, speak in a robotic tone talking of calculations and probabilities and such, making the plot and writing overall a detriment.

Furthermore, even with button-only controls, the general game interface takes a lot of getting used too, with many needless complications regarding things such as throwing and rolling bomb flowers. The swinging of Link’s sword in different directions via use of the bottom-right joystick does work at times and adds strategy to some battles against standard enemies and bosses, most of the former mercifully optional, but there are a great many negative gameplay tropes such as having to go stealth a few times (with the “silent realms”, where Link has to gather fifteen nodes and need to start from the beginning if attacked by a guardian spirit, qualifying among one central instance).

Throughout his quest, Link has to solve many puzzles, most utilizing the tools he receives, and sometimes use them against bosses. Things at first are fun, although there are a great many portions that led me to reference the internet repeatedly, which is not something anyone should ever have to do when playing a videogame. Link’s ability to hold reviving fairies and healing potions in bottles can take the edge off at times, although the camera can be awful, with the absolute lack of a radar/minimap hurting as well. In the end, the game mechanics become a chore far more than anything else.

The controls, as one could assume, don’t help. Skyward Sword ditches the series’ save-anywhere feature for save points, but autosaving does occur at critical instances; regardless the spacing of hard saving opportunities is at times inconsistent, and a suspend save would have been welcome. There’s also an in-game measure of playtime, although one has to converse with Fi to view it, rather than the developers just saving the time and annoyance by displaying the clock in the menus. The puzzles driving players to repeatedly reference guilds, walkthroughs, and in some instances diagrams, don’t help either, and all in all, the game is one of the most user-unfriendly I’ve had the displeasure of playing.

The soundtrack is full of old and new tracks, Zelda’s Lullaby among the former and some sweeping themes such as the flying theme among the latter, and is one area where the game doesn’t fall flat. The sound effects are good as well, although the voices consist mostly of grunting that can get tiring after a while, with Link’s vocals in particular being irritating, and the near-death alarm is annoying as always.

The remastered visuals look decent for the most part, with well-proportioned character models, fit coloring, and some good environs, though these show some blurriness and pixilation up-close, and the camera can mar the experience.

Finally, the game is one of the longer Zeldas, taking somewhere from twenty-four to forty-eight hours to finish, with a Hero Mode accessed upon completion, although frankly, subsequent playthroughs would be nothing short of excruciating.

In summation, I really, really wanted to like Skyward Sword HD, but it just didn’t love me back, given issues such as the lousy controls, even when selecting the option of making them button-only, the weak narrative and writing, and the middling aural and visual presentations. There are rare cases in which the game is slightly enjoyable at times, but it winds up to be one of the far weaker installments of a franchise that has its share of good and bad (in my opinion, mostly the latter) titles, and there are far better Nintendo Switch games out there.

This review is based on a playthrough of a copy borrowed by the reviewer.

The Good:
+A few gameplay portions passable.
+Some of the music is good.
+Graphics look okay.

The Bad:
-Even button-only controls are horrid.
-Incredibly-weak narrative and writing.
-Puts quantity above quality.

The Bottom Line:
One of the far weaker Zeldas.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Mechanics: 1.5/10
Controls: 0.5/10
Story: 0.5/10
Localization: 2.0/10
Music/Sound: 2.5/10
Graphics: 3.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 0.0/10
Difficulty: Artificial
Playing Time: 24-48 Hours

Overall: 1.5/10

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Witch-Hunt

The Witch-Hunt (The Seven Kingdoms #3)The Witch-Hunt by Cordelia Castel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The third entry of Cordelia Castel’s Seven Kingdoms series opens with Cendrilla “Rilla” Perrault following a procession to the interrogation room where the captured trolls, among them being Olga, with Prince Armin still under her enchantment, are being held. Despite being instrumental in their capture, Rilla is denied questioning them, and they ultimately escape, with Rilla and a few companions, among them being perpetrators that had a hand in attempting to kill her, going after them, in the meantime seeking two sorceresses who have prices on their heads for witchcraft, Rilla wanting to save their lives.

As with before, Lord Orson Bluebeard continually seeks to affirm his impending marriage to Rilla against her will, and wants to ensure she is kept alive. Rilla and her companions have several misadventures including a trip to the Well of Wellness, whose guardian is reluctant to provide its water, and some backstory regarding Princess Freida abounds, having successfully escaped from an arranged marriage. Rill and company visit frigid lands home to beings termed Snowmen (although they seem to be yeti-like), with giant hailstones precipitating and offing many of them during a critical battle.

The third entry ends with a troll vessel approaching and a cliffhanger that naturally ties into the next book in the series, and while the tertiary installment does have its positive qualities, not being shy about its fairytale influences, it sort of marks the beginning of a slight slump in the series, with readers needing to have remembered the events of prior books in order to enjoy this one, along with the difficulty of keeping track who is who, with a few characters going by different names that can confuse some readers. Regardless of quality, I’ll definitely continue reading these books until the end.

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The Three Caballeros


The feature-length follow-up to Saludos Amigos, combining live-action sequences with traditional animation as Donald Duck, his Brazilian avian friend Jose Carioca and Mexican Panchitos Pistoles, as they embark on various misadventures through Latin America as a celebration of Donald's birthday. As with Saludos on Disney+ has a warning about ethnic stereotypes that was warranted, and there were many really trippy sequences, particularly towards the end, but it's a decent, slightly-educational film.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht


Nietzsche im Weltraum

Those who beat Squaresoft (now Square-Enix’s) science-fiction RPG Xenogears noted that the ending credits proclaimed it as the fifth entry of a larger series, akin to the original Star Wars trilogy’s chronological placement as episodes four through six, and a Japan-only book called Xenogears Perfect Works covered a timeline detaining countless events that never made it into the game. A console generation later on the PlayStation 2, developer Monolith Soft produced and Namco published a spiritual successor/predecessor to XenogearsXenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht, which definitely retains the spirit of the original PlayStation game, but is this a good thing?

Episode I opens with archaeologists in Kenya, sometime during the twenty-first century, uncovering a relic that enables humanity to travel space beyond the Solar System, the monolithic Zohar. Over four millennia later, humans would leave Earth to colonize the galaxy after a cataclysmic event, with a human scientist named Shion Uzuki the caretaker of an android dubbed KOS-MOS, able to materialize and defeat alien beings known as the Gnosis. The narrative in general takes inspiration from philosophers such as Fredrich Nietzsche, and is very-well told, if forced down the player’s throat due to unskippable voiced dialogue, and slightly derivative of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Much of the dialogue is well-written, although there are occasional hiccups such as the tendency of much of the battle dialogue, particularly with regards to characters shouting the names of their Techs in battle, to sound somewhat unnatural, and most of the lip movement during voiced scenes to be way off at times and indicative of the title’s Japanese origin. Probably the biggest localization change that makes a huge difference is the ability to skip voiced scenes completely, and there is occasional humor in the dialogue. Regardless, the translation somewhat seems unrefined at many points, with a little censorship of a few scenes as well.

For a game that allegedly emphasizes the narrative above the gameplay, the general combat mechanics are surprisingly well-executed, even somewhat addictive. Models indicating enemy parties populate the game’s dungeons, with occasional traps that the on-screen character can detonate to gain an advantage in the encounter triggered when contacting a foe, such as one boost point for each of the three active participants in battle to start with. Combat has a turn-based structure similar to other roleplaying contemporaries such as Final Fantasy X, with commands immediately executed after input, and each ally starting with four action points (six the maximum for each fighter).

Each action consumes a certain number of action points, which refill in between character turns, with characters having four AP able to execute melee and ranged attacks against enemies, each consuming two AP. A character can also defend to conserve AP, and when they have six the following turn, they can chain two attacks and execute a powerful Tech at the end of the combination, the player able to set up to four after different square/triangle button combinations in the game menus. With enough Tech Points acquired from winning battles, player can allow characters to use Techs after executing only one square or triangle attack with just 4 AP, with a maximum of two of these “shortcuts” per character.

Players can also use Tech Points to empower character Techs or reduce the wait time after execution before their subsequent turns in combat. Additionally, the player can use TP to provide increases to character stats outside combat, with each stat having a max that slightly increases when a character levels through standard RPG experience acquisition. Characters can also equip a weapon and an ammunition cartridge when available, along with a piece of body armor and two accessories. Using Skill Points also acquired alongside Tech Points from victory in combat, players can also extract passive benefits from accessories that provide benefits such as defense against certain status ailments, each ally able to equip up to three of these.

Each playable character in Xenosaga also has a “level” with regards to the aforementioned passive skills, with the acquisition of new ones from accessories gradually increasing it, level five seeming to be the highest tier. Additionally from combat do characters receive Ether Points they can invest into ability trees that allow them to execute EP-consuming magical attacks, with a cap as to how many they can use in combat. There are also certain Ether abilities that the player can only acquire through special means, although these may require referencing the internet to find, but mercifully the game is still beatable without finding them.

Another interesting facet of combat is the ability of playable characters to “boost” when they’ve acquired enough stamina from attacking enemies, with each ally having a maximum of three stackable boosts in battle, and can only do so when one character’s icon doesn’t appear in the turn order gauge at the bottom-right of the screen. However, these boosts are “use it or lose it,” and reset to zero with each new battle, with enemies able to boost for extra turns as well, although these seem to be spontaneous, and adversaries don’t seem to have any limit as to how many additional turns they can get.

One the main issues of combat is the need at many times for foresight, especially since the developers made the unusual decision, one that would repeat itself through the game’s two sequels, to have the turn order meter only show for up to four turns who goes next, with the gauge eventually running out of icons before “refilling.” It’s not a game-breaking design issue, and combat is generally fun (although a turbo mode, given some drawn-out Tech animations, would have been nice), with the various parallel systems being nothing short of engrossing, and accounting for a solid gameplay experience.

Control, on the other hand, could have been better. Most notable is the total inability, during voiced cutscenes, to skip dialogue, definitely not accommodating towards audiences such as hearing-impaired gamers who could only read. There are other issues as well such as the glacial menus, among their problems being their needless depth at times, for instance, with players needing to go to a character’s stat screen to change equipment. Autosaving, given the length of many cutscenes and sometimes-inconsistent placement of save points, would have been welcome as well. There are positives such as the ability to pause and skip cutscenes, but Xenosaga could have been more user-friendly.

Xenogears composer Yasunori Mitsuda composes Episode I’s soundtrack, which definitely has its share of good tracks, with some good cutscene pieces and a central theme that ultimately has a vocal iteration during the ending credits. However, most exploration throughout the game is silent except for footsteps and maybe whirring engines, and there’s only one standard battle theme until the final boss. The voice acting is largely solid, with voices fitting their respective characters, although allies whining and crying when they die, and shouting the names of their commands, can get tiresome. The sound isn’t solid, but could have certainly been worse.

For a game that’s around a score old, however, the visuals look surprisingly good, with well-proportioned character models containing good animation, anime designs, and expressions, lips moving as they should during voiced cutscenes. The environments are believable and contain nice coloring, and the designs of enemies in combat are good as well, with some occasional solid CG scenes, although as with most three-dimensional graphics, there’s an occasional tendency of environs to have blurry and pixilated texturing. Even so, a decent-looking game.

Finally, one could possibly make it through the game, skipping all cutscenes, in as little as twenty-four hours, although a playthrough with all cutscenes viewed and grinding occasionally necessary at times can push playtime up to around forty-eight (which was my approximate ending time) or beyond if the player really wants to grind their characters excessively, although there really isn’t much motivation to go through the game again, with no New Game+, a dearth of sidequests aside from tedious minigames, and most players likely wanting to move on to the sequel after a single playthrough.

Overall, Xenosaga Episode I is a competent Japanese RPG that hits some good notes, especially with regards to its surprisingly-fun gameplay systems, developed narrative, and nice graphics, although there are significant issues with regards to its glacial pacing, the notable waste of composer Yasunori Mitsuda’s talent, and absence of lacking appeal. A remaster would ideally resolve whatever issues it has, although the latest news of the series indicated an enhanced port wasn’t in order despite rumors, and while the first entry of the series was better than I remember, it certainly isn’t worth breaking out an old PlayStation 2 just to experience the game.

The Good:
+Surprisingly-good game mechanics.
+Well-written narrative.
+Some good music.
+Graphics look good even today.

The Bad:
-Battles would have benefitted from turbo mode.
-Glacial menus and cutscenes.
-Yasunori Mitsuda’s talent somewhat wasted.
-No reason to go through again.

The Bottom Line:
A competent but average JRPG.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 8.5/10
Controls: 3.5/10
Story: 7.5/10
Localization: 5.0/10
Music/Sound: 6.5/10
Graphics: 7.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 0.0/10
Difficulty: Relatively Easy
Playing Time: 24-72 Hours

Overall: 5.5/10

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Monday, September 6, 2021

Gaming Update, 9/6/2021


Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht - Not a great game, but certainly far better than I remember. Full review will come in a few days.

Currently Playing:

Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel - The interface takes some getting used to, but I've been having a decent time thus far and am still on the first mission.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD - I really wanted to like this game, but it's just not loving me back, given the extreme difficulty of getting used even to the button-only controls. I finished the Fire Sanctuary, but found that I still have a ways to go >_>

In My Backlog:

Baldur's Gate I & II: Enhanced Editions - Don't know when I'll ever get to these.

Dragon Quest (Nintendo Switch) - Can't say when I'll ever get to this game, either.

Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress - Low priority right now.

Ultima III: Exodus - Likewise, will play after beating the second game. 

Dune: The Machine Crusade

The Machine Crusade (Legends of Dune, #2)The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson dedicate this second entry of the Legends of Dune trilogy to Penny and Ron Merritt, not to mention fellow travelers in the Duniverse. They follow with acknowledgements stating that the completion of the sequel’s manuscript was only the beginning of its journey, with editors fine-tuning it and their agents being supportive. They also acknowledge the producers of the audio version, those that helped avert inconsistences within the setting of the Dune series, and numerous members of the Merritt and Herbert families.

The prologue opens by stating that historians don’t always agree with records of the past, that the more one dives into it, the more fluid and contradictory the stories become. The fictitious writer of the prologue is the First Official Historian of the Butlerian Jihad, Naam the Elder, whose Manifests of Protest was confiscated by the Jihad Police, or Jipol. Opponents of the Jihad are weary of protest, with the war claiming billions of lives, and twenty-four years have elapsed since the death of Serena Butler’s infant son Manion at the hands of Erasmus, one of the antagonistic thinking machines.

Atomic destruction of the Earth at the hands of the Jihad perpetrators has occurred, as well, with the robots countering with their own attacks on League of Nobles colonies. Serena Butler herself spends much time in the Tower of Introspection with the Cogitor Kwyna. Iblis Ginjo is Serena’s political proxy, the Grand Patriarch of the Jihad Council, ruling outside the boundaries of the League Parliament, a former slave master on Earth, a great orator, the husband of Camie Boro, who traces her bloodline to the last ruler of the Old Empire.

Iblis is also the founder of the Jihad Police, which ferrets traitors and saboteurs, arresting thousands including many of Ginjo’s political enemies. Naam concludes the prologue with his belief that there is little hope of true victory or a truce with Omnius. The main action opens 177 B.G. (Before Guild) in the twenty-fifth year of the Jihad. As with other books in the series regardless of author, the beginnings of new chapters are indicated by fictitious quotes from many of the characters within the story, which provide decent philosophy to the Duniverse.

The first primary chapter opens with Xavier Harkonnen fighting the machines, who want control of the world of IV Anbus. The book has good descriptions of the various cities on the sundry planets, and in addition to the continued story of the Butlerian Jihad, continues the story of Selim the Wormrider, who wishes to sabotage mélange harvest on the planet Arrakis. Ishmael also still yearns for freedom from his bondage, and is now married and with children. A year ultimately passes since the human race and machines’ struggle for IV Anbus.

The world of Poritrin becomes the next battleground between the humans and thinking machines, lasting about a year, as well, alongside the year-long conquest of Ix. The machine Eramus also raises and occasionally experiments with a feral human boy, Gilbertus. The forces of the Jihad, furthermore, gain the assistance of organ farms on the planet of Tlulax, with this element making for a twist in the latter portion of the narrative. Serena also attempts to bring the conflict to an end with a diplomatic meeting with Omnius, whose result sets the stage for the next novel.

Overall, this Dune prequel is very much an enjoyable yarn, being long but with plentiful action, and dynamic characters with good pedigree and families. The aforementioned philosophical quotes opening each chapter also add a bit of a genuine nature to the Duniverse, and there are quite a few good twists towards the end. The authors definitely do a good job preserving the legacy of Frank Herbert, even if the story does bear resemblance to contemporary media such as The Matrix and Terminator franchises. Regardless, this story warrants a read from those that enjoyed its predecessor, with those new to the series still likely wanting to start at the very beginning of the trilogy.

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Saludos Amigos


I watched this on Disney+ to sort of celebrate Brazilian Independence Day tomorrow, and it has a warning about ethnic stereotypes, though I don't think they were too severe, with four animated shorts interspersed among the live-action sequences of Disney animators visiting South America. Was generally enjoyable, and had the first appearance of Brazilian parrot José Carioca (with the j of his first name pronounced like a normal english j as in the Portuguese language), who is definitely a debonair character.