Tag Archives: Julianus

Dune: House Atreides

Julianus reviews Dune: House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson in the Bkwyrm archive.

This is, of course, a prequel to Frank Herbert’s classic saga, written by his son. You really have to feel for Brian here, since he really can’t win as he sets himself to add on to one of the most complex and beloved novels of the century. As far as I’m concerned Frank Herbert himself never really did a proper job on his own sequels, so what hope do we have here?

Set about forty years before the events of Dune, this is basically a collection of interconnected narratives about the characters it that book and how they got where they were. Leto Atreides is a teenager being sent to an allied world for his education, Vladimir Harkonnen is thin (!) but still his familiar decadent self, Shaddam is an impatient Crown Prince, and the Bene Gesserit are just beginning to arrange the conception of Jessica. There is no real plot holding all this together, just threads leading to the start of the original novel.

The real problem here is that despite all the best efforts the whole book just feels wrong. Many of the events seem quite outlandish, the characters are way too familiar with secrets that were/will be hidden from them in Dune, and worst of all they talk wrong. In Frank’s novel we were transported to a milieu that was far removed from our own where people had very different attitudes and manners. Brian and Kevin make them talk like Americans and they even use catch-phrases like “think outside the box!”

If you’re a Dune fanatic you will probably want to read this, but I’d suggest you borrow a copy and save your money for something better.

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Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods

Julianus reviews Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods by Dimitri Meeks and Christine Favard-Meeks in the Bkwyrm archive.

This book uses an interesting methodology: it treats the Egyptian Gods as an ethnic group subject to anthropological study much as one might have studied the Egyptians themselves. The authors apparently decided on this approach after noting that most scholarship on Egyptian religion shed more light on the scholars’ biases than on the supposed subject, a phenomenon nicely described in the Introduction. The Meeks have therefore relied on surviving texts and inscriptions (a full participant-observer approach being rather difficult!) to describe the Gods, their origins, customs, and mode of life, as well as the human afterlife. Extensive reconstructions of Egyptian ritual are also included. This book thus forms an excellent detailed resource for students of Egyptian mythology.

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Comparative Mythology

Julianus reviews Comparative Mythology by Jaan Puhvel in the Bkwyrm archive.

This book focuses primarily on the Indo-European cultures with some reference to the ancient Near-East. The author displays a comprehensive grasp of his subject as he traces common themes from Ireland to India. Using a combination of historical linguistics (some knowledge of the subject will help the reader here) and comparison of myths and epics he provides what might almost be a genealogy of archetypes in the Indo-European psyche, archetypes that are still very much alive. I was particularly struck by a kind of reverse-Euhemerism the author often uses: rather than saying that the gods are simply mythologized mortals, he frequently reveals the mortals in various epics to be “historicized” gods. He also thankfully does not try to reduce everything to one pet theory. Due to the extensive cross-referencing of material the reader may wish to go through the book twice in order to catch all the connections. If you want to know more than the usual generalization that “the Indo-Europeans worshipped a patriarchal sky-god,” or want to flesh out 777, then this is definitely the book for you.

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Against the Light

Julianus reviews Against the Light by Kenneth Grant in the Bkwyrm archive.

This is the second novel of Grant’s to be published and the first book from Starfire, longtime publishers of the “Typhonian OTO” journal. The production quality is quite lavish and this was certainly printed with an eye for the collectors’ market, but what of the story? Against the Light covers the search for an ancient Grimoire containing the sigils that are Keys to the Nightside. The star of this narrative is none other than Kenneth Grant himself, with a supporting cast of his own friends and relatives, some of whom will be familiar to readers of his “non-fiction”, but which are here used (or so one may assume) fictitiously. One of the natural results of this is that one is uncertain just how to take much of the story. Is Grant disguising fact as fiction or fiction as fact? I have long suspected that he’s been doing the latter in his other books, so is he finally coming clean here? I confess I simply can’t tell. For one thing I don’t know his family history, something that is crucial to the plot.

Essentially this novel is a sort of Lovecraft pastiche consisting of long dreamlike passages through various Gateways into other realities. I get the feeling that Grant mined his dream journal for most of the episodes. He still insists on depicting magical work in the most lurid, pulpish light and tries to fill the reader’s head with all manner of silly warnings. Seems that Kenneth still needs fear to get the juices flowing after all these years. Nothing really fits together very well and, while this may have been the intent, I can’t help feeling the book would have been better for another rewrite. There is no attempt at characterisation and the story is never resolved: it simply stops. [via]

A History of Pagan Europe

Julianus reviews A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick, in the Bkwyrm archive.

A brilliant survey that every Pagan should read, this overview is an amazing look at “forgotten” history covering the whole continent of Europe from the Bronze Age to the present. Of particular interest are the many accounts of Pagan resistance, survivals, and even reconversion thoughout the “Christian” era. Scrupulous research and documentation make these passages far more powerful than anything in Margaret Murray. After reading this book Christianity seems like the bizarre obsession of a strange minority and I won’t be surprised if it rises to the top of the “most-banned” list. The only possible complaint about this book is that it is too short: each chapter could easily be expanded into a separate volume on its own, and I sincerely hope that future researchers will do just that.