Top critical review
Better Than It's Reputation, But Still Not Great
Reviewed in the United States on August 20, 2019
Set 10,000 years before the original Dune, "The Butlerian Jihad" is the first installment in a prequel trilogy that chronicles the war between humans and sentient machines.
While "Dune" is a classic of the genre, it's well documented Frank Herbert, the original author, died before he could finish out his saga. His son, Brian Herbert, took over and finished out the series and began filling out the universe his father created using his notes and original drafts. As such, "The Butlerian Jihad" is not up to the same standards of quality. There are some truly cringeworthy and groan-inducing lines of dialogue and prose in this one, and early on it reads like an overly ambitious young-adult novel.
However, at 700 pages, there's surprisingly not a lot of wasted space in "The Butlerian Jihad." Most of the characters are one-dimensional archetypes (with the exception of the machine characters, who are genuinely fascinating to read about), but everyone's narrative journeys are thrilling enough to forgive most of the lazy characterization.
If you approach this novel as a pulpy sci-fi serial in the vein of Star Wars, you'll probably have a good time. This is not high literature. It's robot overlords, spaceship fleets, exotic planets, big battles, and impassioned speeches for revolution. Nothing more, nothing less.