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Review: Elixir, by Alan Sullivan

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 06:54
by Naïve mind
I don't know if this is the appropriate forum; there seems to be no
generic 'fanfic' forum, and furthermore, at roughly 100,000 words,
this is a novel, written well before the internet made the term
'fan fiction' ubiquitous.

Feel free to move this, if necessary.

Review: Elixir, by Alan Sullivan

How does it feel to be thirsty, really thirsty? For your throat to be parched, your lips to crack, the dried-out nerves of your brain single mindedly focused on finding water, any water? As I live in a part of the world that resembles verdant Caladan far more than the planet Arrakis, I have no real experience in this matter.

But while I was reading Elixir, I felt like I was drinking the novel greedily, overjoyed to have found something resembling 'the real
thing'. And I realised just how thirsty I had been.

The author, the late Alan Sullivan, wrote this in the late 80s, shortly after Frank Herbert's death. Alan Sullivan is someone who
made extensive journeys on a sail boat, and who took up translating religious poetry as a hobby. This makes him very qualified to write a
Dune prequel that's (partially) set on Caladan.

Prequel? Yes. Although the exact year is not mentioned, I estimate it to be around 10,141. The Duke Atreides is not called Paul, or even
Leto, but Philip; The Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe is Elrood IX, nicknamed 'the Profligate' for his tendency to spend Imperial
funds and Royal semen with the same gusto.

And Ix plots to create synthetic spice.

Sound familiar? By accident, an obscure author writing for his own amusement stumbled upon a plot very similar to the one of the first
HLP-sanctioned prequel novel. But unlike Dune: House Atreides, Elixir is executed competently. Most of the facts fit, but
more importantly, the characters act and think intelligently. Even the Harkonnen, created by Frank Herbert to epitomize human vice, have
a cunning representative in the form of the Baroness Xhosa.
For a moment the Ambassador forgot diplomacy. “You have no right to assume I support your folly for my own benefit.”

“You could scarcely have lived so long without the aid of melange. With supplies so tight—”

“I have an adequate reserve for my needs.”

“Come now, Ambassador, I know you’ve made a profession of lies, but self-delusion is a dangerous indulgence. Would you deny your willingness to commit any atrocity that might postpone your own senescence?”

Unable to answer, Tosk looked into the albino’s cold red eyes for some hint of sympathy.
It's hard to express the quality of the prose without an example. Tight, meaningful exchanges like the one above are abundant, and this really does make you feel like you're reading a lost Dune novel written by Frank Herbert himself.

But then, technically, it's not a Dune novel. The planet Arrakis plays no role in this story. There is talk of Spice, but only as a life extension drug for the privileged and super-rich, not as an awareness spectrum narcotic. Nobody is aware of the Fremen, and their proud warrior culture.

Instead, it explores the universe that surrounds Arrakis. Which, as it turns out, is just as interesting. Heartily recommended.

Elixir can be found here. ePub and mobi versions are here.

Re: Review: Elixir, by Alan Sullivan

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 10:15
by inhuien
Thanks for the reminder, Just finished Lord Fowls Bane and I've got it on my note. Did you not mention at one time that the chap wrote two novels or have you combined them in the 1 file.

Re: Review: Elixir, by Alan Sullivan

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 10:36
by Naïve mind
He did write two novels--I'm delving into the second one now, and I do have it as ePub if you want, but ... it's considerably less Dune-y. Change one or two names, and you'd never know it was set in the same universe. It's not bad, but if anything, I'd compare it to Roger Zelazny's A rose for Ecclesiastes, in terms of style and theme.

Re: Review: Elixir, by Alan Sullivan

Posted: 26 Oct 2014 22:50
by JustSomeGuy
Excellent post, and I added it to my "Favorites." I'll read it, sometime. Good stuff!