I originally wrote my What I'm Reading
reactions for Dune
and Dune Messiah
in the summer of 2006. They were supposed to be part of a series of
reactions covering the entire Dune saga, but I got distracted by other
projects and never finished it.
Basically, I think the Dune sequels are
In order to complete proper reactions for
later books at this late juncture, however, I would need to re-read the
series. That's unlikely to happen for awhile, so -- in the interim --
here's a quick summary of my thoughts.
think that either Dune
Messiah or Children
of Dune is the weakest book in the series.
However, it's difficult to figure out which book is worse because it
depends on how you choose to look at the problem
On the one hand, Children of Dune is
almost certainly a better novel than Dune Messiah. On
the other hand, it is also very derivative of Dune Messiah.
of Dune retells the same story: In Dune Messiah,
Herbert tells the story of how Paul slips out of the shackles his
prescience had placed upon the human race. And it culminates in the
birth of twins he did not foresee, which (for me) pretty clearly
indicates that Paul's vision has been derailed.
But then Children
of Dune comes along and says, "Nah, just kidding. You need
to pursue the Golden Path to derail the shackles of prescience." And
then it promptly retells the same story as Dune Messiah,
starring Paul's son instead of Paul.
Given the somewhat
half-baked quality of Dune
Messiah, I suspect that this is literally a case
of Frank Herbert wanting a do-over. But the derivative nature of Children of Dune
greatly diminishes it if you're reading the series in sequential order.
On the other hand, if I had to choose one
the other, I think it's a no-brainer to choose Children of Dune.
think it safe to say that God-Emperor of Dune
is probably the most-reviled book in the series. But I actually enjoyed
it a lot. It's a very different novel from the earlier books. It's a
contemplative, almost zen-like poem -- but one laced with deeply
horrific tragedy. Watching Leto slowly strip away his own humanity in
order to save all of humanity was a profound experience for me.
I think God-Emperor
of Dune also speaks to the problem many people have with
the series: Herbert didn't write sequels in the traditional sense of
If you look at works like Star Wars,
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Jones's Diary, or Asimov's Foundation,
for example, you will find that the sequels are all pretty similar in
tone, content, and style to the original work.
But that's really not the case with the Dune
novels. Even Dune
Messiah is fairly distinct from Dune, and God-Emperor of Dune
is a completely radical departure. And I can easily see how someone who
would find absolutely nothing appealing about the style or structure of
Fortunately, I like both styles of fiction.
for me, the contrast between the two only enriches the experience.
OF DUNE / CHAPTERHOUSE OF DUNE
enjoyed Heretics of Dune
and Chapterhouse of Dune
quite a bit. They, again, took the Dune saga in a radically different
direction and developed the milieu in ways I had never expected.
But it's also difficult to know exactly what
make of them. Unlike the earlier books, they were specifically
conceived and written as a trilogy... but Herbert died before the
trilogy was completed. So it feels a little bit like reading The Fellowship of the Ring
Two Towers if Return of the King
had never been written.
They're good books... but you're left
with no sense of conclusion or thematic closure.
When I was reading these books, the concluding
duology -- written by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert -- had
not yet been published. Although I've generally avoided those books
like the plague, the next time I read through the Dune saga I'll
probably break down and read the duology. If nothing else, it's
supposedly based on Frank Herbert's original outline -- so it will
hopefully give me some
sense of where Herbert was planning to go.