Children of Dune is the third & final entry in Frank Herbert’s self-styled ‘magnificent Dune trilogy’ (confusingly, he did of course go on to write three more Dune books).
And, for the most part, Children of Dune represents a return to form after the breathtakingly uninteresting Dune Messiah.
A host of exciting characters from the original Dune novel return, whilst new characters such as Paul’s Atreides’s children, Leto II and Ghanima, are surprise highlights.
Meanwhile, the Atreides reign of Arrakis is beginning to wane – their influence spent.
Herbert’s writing style continues to frustrate, however – often getting in the way of what is a decent story.
End of an Era
There’s a sombre undertone to Children of Dune. House Atreides is weary in the absence of its leader Paul Muad’dib, whilst the planet Dune itself has been altered irreversibly from an endless desert to lush greenery.
Liet Kynes’s dream of a Dune full of water, plants, and vitality has come to fruition, but it’s all gone horribly wrong. Dune’s worms are dying, fenced in by the little remaining desert. The all important Spice therefore, is in increasingly short supply.
Meanwhile, the cult of Muad’dib has been corrupted, co-opted by opportunists, merchandise sellers, and other untrustworthy riff-raff.
Verily, is Children of Dune an end of an era. It’s nostalgic for a long-forgotten past, as the new slowly, reluctantly, erases the old. This ennui permeates through the novel, and it’s a tone that works really well.
Herbert’s third novel also manages to strike a solid balance between its two predecessors.
It succeeds in being an intellectual book (which Dune Messiah largely fails) whilst telling a compelling story not dissimilar to the first book. Leto’s II’s own journey mirrors his father’s, providing some great callbacks to the original novel.
And whilst it’s not perfect, Children of Dune provides a satisfying end to the trilogy, echoing elements of a Shakespearean tragedy.
Herbert's Writing Style Still Frustrates
Herbert is a frustrating writer.
He’s highly intellectual, clearly, and as a big fan of philosophical novels, I can respect that. But he has a tendency to let esoteric ideas and tyrannical prose get in the way of the story & world-building.
This is a problem for all but the most patient readers.
Vague meandering and extended monologues, continue their tyrannical reign in Herbert’s third novel, which is massively frustrating.
Unfortunately, if you didn’t like the writing style in Dune or Dune Messiah, you’ll have the same difficulties with Children of Dune.
Children of Dune is a solid entry in Herbert’s Dune universe. As ever, it’s thought-provoking and atmospheric.
And yet I can’t help but feel that I like the idea of Dune, more than I like Dune.
The world-building is undeniably excellent, but there’s a fog that settles over the reader of Herbert’s writing. Its vagueness has a tendency to get in the way of the plot. The dialogue is grand, but inauthentic. Motivations are unclear and sometimes illogical.
But one thing Dune cannot be criticised for is its depth. And whilst, at times, Herbert’s trilogy threatens to stumble over its own ambition, its scope has to be commended.
It’s very flawed brilliance.