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Children of Dune Book Review

Children of Dune Book Review

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.

Conclusion

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.

3/5

Dune Messiah is available at Bookshop.org in paperback and hardback. 

Dune Messiah Book Review

Dune Messiah Book Review

Oh dear.

Dune Messiah is a mess of a book.

It successfully achieves the stunning feat of being half the length of its predecessor, whilst reading as if it’s three times as long.

The biggest crime that Dune Messiah commits, however, is that it’s tedious and boring. Sci-Fi is meant to fill you with wonder, awe, and excitement about the fantastical possibilities of science, whereas this is like reading the phone book backwards.

And that’s frustrating because the world itself, the ‘Duniverse’, is actually wonderfully creative.

He's not the Messiah, He's a Very Naughty Boy

At the end of Dune, our hero Paul Atreides braved the desert of Arrakis (or Dune) and raised an army of Fremen against the Emperor – installing himself as the top guy.

The beginning of Dune Messiah tells of the Jihad that saw Paul’s Fremen conquer the galaxy and exterminate 16 billion people in the process. Grim, but nonetheless fascinating.

So Herbert, naturally, decided to gloss over this huge moment in history and start Dune Messiah 12 years later. It’s baffling.

This isn’t the rollicking narrative-driven epic of Dune – the novel is a study of how bureaucracy and deification can lead to the downfall of governments.

Not particularly thrilling. 

But that’s exactly what this is – bureaucracy in print. Here’s an example of what to expect:

“Production growth and income growth must not get out of step in my Empire. That is the substance of my command. There are to be no balance-of-payment difficulties between the different spheres of influence. And the reason for this is simply because I command it.” 

The novel is full of menial prose like this. 

It’s jam-packed with pseudo-intellectual musings on government and religion, internal monologues sprawling all over the place, and dialogue goes absolutely nowhere.

Still, it’s not all bad. Herbert’s a smart guy and, as ever, there are some great quotes.

And much like Dune, Dune Messiah holds a mirror up to the reader, challenging their real-world views.

Meanwhile, the world remains a fascinating place, and additions such as the Tleilaxu faction – an engineering race – and the Gholans, add another excellent layer of lore.

Conclusion

Perhaps Frank Herbert sought to write a metatext, the prose as bureaucratic as the themes in the text. But I bet he didn’t.

Instead, Dune Messiah takes all of the worst parts of Dune and consolidates them into a 300 page book. 

Woeful, tedious for long stretches, and saved only by the fact that the world of its predecessor remains in-tact and a thoroughly interesting setting – I cannot and do not recommend Dune Messiah.

1/5

Dune Messiah is available at Bookshop.org in paperback and hardback.