Friday 9 April 2010

Book Review: Frank Herbert – Dune Messiah

Warning – may contain some spoilers for the first book.

This is the second book in the rather extensive Dune series written by the above author and then his son with a collaborator.

The first book, Dune, is set some 20,000 years in the future and centres around the aristocratic House Atreides – one of many royal houses affiliated to the Imperial Emperor Shaddam. Fearing the growing popularity and power of the House Atreides, Shaddam gives the house responsibility for the hostile desert planet of Arakkis (the only known source of the spice melange that enables space travel and various religious rituals). Arrakis was previously the responsibility of House Harkonnen, the enemies of Atreides who use the inter-planetary move to plan an attack against the Atreides. The book follows the politics and intrigue of the great houses and the fate of the sole heir of the Atreides Duke Paul who following the fall of his family, hides amongst the fierce desert “Fremen” tribes, until the time he can exact revenge for his families downfall.

The second book sees Paul Atreides as a great ruler having exiled Shaddam, married his daughter the princess Irulan (as well as his Fremen childhood sweetheart Chani) and conquered vast planetary systems. His use of the spice melange has led to him having visions of the future. Combined with his victory over Shaddam, this has led to the people of the various planets under his rule almost deifying him and viewing him as a messiah of sorts – a great religious and spiritual leader.

Paul however has become cynical of the people’s beliefs and wary of the things he has had to do to retain power. His visions plague him as he sees violent images of the future which include the suffering of his family.

At the same time, various enemies are lining up against him, working together to create an intricate plot in the hope it will be complicated enough to get past his abilities as a seer. These include Princess Irulan, the Bene Gesserit witches who undergo rigorous mental and physical training in order to influence the houses they marry to help preserve the royal bloodlines, the Bene Tleilaxu face-changers who can change image at will and bring back versions of the dead by placing their bodies in cryo-tanks.

Where the first book was fast-paced and exciting with protagonists that you come to care about although in my review of the original novel I did say that occasionally I felt that the novel went off into la-la land (talking about prana-nervature, awareness spectrum narcotics, the panoplia prophetica and hypno-ligation of the psyche amongst other things). In this book this was particularly the case. Pages and pages of the book are devoted to pseudo-psycho-philosophical ramblings which barely made sense. The characters have become extremely self-involved and spend the book skulking and moping.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first, although the ending was curious and got me thinking about what might happen next. This books continues the story of Paul Atreides to its conclusion and leaves you angling to find out if this really is the end and what will become of Paul’s children.

Book Review: Frank Herbert - Dune


  1. lol at the obvious reference to saddam and iraq.

  2. I LOVE the Dune series! Yes, Herbert does get overly involved in science sometimes, but that kind of makes the whole world he creates more detailed and real. And, builds up so much for understanding the future books more clearly!

    :) I hope you enjoy the others!!! (although the characters do kind of lose their innocence/charm and become moody, selfish, arrogant, etc.)

  3. C: Saddam Hussein? Hussein was an obscure imprisoned party functionary when _Dune_ came out; the Baathists weren't even in power when Herbert was researching & writing it.