Chapterhouse: Dune continues directly from Heretics of Dune. However, where Heretics seemed like an overly long prologue, Chapterhouse starts to provide push the characters in interesting ways. There’s more conflict, both internal and external. While the Bene Gesserit finally confront the Honored Matres, some of the characters are forced to make difficult decisions. Overall, this is far from my favorite of the Dune saga, but it’s a vast improvement over Heretics and left me wanting more.
Chapterhouse does exhibit one of my pet peeves about Frank Herbert’s writing, and science fiction writing in general. Too often, the book’s political themes come across through heavy-handed, didactic dialogue rather than through plot and character development. The Bene Gesserit sisters sometimes talk as if constantly quoting a political philosophy textbook. Frank Herbert had strong views on bureaucracy and government, but I wish he’d trusted readers more to discover those themes for themselves.
Unfortunately, Frank Herbert passed away before he had a chance to finish his story. Heretics and Chapterhouse were written as the first two books of a trilogy. Both books strongly suggest that there is a larger threat in the universe that endangers all of humanity. Indeed, Chapterhouse ends on one of the most tantalizing cliffhangers in science fiction history. It seemed Herbert was ready to take the story in a radically new direction. Frank Herbert’s son Brian did eventually write two sequels, Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, along with Kevin J. Anderson. The authors claim the story was based on notes left by Frank Herbert for a Dune 7. Unfortunately, those notes have never been released to the public, so it is impossible to know how their resolution to the saga compares with Frank Herbert’s original vision.
My journey through Dune continues next week with Road to Dune, a look at some of Frank Herbert’s early drafts of Dune and notes…