For anyone who wants to learn more about Frank Herbert’s life and philosophy, I recommend picking up Timothy O’Reilly’s biography of Frank Herbert. O’Reilly’s book is an intellectual biography of the man, his influences, and his thought process. He also interviewed Herbert for the book. It’s available for free on Tim O’Reilly’s website.
Dune has often been called the science-fiction equivalent of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but compared to that oeuvre we have almost no scholarship about the development of the Dune saga. Certainly nothing like Christopher Tolkien’s fantastic History of Middle-earth series exists. Fortunately, The Road to Dune helps to remedy that, at least partially. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson provide an earlier draft of Dune, deleted chapters, as well as letters from Frank Herbert to his publisher.
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. Continue reading ““Chapterhouse: Dune” by Frank Herbert”
Heretics of Dune is where the Dune saga starts to falter. The book is set 1,500 years after Emperor Leto’s reign and the Scattering of humans into the far reaches of the galaxy. The story focuses on the Bene Gesserit, which is an interesting choice. The Bene Gesserit have been a mainstay of the series since the beginning, but they’ve always functioned as antagonists or secondary characters. As the book starts, the Bene Gesserit discover that the humans who went off during the Scattering are returning, but that they’re not the same.
Readers will either love God Emperor of Dune or hate it. It’s quite different from the previous Dune novels, or indeed any other book I’ve read. It takes place 3,500 years after the original Dune. Leto II rules as emperor and has transformed into sandworm. There are no epic battles and Leto’s dominance quickly squashes those few conspiracies against him. Rather, God Emperor of Dune feels like Leto’s attempt to educate the reader about politics and religion. The book is written in a quasi-epistolary format, with significant sections drawn from Leto’s secret journals, Bene Gesserit reports, and other primary sources. The book focuses on the relationship between the Leto, his majordomo Moneo, Moneo’s daughter and rebel leader Siona, and another Duncan Idaho ghola. The narrative follows these four as they attempt to make sense of Leto’s empire and Paul’s legacy.
This weekend, I’m attending the Mythgard Institute’s fifth Mythmoot, a conference that brings together fans and academics to talk about speculative fiction. I’m presenting a paper on the politics of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The schedule is available on the Mythmoot website. Hope to see some old friends there!
Children of Dune continues Dune Messiah‘s deconstruction of the hero. Alia becomes regent of the empire as Paul’s children, Ghanima and Leto II, struggle with their father’s legacy. As Alia struggles to maintain control over the empire, we see her lose her grip on reality. Like Paul, she’s both despot and victim. Meanwhile, a mysterious Preacher starts to criticize the empire and the state-sponsored religion.
Frank Herbert’s Dune is wildly popular. His sequels are not. Dune was a story about a young man’s rise to ultimate power. Dune Messiah is about his fall from grace. If Dune is the prototypical Campbellian Hero’s Journey, Dune Messiah is a deconstruction of the hero. In this book, we learn that Paul Muad’Dib has become a tyrant and that his rule has caused death and destruction, especially to those closest to him. Continue reading ““Dune Messiah” by Frank Herbert”
Over 50 years after its initial publication, Dune remains one of the most exotic sci-fi epics ever written. Set some 20,000 years in the future, it portrays a future that resembles the Middle Ages more than Star Trek. The galaxy is ruled by an emperor, along with several powerful feudal houses, the Space Guild corporate monopoly over space travel, and the Bene Gesserit religious order, all locked in an uneasy balance of power. Dune itself chronicles the struggle for the planet Arrakis, source of the crucial “spice” drug, as well as the rise of a new politico-religious leader, Paul Atreides. Of course, for many, the stars of the book are the giant sandworms, huge creatures hundreds of meters long the are both revered and feared by the local Fremen people. Continue reading ““Dune” by Frank Herbert”
Dune… Frank Herbert’s epic space opera is one of my favorite works of fiction. This summer, I’ll be rereading the saga as I do research for a paper I’m writing about the politics in Dune. I plan to present the paper in late June at the Mythgard Academy’s Mythmoot V conference. If you’ve never read these books or it’s been a while, feel free to join me in this reread.
The Spice must flow!