9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The world according to Frank Herbert,
This review is from: God Emperor Of Dune: The Fourth Dune Novel (Paperback)
God Emperor of Dune's reputation precedes it. Even in the context of a series of sequels that are generally perceived to be of lower quality than the original Dune, the fourth book in Frank Herbert's sci-fi saga still manages to distinguish itself in most people's minds as the series' plodding, self-indulgent and pretentious nadir. Certainly, it's hard to avoid the sense that Herbert is testing his readers' goodwill here, smuggling his grand statement on the workings of humanity into a mass-market sci-fi paperback with a garish cover. Nonetheless there is something undeniably appealing about God Emperor of Dune's extremism, its refusal to play to the gallery.
Leto II, who at the end of Children of Dune had accepted an irreversible and slow metamorphosis into a sandworm in order to pursue the mysterious `golden path,' is now thousands of years old, rules over the universe with meticulous despotism, and bears a more than passing physical resemblance to Jabba the Hutt. Bored and desperate for humanity to finally show itself capable of surviving on its own by escaping his prescient visions and deposing him, he is delighted to discover that the latest product of his Atreides breeding programme cannot be seen by prescience. This sets the stage for what is, essentially, a philosophical dialogue bolted awkwardly to a medieval courtly drama.
The latter provides what little plot can be found here, with a not particularly convincing love triangle between the autocratic God Emperor, a saintly young woman genetically designed to tempt Leto's increasingly diminished humanity, and the brash head of Leto's military - the latest in a long line of clones taken from the dead flesh of Duncan Idaho, the Atreides swordmaster that featured prominently in the first three books. Most of the characters are reasonably well developed - Leto himself, so unknowably dull in Children, is a particularly engaging presence here, his keenly-felt loss of humanity contrasting with a bored, arrogant despair at the short-sighted stupidity of the human race he has never truly been a part of. The character of Duncan Idaho, grappling with a loss of identity brought on by the discovery that he is merely the latest in a long line of facsimiles, is yet another example of Herbert's tremendous talent for taking worn-out sci-fi clichés and making them feel fresh, engaging and weird. Unfortunately, the character of Leto and Duncan's love interest is barely developed at all - a terrible missed opportunity, as her dilemma of choosing between spiritual, religious love and physical, human love is a powerful one that this book could have explored from an unusual perspective.
However, the meat of the book is taken up by Herbert's use of Leto as a mouthpiece through which to espouse his views on a wide range of subjects, including the nature of language, the recording of history, the boundaries between statecraft and religion, and the balance between secure autocracy and chaotic anarchy. The effect is not unlike being cornered in a pub by an intelligent, garrulous and intoxicated veteran of the counter-culture who is in the process of reconsidering his liberal stance, and the enjoyment one can derive from this book is entirely dependent on just how engaging you find the company of Leto/Frank. For what it's worth, I'd say the musings on the nature of language and its ability to lock people into certain ways of thinking are genuinely interesting, particularly when juxtaposed with the Dune series' theme of self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, it's a brave book that points out the limitations of a universe defined by words, even as it manages to express its philosophical ideas with far greater clarity than, say, the dreadful second half of Children of Dune. On the other hand, the passages on the roles of gender and homosexuality in the military struck me as ludicrously simpleminded, and there are numerous passages where Herbert fails to make his point clearly, before having Leto huff that these darned humans are just too slow on the uptake.
So, a difficult book to review. It's certainly not typical sci-fi blockbuster fare, and anyone expecting a rip-roaring adventure in the vein of Dune is likely to be disappointed. It's not exactly a rigorous work of philosophy either, consisting as it does of almost entirely unsupported and heavily generalised assertions. If, however, you've been reading the little chapter headings in the previous Dune books and thought, "I wish there were more of these," this may well be the book for you.
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Initial post: 22 Oct 2013 13:03:59 BDT
anthony mayer says:
I have purchased god emperor, chapter house, heretics of dune, dune messiah, and children of dune in the last week, paid for them, I would like to read them but I am still waiting for them on my kindle, how do you tell them, I sent an E-mail reply was We do not sell e-books. Amazon I am still waiting.
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