I recently finished Children of Dune, a classic sci-fi 408 page long masterpiece by Frank Herbert. Frank Herbert is an American author (1920-1986) who wrote Dune and its sequels. His son, Brian Herbert, and the writer Kevin J. Anderson later continued the series with Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune. This book is one of the best selling science fiction books, and it won the 1966 Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. The series follows the complex biology, politics, religion, and technology of an empire in the future. I chose to read this book because Frank Herbert is one of the best authors and storytellers, and I loved all his other books I have read (Dune and Dune Messiah).
In this continuation of Paul Muad’dib’s story, his twin children- Ghanima and Leto II- want to finish what their father started- The Golden Path (4,000 years of peace). However, this plan requires Leto to leave their sietch (fortress-city) and go to Jacurutu. To do this, they use an assassination attempt from the House Corrino (emperor Paul overthrew) to fake Leto’s death. The attack was made by Irulan’s sister, Wensicia, who wants her nephew (Farad’n) to retake the throne. But Farad’n takes the plans for him into his own hands, and they all fall into doing exactly what the Lady Jessica (Paul’s Bene Gesserit witch mother) wants for her own plans. Meanwhile, the twin’s aunt Alia is regent, and the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen wants to take over. As a ghost. He then manages this by taking over Alia’s mind. While this happens, Leto is in Jacurutu, being forced to have and tell them his visions (he has the same prescient power his father and Ghanima have). He later runs away. Telling what he does afterward would be spoiling the story.
I liked the way Frank Herbert took everything established as ‘good’ and ‘right’ in the last book and completely spun it around. In Dune Messiah, we are told that Paul walks into the desert as a solution for all the corruption and violence. In Children of Dune, it says that, “Leto possessed two advantages: he had committed himself upon a path from which there was no turning back, and he had accepted the terrible consequences to himself. His father still hoped there was a way back and had made no final commitment” (pg. 344). This takes our ideas of Paul’s choice being the solution and flips it to being his cowardice. This shows amazing writing skills and an ability to show realistic causes and effects of actions, when most sci-fi writers would stop at ‘and the main character became the ruler and instantly turned it to a democracy and everything was all good’. It shows detail and careful thinking. It is these that make this series what it is.
The main characters, Ghanima and Leto II, were extremely interesting to read about. Their single mindedness and single organism-like actions and relationship was challenging, ethics-wise. Now, in 2017 (soon to be 2018), we have a very individual centered way of viewing things. Ghanima and Leto II behave as almost one creature, as I mentioned earlier. And their prescient powers make them even less individuals and more of communities. It challenges our modern ethics to think of them as more than one person. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is when Leto II says, “I am not, in truth, my father or this helper. Then again, I am not the Second Leto” (pg. 404). This shows their non-individuality, and it almost is the opposite of more modern stories of finding yourself and being your own person.
I’d compare this author to C.S. Lewis. Many of his books have Christian themes, and the Dune series has similar religious themes. From the state of Paul Muad’dib being the Messiah and one of the huge events outside the book being the jihad; a word from Islam meaning a struggle/fight with their enemies for their God and faith. Right off the bat, there are many Muslim ideas in this piece of literature. However, this is not what C.S. Lewis is to Christianity. This series takes the god emperor position of Paul and shows the corruption that comes from that. The chronicles of Narnia are stories basically based off of Biblical stories (they literally went to Heaven in The Last Battle). In this way, Dune is completely different, using Muslim ideas as a jumping off point for a complex political story, rather than using books to try and spread Muslim faith.
Here is one of the passages from Children of Dune, just before Alia is lost and the Baron returns,
“At the sound of the slamming door, Alia felt herself caught by everything she had attempted to deny. The other lives welled up within her like a hideous tide. Each demanding life pressed its face against her vision centers- a cloud of faces. Some presented mange-colored skin, others were callous and full of sooty shadows; there were mouths like moist lozenges. The pressure of the swarm washed over her in a current which demanded that she float free and plunge into them” (pg. 59).
This shocked me. The way Frank Herbert sets up the scene, using simple sounding sentence structures and using certain word choices- like ‘hideous tide’, ‘a cloud of faces’, and calling those lives a ‘swarm’. It makes the following lines of ‘No… no… no…’ and ‘I’m going insane. I’m losing my mind.’ even more terrifyingly striking. The more basic language is so different, it jumps out. It is, all in all, a good example of Frank Herbert’s writing.
This book is a wonderful continuation of the Dune series, and I believe that it deserves a 10. If I could rate this book better, I would without any second thought. In terms of science fiction, it is the Lord of the Rings to this marvelous genre.
P.S. There was a movie made about the first book. The movie does not compare to the book, but here is the trailer: