Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Index

CHILDREN OF DUNE

A novel by Frank Herbert (1984, Berkley Science Fiction [original copyright 1976])
Book 3 in the Dune Chronicles

Paul's twins attempt to avoid possession by the many lives in their memories, and create a plan to save humanity from the religion of Muad'dib.

 

 

1+ stars+

Read July 22nd to 31st, 2002, for the second time  
    Yuck. What was that? There was an entire section of about 100 pages that I enjoyed in the middle of the book, but the rest said nothing and did nothing.

With the exception of that section in the middle, this book uttered complete nonsense. Every time the characters spoke, the meaning of the words were lost on me. The sentences didn't even make sense to me. The one possibility I entertain is that it was all philosophical in nature. I admit that I don't understand philosophy -the hard core stuff. I read it over and over, and don't glimpse any meaning behind it. That's exactly how I felt reading most of this book.

From the very beginning, people are plotting. But all of the meaning is lost in Bene Gesserit axioms. The characters seem to understand it, but I have not clue what they were trying to justify. Everything that Ghanima and Jessica say seems meaningless. At the beginning and end, Leto's dialog and thought processes seem similarly indecipherable.

Characters have deep revelations based on what others say or do, or by analyzing things. Not once did I see logic in the way these revelations were revealed. Not even after rereading sections of the book could I figure out why the characters had revelations.

A prime example occurs somewhat near the beginning of the book. Leto and Stilgar go out into the desert overnight. They say nothing to each other, do nothing, until dawn. Suddenly, after arguing for two minutes about nonsense, Leto sparks some internal thought in Stilgar with a single phrase. How did this happen? Stilgar comes to a conclusion that satisfies himself, but I was not satisfied in the slightest.

The entire precept for this book seems to come out of the blue. I thought Dune Messiah ended wonderfully, and partly made up for the lackluster beginning. Paul had a wonderful end there.

So what happened? This book deals with Paul returned as The Prophet, somebody who rants meaningless dialog to the populace, raving against the religion of Muad'dib. Did we need to resurrect him this way? He serves no purpose whatsoever. Alia fares far worse, however. When did she start struggling against all those memories from her heritage? She becomes possessed, with the various "memories" inside her vying for control, and her grandfather, the former Baron Harkonnen, finally succeeds. Yuck! Even the internal struggles were uninteresting. And in the final moment of conflict, we see the final struggle between Alia and the Baron from an external point of view, which is worse.

The book starts equally with the children of Paul, as would be expected by the title. Ghanima doesn't get much to do, though, being instead a sounding board for her twin brother, Leto II. Why is he not Leto III, when the true Leto II died at the end of Dune? Leto goes on and on about a Golden Path, which will destroy Paul's religion, bring order to the universe, end the corruption of Alia's priesthood, which will allow humanity to be reborn in a thousand years.

Okay.

I am wondering why we are seeing so much mythology and strange things now. After two books, why have we not heard about the legend of Jacuturu (where a band of water-stealing Fremen once lived)? If it's such a powerful legend, why didn't it pop up in casual conversation earlier? Sandtrout also play a large part in this book. Why haven't we heard of them before? The same goes for Irulan's sister (why wasn't she trained as a Bene Gesserit, as well), and Alia's memory conflict.

The main reason for Leto's Golden Path is not to topple Alia's regime, however. He wants to preserve the spice. The ecological revolution that Paul sparked is destroying the desert, and thus the spice, too quickly. His solution is to become the ruler and slow it down, but in the end, we are still told that the worms will become extinct in 200 years. I suppose the delay will allow gigantic stockpiles of spice to be formed.

Jessica's plans are to control Leto and Ghanima, similar goals to Alia's. But I don't know what she really wanted to accomplish. When Leto fakes his death, Gurney Halleck takes him prisoner and force feeds him the deadly spice essence, which causes him to start having the same conflict with his memories as Alia. He manages to get a grip, thanks to an ancient Egyptian ruler in his blood (?) and his father's memory-self (don't ask). So he escapes, and ends up wearing a sandtrout armor, as he coaxes the sandtrout to envelope him. He will eventually become an intelligent worm, with awesome power.

And that's the part I liked about this book. Leto's struggle did what Alia's did not: it intrigued and interested. As Leto kept going back into his trance, he had some interesting insights. His plots within plots also became interesting, as he started to follow his visions the way Paul did in Dune Messiah.

Before this point, I was ready to give this book the lowest rating.

After a nearly-fatal conflict with Alia, Jessica allows herself to be kidnapped by Duncan Idaho, and brought to the home planet of Farad'n Corrino, grandson to the old Emperor whom Paul defeated in Dune. I could be mistaken, but isn't his father the one person that Paul could not see in his visions in Dune Messiah? His decedents could be the one that will overthrow Leto in the next book.

Farad'n was not interesting until Jessica got to work on him. Suddenly, Farad'n become an acute thinker. After spending so much time learning history, but not being a beguiling person, he is suddenly shifted into the Bene Gesserit way. How is it possible that he became a Bene Gesserit so quickly? Did it not take half a lifetime to train Paul? Isn't this what the Bene Gesserit train all their lives for? Suddenly he could see plans within plans. When did this happen?

But his training was interesting to a mild degree, and didn't take anything away from the good middle stuff of this book. It followed the shape of the book, as well. Suddenly, after doing nothing for a third of the book, everybody is plotting, and plotting within those plots. As I mentioned, I liked Leto's ordeal once he reached Jacuturu. I also enjoyed Alia's scheming and Idaho's death wish.

But then we get to the lackluster ending. Alia's death was anti-climactic, but Paul's stabbing was a relief to put the character out of his misery. Once again the characters start spewing nonsense, having meaningless discussions that say nothing. I didn't understand a single word of plotting when Jessica finally declared Farad'n a Bene Gesserit. And when Leto and Paul met up, they started saying nothing, as well.

The main premise for this book was that Paul had been locked into a single vision, and couldn't control it because he couldn't stray from it. But in Dune Messiah, it was made very clear that Paul was choosing the paths of his destiny very carefully. He was not set on a single path, even after he was blinded. He knew what decisions he had to make to get where he wanted. Sometimes he backed himself into a corner, and that's when he decided to walk into the desert.

Leto is trying to avoid that trap, which didn't exist in the first place. And by the end of the book, I'm not sure that he has succeeded. It is explained to us that Leto will become like a Pharaoh, and will live for 4000 years as a tyrant. But the Empire will have peace under him, and will emerge renewed after his reign ends. Why he has to marry Ghanima, I don't know. It doesn't make sense. It certainly makes sense for Farad'n to father Ghanima's children, to continue the Atreides line. But I'm not sure that the line should continue.

And anyway, won't her children be born Abominations, as well? She is addicted to the spice. I don't really understand this. I had understood from Dune that Alia was only an abomination because Jessica was pregnant while ingesting the spice essence. I thought that if she had another child later, that one would not be an abomination. So why were Chani's children "abominations"? If every Reverend Mother was addicted to the spice essence, that means she shouldn't get pregnant ever again.

The chapter headings tended towards more babble. However, I saw some interesting tidbits there, which can be related to our own society, namely how it degenerates if people are given too much freedom, how governments become corrupt and the elite money-grabbers start controlling it. But it wasn't enough to satisfy, either, when the chapters were bogged down.

And so this book was a huge disappointment. I didn't feel like I was progressing through the book until Leto faked his death by the tigers. I had remembered very little from the first time I read it, and now I see why. I remembered Leto's transformation, and some sort of confrontation with Paul, and I think that is what I will remember about it this time around, as well. Because there is really nothing else to the book. No plots, no giant conflicts. So many characters, like Stilgar, were completely wasted. Unless somebody can explain the appeal of this book, I don't even have a desire to keep this book on my shelves. Hopefully the upcoming mini-series can shed some light on it.

 
   

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