A novel by Frank Herbert
(1983, Berkley Science Fiction [original copyright 1969])
Book 2 in the Dune Chronicles
As others conspire against his despotic rule, Paul tries to navigate
Time to find a peaceful path for his progeny.
Read November 29th to
December 3rd, 2001 for the second time
Inferior to the original in every way, this book still piqued my interest. The politics were still fairly interesting, even if some of the political figures were not. I
nearly bumped the rating up a star because I really liked the ending.
Dune Messiah picks up twelve years after the original Dune. A lot has happened, but in the same way, not much has happened. Paul becoming Emperor did not stop the jihad, as he hoped it would at the end of the previous book. He also hoped that if the jihad did continue, that he would be able to control it, to keep the body count from rising extraordinarily high. I don't think he succeeded at that, either. Chani shares his bed, and Irulan wants an heir. She has turned whiny, but thankfully, we don't see too much of her.
There is a conspiracy going on behind Paul's back. He has immersed himself so deeply into his psychic visions that he believes there is no room for uncertainty. But certain oracles, like
Guild steersmen and perhaps the Bene Gesserit who are adept at reading the future, are hidden from him. It appears that anybody associated with a steersman is also hidden, similar to the bond the people of D'hara had to Richard Rahl in
Blood of the Fold.
Hidden in this conspiracy are the guildsman Edric, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Princess Irulan, and a
Tleilaxu face dancer. They discuss many different possibilities, but eventually decide that they must help Paul defeat himself. I liked the Face Dancer's ability to change his appearance, and to mimic various people, but it is strange that he is introduced here like this. There was no hint of these people in
Dune, or their incredible abilities, based on introducing controlled mutations. They even created a Kwisatz Haderach of their own! Without the Universe knowing about it! Even the Bene Gesserit didn't know about it! But it gives them the clue to Paul's destruction
-their "lord" destroyed himself because he couldn't handle his prescient
ability. Paul is close to doing the same; all he needs is a little push...
So they use another extraordinary ability that the Tleilaxu have, reconstituting dead flesh and making it whole again, and present Paul with a gift -a ghola (essentially a clone) of Duncan Idaho, his trusted mentor. The ghola looks like Duncan, and even remembers some things about his previous life, though he is far from whole. Most people are disgusted by the ghola, but Paul accepts it anyway.
The rest of the book describes Paul's attempt to find the best path in the future, the one that will avoid so much bloodshed, while also dealing with his religious cult and the soldiers who crusade for him. I want to know how the Fremen crossed space to get to all those planets that they conquered. I seriously doubt the Guild would transport them for free, and even blackmailed by Paul with the spice, they could have easily "lost" some of the troops, because they
did not support the way the Fremen took over the Universe. The jihad is a minor part of the story, however, even considering Paul's guilt over it.
Stilgar, who was supposed to be governor of Arrakis at the end of the previous book, seems to be the lead general in the crusades. He does nothing in this book except wonder at Paul's abilities. He is completely wasted. Coming upon Alia naked and fighting a warrior
drone ( a cool scene), he drops everything to cry out that she needs a mate! Also wasted is Chani. Gone is the strong woman we saw in
Dune, replaced with someone who is very distant, always complaining about her lack of fertility. But I did like her practical nature -Paul must have an heir, so if Chani is barren, the heir might as well come from Irulan! Paul gets angry at that suggestion -Irulan was nothing more than a pawn to obtain the throne. But what is unknown to them is that Irulan has been feeding Chani a
contraceptive drug, hoping to have a child of her own.
The Bene Gesserit still hope to have the Atreides bloodline, even going so far as to say that an offspring between Paul and his sister would be acceptable, and might even create superior genes. There is a lot of talk from the Bene Gesserit, Paul, Chani, Stilgar, and others, which is simply talk. They spout philosophy, the words of which are hollow. At several points Paul cries out at them, asking them what they mean! What are they talking about? And I want to know, also. Most of it simply didn't have any significance. There were none of the short, significant conversations that we had in the last book, between important people. Because most of the people here were not really important.
The most significant person, besides Paul, was the Ghola, named Hayt, who was searching for his previous personality, reaching deep inside to try and find the Duncan Idaho that he
believes resides within him. But even his thoughts and discussions are meaningless for the most part. I did enjoy his conversations with Alia, though, and his decision to kiss her, leaving her flustered...
Alia is the other important person in this story, though I'm not sure exactly where she fits in. She is always striving to learn what her brother knows, always one step or more behind. She has become a religious icon all herself, and hates the status even as Paul does his. But she cannot escape it, because she is Fremen, and she belongs on Arrakis, where they insist on worshiping her.
The turnaround for the book comes when Paul decides that he must end the bloody conquests. He goes to a little hut to gather information from one of his former bodyguards about traitors, and as he leaves, his group is attacked by atomics, the radiation of which blinds all his men. Stilgar escapes, but even Paul is blinded. Though his eyes are destroyed, he stands up and takes charge, holding onto his oracular vision so tightly that he can see without them. People are amazed, and frightened. Fremen custom says a blind man must be given to the desert, but Paul can see!
He knows that this is the only way, and when Chani turns up pregnant, he knows that she must die in childbirth, also, a victim of the
contraceptives that remain in her bloodstream after she went on the purifying diet of the Fremen. Paul leads his men until she is due, then takes her out to the desert, where she gives birth and dies. At that time, Hayt reverses the conditioning that he was
given by the traitorous Tleilaxu, and refuses to kill Paul as he was subconsciously ordered to do, thus cementing his transformation into Duncan Idaho.
The most intense part of the book comes with Paul's shock at learning that he and Chani had twins, instead of the lone girl he was expecting from his vision. His
oracular vision fails, then, and he is truly blinded, forever. The Tleilaxu make their move, then, holding his children hostage in exchange for creating a ghola out of Chani, presumably to get a grasp on Paul, so that they could control the Royal Family. I am not quite clear on what they ask for, but Paul is given one last vision, through the eyes of his newborn but very aware son, and he uses that vision to kill the
The ending sees Paul relinquishing the throne and walking out into the desert, where he is given legend status, because his body can never be found. The children are given into the care of Irulan, who has renounced the Bene Gesserit and found love in these newborns. Alia and Duncan Idaho go off to make love, presumably giving Alia the child that she sees in her visions. But the monarchy is apparently safe, because Paul was able to discredit the
Tleilaxu and the Guild at the same time, Irulan discredited the Bene Gesserit in the same way that Jessica did at the end of the
first book by leaving them, and Paul discredited himself by becoming blind and his religious organization by showing them to be corrupt. Presumably the jihad is ended, and all his enemies are licking their wounds. Will Alia take control now? Or will time stand still until Paul's children are old enough to rule?
The main problem with this book, I think, is that the enemies presented are nowhere near as interesting as the Harkonnens of the first book. They talk and talk, but never
really do anything. Worse, they are not very interesting as characters. The
author ponders many mystical things, and he seems to have an obsession with
the word "coriolis", as he often applies the term to strange and
The story only has one layer of subterfuge, unlike the layers upon layers that the first book presented. The political talk was mildly interesting, but most of it was irrelevant except to show us what has happened over the last dozen years. One of the great powers has also stolen a worm;
presumably this will be an open storyline to see if they can control it and create another Dune.
Where were Gurney, Jessica, and the worms? The most interesting parts of Dune took place in the desert, among the Fremen. There was none of that here. The religious zeal shown by the people of Arakeen paled in comparison. From what I recall, the next book is just as uninteresting, and the series picks up again with the fourth book. I remember
only fragments of the rest of the series -I hope that I'm wrong.
This book is necessary to continue the series, and skipping it to get to the next book is not recommended. Though the book doesn't really drag on, up until the point where Paul is blinded, I was not very interested in the story. I appreciated his sacrifice at the end, not only of himself, but of his lover as well.
The sacrifice makes the story worth reading, but don't expect another Dune.