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A novel by Frank Herbert
(1987, Berkley Science Fiction)
[original copyright 1985]

Dune Chronicles, book 6

As the Honored Matres destroy Bene Gesserit worlds, Mother Superior hatches a plan to destroy them, while taking their most valued traits.

And so ends the Dune saga. Although this was a sequel to Heretics of Dune, taking place only a short time later (relatively speaking), the book did nothing until the last hundred pages, which is the opposite of the last book.

Through most of the book, the characters talk, about a variety of things, and do absolutely nothing. There are books that are mainly plot, and there are character novels. This is neither. Instead, all the talk gives us insight into the society, and how the Bene Gesserit think, and why they act the way they do. But it makes for a really slow moving story.

There were a lot of unnecessary parts, too. I wonder how much of it was setup for the next novel, which was never written. There is Lucilla, for example, who was one of Duncan Idaho's teachers in Heretics. She carries an entire world of Reverend Mothers in her mind, Shared as the Honored Matres destroyed their world. Lucilla is kept alive, but brought in front of Great Honored Matre, to discuss politics and social values. Then, she is killed. Not only that, but Great Honored Matre, who learned so much about the Bene Gesserit and was very interested, is killed by her second in command near the climax of the story. The knowledge is only for the readers, and never gets passed to other characters, even in part. That is poor storytelling, considering how much of it we got. Then there is the Rabbi, and his daughter Rebecca, who gains Lucilla's Other Memories thus saving them. But what happens to Rebecca? She remains on the no-ship when Sheeana and Duncan hijack it at the end. There is no closure, but I assume that would have come in the next book. Similarly the many conversations with the Tleilaxu Master, who also stays on board the ship. I expect that with his many hidden tissue samples of face dancers and special people from history, such as Paul Atreides and others, that he is simply setup for the next book, never published.

We learn more about the Honored Matres through these conversations, and through Murbella, the one Duncan captured, who strives to become a Reverend Mother. Apparently they came back from the Scattering unwillingly, because they were chased back by some unknown threat. The Honored Matres were slaves become masters, derived from Fish Speakers and Reverend Mothers. Yet somebody genetically created a human-animal cross-breed that hunted them, called Futars. It is thought that the Futar Handlers created a biological weapon against the Honored Matres.

The Honored Matres are conquering the galaxy, creating slave populations, but do not care about repercussions. Thus the Bene Gesserit, under the leadership of Darwi Odrade (last seen in Heretics of Dune), are worried that their enemies will cause the extinction of humanity, as their way leads to an evolutionary dead end.

Through the book, Murbella learns to become a Bene Gesserit, and her mutual sexual addition to Duncan Idaho lessens as she does so. Duncan becomes a Mentat. Sheeana is waiting for the sandworms, as Odrade is turning Chapterhouse into another Dune, letting desert take over, in the hopes of creating their own spice. So far, they must rely on their stockpiles, as Rakis was destroyed in the last book, and the Tleilaxu have been exterminated (except for the captive Master), so they cannot produce spice. The worms finally appear near the end of the book, so tiny, but destined to become much larger. There are thousands of them. There is also the ten year old ghola of Miles Teg, which Odrade hopes to use as his former self in a strategic attack on the Honored Matre governing planet of Junction.

The attack was dull, but the consequences interesting. The book could have started in the last hundred and fifty pages. Murbella undergoes the spice agony, Teg's memories are restored, Odrade goes to Junction to surrender the Bene Gesserit, while providing Teg with information for his attack. Why use Gammu as a feint? How did the survivors have time to fall back to Junction? Regardless, the second in command kills Great Honored Matre, Teg's forces secure Junction, only to fall victim to the bloodless weapon the Honored Matres have hidden somewhere. Conveniently, they could only use the weapon once, so it is spent. Even the Ixian technologists cannot figure out how to reload.

So what was Odrade's plan? After the stunning defeat of Teg's army, Murbella comes down to the planet and takes control of the Honored Matres, pretending to be one of them, but trained under the Bene Gesserit. Odrade is killed at that time, a wasted moment. Then she leads them to Chapterhouse, where she takes control of the Bene Gesserit (she has Odrade's memories, so has every right to do so). Odrade's plan was to teach all Honored Matres the Bene Gesserit ways, and thus marry the incredible speed and sexual mastery of Honored Matre to the true teachings of the Bene Gesserit. As with Murbella, the Honored Matres (who desperately want Bene Gesserit skills) would see the folly of their old ways, or would die in the Spice Agony.

This story begs for a sequel. As does the last chapters with Duncan and Sheeana, who steal the no-ship they have been virtually imprisoned on, going into foldspace as Duncan erases their navigation banks. Sheeana and other Reverend Mothers don't want to see the result of Murbella's attempt at merging the two cultures. Duncan has been seeing visions of some advanced Face Dancers from the Scattering, and the only way to escape them was to send the no-ship into nowhere. They were not the only ones, as Odrade had sent out mini-scatterings of Bene Gesserit since the Honored Matre attacks started.

I wonder how the next book would have been shaped. I have no interest in reading the prequels and sequels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, even if they were written from notes left by Frank Herbert. But there is a lot of mention here of technology returning. They use computers and com-eyes to store data and to spy. One of Odrade's staff becomes a cyborg, because he was too invaluable to let die. There are many hints that another Butlerian Jihad was coming soon. Add to that the potential threat from the Scattering, worse than the Honored Matres, and the mysterious advanced Face Dancers from Duncan's vision, and it would make for an interesting series.

As for the six Dune novels, this one was only really interesting in the last hundred pages. That seems to be the theme for most of these books: A hundred pages of interesting material, with the exception of Dune and Heretics of Dune.


-- 2nd reading (paperback)
September 7th to 21st, 2008


-- First reading (paperback)
August 13th to 23rd, 1991


No review available.


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