A Great Continuation of Herbert's “Dune” Series!
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on 24 August 2020
Frank Herbert’s “God Emperor of Dune” picks up 3,500 years after the events of “Children of Dune,” with Leto II Atreides now a massive human-sandworm hybrid ruling over the Empire as its God Emperor. He underwent the bodily transformation to create a period of enforced peace that would preserve humanity and redirect its worst impulses. Further, he took control of the Bene Gesserit breeding program, managing the various descendants of his sister Ghanima Atreides and Farad’n Corrino (Harq al-Ada). Further, ecological changes have turned Dune into a lush planet, with only a small area set aside for desert. The worms no longer exist and Leto controls the various factions within the Empire by carefully doling out spice from his private hoard.
Herbert uses this fourth book in the “Dune” series to debate the nature of rulers, religion, and historical memory. He writes, “The Romans broadcast the pharonic disease like grain farmers scattering the seeds of next season’s harvest – Caesars, Kaisers, tsars, imperators, caseris … palatos … d----d pharaohs!... We are myth-killers, you and I, Moneo. That’s the dream we share. I assure you from a God’s Olympian perch that government is a shared myth. When the myth dies, the government dies” (pg. 49). Building on this, Herbert continues through debate between Leto and his majordomo, Moneo, “Throughout our history… the most potent use of words has been to round out some transcendental event, giving that event a place in the accepted chronicles, explaining the event in such a way that ever afterward we can use those words and say: ‘this is what it meant.’ …That’s how events get lost in history” (pg. 265). Additionally, Leto says, “‘The ultimate aristocrat dies within me.’ And he thought: Privilege becomes arrogance. Arrogance promotes injustice. The seeds of ruin blossom” (pg. 272). In terms of religion, Herbert writes, “‘Religious institutions perpetuate a mortal master-servant relationship,’ Leto said. ‘They create an arena which attracts prideful human power-seekers with all of their nearsighted prejudices!’” (pg. 302).
Leto has the same powers of prescience as his father, Paul Muad’Dib Atreides, and he comments on those who would attempt to shape the future, “Most believe that a satisfactory future requires a return to an idealized past, a past which never in fact existed” (pg. 380). In the future, the only “Fremen” who remain are those who attempt to copy the rituals of the ancient people without the context or meaning. Leto says, “These Fremen do not know what is lost from their lives. They think they keep the essence of the old ways. This is a failure of all museums. Something fades; it dries out of the exhibits and is gone. The people who administer the museum and the people who come to bend over the cases and stare – few of them sense this missing thing. It drove the engine of life in earlier times. When the life is gone, it is gone” (pg. 401).
In terms of this book’s place in the “Dune” mythos, Herbert returns to the theme of the Butlerian Jihad and its prohibitions against advanced technology and artificial intelligence, especially as Leto uses tech from Ix and must negotiate the delicate balance of powers between the Ixians, who are working with the Spacing Guild to develop an artificial substitute for the spice-derived abilities of the navigators, and the Bene Gesserit, who maintain the old proscriptions against advanced technology (pg. 175). Further, the Chapter House of the Bene Gesserit Order first appears and their name will later inspire the title of the sixth book (pg. 76).
Fans of the “Dune” series will find more of Herbert’s ideas on full display here and the change in time keeps the series fresh while further expanding on its message and meaning.
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