Children of Dune
First, let us set the stage. Children of Dune is the third book in Frank Herbert’s Dune series. Released back in 1976, the year before Star Wars, it was the first hardcover science fiction novel to become a best-seller. Now the original book, Dune, is a great story. It was so good that it had me quickly plunging into the next tale, Dune Messiah. However, I didn’t enjoy that book as much and I lost my motivation to keep reading the series. Yet after listening to the Dune Cast over on Retrozap, it got me back into the mood for some Dune, so I decided to jump back into the series. Thus I pulled Children of Dune off the bookshelf and submerged myself in the strange world of Frank Herbert.
Children of Dune is not the easiest book to read. The prose can be very wordy and dense at times. On top of that, the plot has an odd way of unloading a lot of ideas in the beginning. Then it meanders a bit, everything seems to be tossed to the wayside, and bam, it all comes back into play and finally makes sense. It’s a bit of a long con as the payoff in the story doesn’t come until later in the book. In a way, it’s the reverse effect of a Stephen King novel. Whereas King is great at building up stories and then has an awful habit of writing a satisfying ending, Herbert has a struggle with building up the story and manages a great ending. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone unless they’re motivated to read it. You’ll also have to read the first two books in series for this one to make any sense. But it is a fun journey in classic sci-fi, and a necessary stepping stone for those who want to read the entire series.
Getting into the plot, this book focuses on several characters, but the children of Paul Atreides serve as the central focus. Ghanima and Leto are both cursed and blessed with the memories of all of their ancestors. On one hand, this gives them immense knowledge. On the other, it threatens them with insanity and possession as they struggle to balance all those past lives and personalities. Together they must form a plan for their survival and the betterment of the galaxy. In opposition, they have to deal with the schemes of everyone else. On the throne is Alia, Paul’s sister, who is also dealing with a multitude of past lives and not faring nearly as well as the children. She’s clinging to power and grasping for ways to maintain her own survival. On faraway Salusa Secundus, House Corrino has their own plots to seize power as Prince Farad’n is groomed for a role of leadership by his scheming mother. Jessica, Paul’s mother, throws another wrench into everyone’s plans as she moves her own agenda that keeps everyone guessing on whether she’s once again working for the Sisterhood or not. And then there’s the mysterious Preacher, a blind man wandering out of the desert and preaching wisdom to anyone who will listen. With a gathering faithful, he threatens to upheave the balance of power for his own secretive motivations.
With all of these characters and their various schemes and power plays, there’s a ton of plotting in this book and not a lot of action. The early chapters are dominated by the twins fear that they’ll be deemed abominations and killed. There’s a lot of questioning on what path they should take. Eventually that path swings into motion, and the book gets a little better from then on out, but it feels like a long time coming. There is some worm riding in the book, and people do die, but there’s no big battles and there’s lots of posturing and speaking in riddles of the future. In can make the book tedious at times and a grind to get through. It doesn’t help any that each chapter begins with a little excerpt, each of which is so thick with dense prose as to be unreadable. Those little chapter openers are akin to reading a science textbook.
However, having said all that, there is a payoff as I mentioned before, and it’s actually pretty cool. The setup at the end of the book is wild and imaginative. In the end, with everyone’s scheming, someone’s plans win out. Does it make the whole thing worth it? Yeah, actually it does. I won’t spoil it even though the book is 40 years old, but it’s interesting to think about what impact this had on people back then. What ideas must it have spawned? In a way, that’s the interesting part of old stories. They’re the genesis of the stories we have today. They paved the way. Children of Dune might not be the best read ever, or even an easy story to read, but it can be worth it if you’re willing to finish it and invest the time. I give it a three out of five metal bikinis, because if I’m honest, it’s not a great book, but it does have a great ending.
Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.