God Emperor of Dune
God Emperor of Dune is the fourth book in the Dune series by the legendary Frank Herbert. It’s not a book you would want to dive into without reading the previous books, but it is a book worth the time investment in the series. Following up on the wild ending of Children of Dune, this book follows the ultimate ascendancy of the Emperor Leto. Leto rules the galaxy. The golden path has forever remained in his sights. Oh, and he’s part sand worm. With a wildly colorful and fun character to follow, God Emperor of Dune is a very enjoyable read with good prose and a storyline that flows much easier than the previous book.
First off, Leto is just awesome in this novel. Having gained prescience and obtaining the superpowers of merging with the sand trout, he is quite different from his father. When Paul came to power and dealt with his prescience, he became a figure who was hard to relate to. There was a certain distance between where he was and the reader. With Leto, however, there’s just something about him that’s more relatable. Sure he’s three thousand years old, he can see the future, he rules the galaxy, he’s nearly invulnerable and he’s turning into a worm, but when the book dives into Leto’s head, it’s much easier to relate to him. I think the quality that makes Leto more likeable is that he knows what he’s doing. He’s not indecisive. He’s made his choice, he has a goal and a plan, and the fun of the story is seeing if it will play out the way he hopes. Leto is not perfect and his plan is not the easiest, most gracious thing, yet it’s the lesser of evils in the long run. Diving into his head, seeing the things he’s dealt with and the decisions he’s making, it all lends itself to a great story with a great focal character.
On the other hand, the Star Wars fan in me freaked out. Leto is Jabba the Hutt. Keep in mind this book came out in 1981, which is prior to Return of the Jedi. The Dune books were an inspiration for the first Star Wars movie. Thus it’s easy to see why the series would continue to influence the Star Wars films. Plus the similarities are just too much to ignore. Leto has a worm body, two stubby little arms with fingers, and his human face. He’s a person of power doing some questionable things, he lives in a fortress out in the desert, he has a majordomo (think Bib Fortuna) and he’s wealthy. Of course there are differences, but the fact that this was probably the inspiration for Jabba gave me a huge kick. As a Star Wars fan, it’s always interesting seeing the influences for the franchise.
But back on target, God Emperor of Dune is, in my opinion, is a far easier book to read than Children of Dune. Part of it is the prose, and part of it is the more straightforward storyline. Rather than juggling around all these characters struggling for power over the empire, dealing with the difficult to grasp concept of prescience, and bouncing around between worlds, everything happens on Arrakis and centers on Leto. There are only a handful of characters who form the main cast. There’s Leto, his majordomo Moneo, the ghola Duncan and Moneo’s daughter Siona. A few other characters pop into play, but those four are the primary players. Moneo’s interesting in that he serves Leto faithfully, but has to deal with his daughter who stands against everything Leto does. She’s leading a rebellion against him, and yet Leto plans to capture her and bring her into his sway. For Moneo, there’s the conflict between the god emperor he serves and the daughter he loves. Then there’s Duncan, yet one more clone in a long line of Duncans who have served and died for Leto. Duncan becomes a very annoying character in this book due in large part to his selfish, shallow viewpoints, his quickness to anger and outright attempted murder, and his unending questioning. Still, he has his part to play. Together the cast weaves in out out of Leto’s storyline as his golden path marches forward. The big mystery to the reader is what roles these characters play in that path. The end is a bit surprising.
As a classic sci-fi novel, God Emperor of Dune is an interesting book. It’s not something you can read on its own as it’s tied up in a larger series. However, it offers a substantial reward for readers who stick with the series because it’s the result of Leto’s golden path. This is the thing he foresaw in his vision. That, and it’s not often you get to see a worm person who rules the galaxy. Plus there’s a few moments in the book which are just delightful to read. If you’re looking to dive into the Dune series, this one makes it worthwhile. I give it a five out of five metal bikinis.
Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.