Science fiction, fantasy, politics, religion myth – Dune is a sweeping epic. And it just so happens to be one of my favorite books of all time.
Yet the problem with such great first novels is that often the sequels just can’t live up to them (Speaker for the Dead, A Clash of Kings, The Wise Man’s Fear).
After reading Dune, I plunged into its sequel, Dune Messiah. I bounced out of that quickly, but came back to read it a few weeks later. Same thing happened with Children of Dune. I pushed through that one because I wanted to continue the storyline, to learn what became of these characters, and partly because people had been telling me how amazing book the fourth in the series, God Emperor of Dune, was.
After my Children fatigue, it took me about a year (and a detour to Westeros) before I returned to the series to read God Emperor. But I was ready.
And I was very disappointed.
Several people told me that if not for the first book, God Emperor might be their favorite Dune book, and perhaps one of their all time favorite books. Yet I found that it wasn’t the case. It wasn’t a terrible book, and it was surely better than OK, but it was built up in my head by expectations. And it just didn’t live up to them.
I’d say that as a rule, when you plunge 3500 years into the future and keep some of the same characters through a process of constant cloning (*cough* Duncan Idaho *cough*), and then these characters continue to do pretty much the same things they did in the past three novels, there’s something wrong. No matter how much you want to shoe horn in a reason, it’s lame. Write some new characters.
When I finished God Emperor six years ago, I was fatigued by the series. I was spent.
Yet last night, I picked up the fifth novel, Heretics of Dune, from off of my shelf. I have done this several times, and bounced each time over the past six years. In this next novel, more than 1500 years have elapsed since the last book. Yet somehow, Duncan Idaho manages to appear right there on the second line, still being cloned. Over 5000 years since dying in the first novel (spoiler alert?), one of the minor characters is still being cloned for (insert a reason).
To no small extent, this still pisses me off. But last night, I made myself look past it. I promised to give the book a few pages. And I’m glad that I did.
I forgot how much I love the lore of that Universe. The words Kwisatz Haderach appeared within the first few pages, as well as Bene Gesserit, melange, and the litany of fear, and my mind was transported back to Arrakis more than 8 years ago, when I took my first journey to spice planet. It’s also amazing how quickly all of the intricacies of the universe come back to my mind, and also how I don’t even need wikipedia the glossary (long forgotten since the first book) to remind myself of his nouns, and to refresh myself.
Whether I did or didn’t like the books, Herbert writes memorable stories.
I think that enough time has passed, and I’m ready to enjoy this book for what it is. I’m willing to look past another repeat of Duncan Idaho. Maybe he’ll have some real character depth this book, maybe not. I suppose it doesn’t matter. He’s one character.
And either way, Herbert writes in a very pleasing style. He keeps the chapters relatively short, and alternates between dialogue and exposition deftly. Last night, I read 20 pages of the book before I realized it. Which is a very good thing.
Maybe I’ll like this book, maybe I won’t. But I’m glad to be going back to (Ar)Rakis.