Herbert, Frank

About the Author:

 

Frank Herbert was born in 1920 and died in 1986.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

4.3 out of 5

(6 books)

Chapterhouse: Dune

Book six.  The last Dune novel written by Frank Herbert before his death, this novel will have you wishing that he had had the chance to complete his epic.  Following on from, and very much akin to, 'Heretics of Dune', the war against the Honoured Matres does not go well for the Bene Gessirit.  The psychotic Honoured Matres, unable to locate the Bene Gesserit homeworld, Chapterhouse, have begun to destroy planet after planet.  However, the Bene Gessirit are not beaten.  They have many assets in preparation including the young clone of Miles Teg, the captive Honoured Matre Murbella and the offspring of the last sandworm. 

Whilst this book isn't quite as good as its predecessor, it is nevertheless a very good book.  Characters who we know well are developed excellently here, Darwi has to deal with the pressures of being the leader and most powerful of the Bene Gesserit, Sheeana begins to come into her own as she works with and trains the last sandworms in the hopes that they will turn Chapterhouse into the new Dune and, most interestingly of all, Duncan Idaho must now train young Miles Teg, the clone of the man who in turn trained Duncan.  This reversal of roles allows Duncan and Teg both to break free of their indenture to the Bene Gessirit by forming stronger bonds with each other.  The changes undergone by Murbella are also a very interesting element and her new position at the end of the book is very surprising, but not as ridiculous as it might have been had attention not been paid to her development. 

The threat of the Honoured Matres maintains the tension throughout, but we are also introduced to a new and more frightening concept; the Bene Gesserit have reason to believe that the Honoured Matres have returned to the Old Empire because they are fleeing an even more terrifying scourge from the Scattering.  This new and almost unseen threat adds a whole new depth to the book and it is because this new factor is never resolved that we see the tradgedy of Herbert dying before he could complete the story that he clearly had planned. 

The finale, in which Duncan, Sheeana and Miles decide to begin a new Scattering is entirely enthralling.  This book's one major failing is that it can really drag in places, making you want to put the book down and come back later to see if the scene you're bogged down in has gotten any more interesting.

Followed (although purists would debate the point) by 'Hunters of Dune' by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

4 out of 5

 

Children Of Dune

Book three.  This book deals with the development of Paul Atreides' children, Leto and Ghanima.  We see them as their innate powers of prescience begin to develop and the reaction of those around them as the gifted children become a threat to their positions.  Most interesting of all is the development of Alia as she becomes an insane tyrant and as her beloved Duncan comes to realise that she has lost herself to power. 

This is all set to the background of Rakis, once the desert world Arrakis, but now turning green and fertile as its mighty sandworms die out.  This book contains many excellent elements, of particular note are the scene where Leto bonds with the sandtrout and, my personal favourite, the actions of the Preacher (I won't reveal his identity, but you'll be very pleased when you find out). 

I found it interesting that Leto undergoes a similar journey to his father, as he is at first reluctant to sieze power but comes to decide that he must.  In general, 'Children of Dune' lacks the potency of the previous two books, but is nonetheless a very worthwhile read.

Followed by 'God Emperor of Dune'.

4 out of 5

 

Dune

The only comparable work of creative fiction written to date is Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'.  Never before or since has a science fiction writer created a novel so intricate and believable whilst being very much a work of pure imagination.  I can't really put into words the sheer wonder of 'Dune' but I'll try to take it a step at a time. 

First, the characters are cleverly written and realised and their interaction is perhaps the novel's finest element, be it Paul's relationship with his father or the unlikely bond between Guerney and Stilgar or even the resentment-laden relationship between Baron Harkonnen and the mentat Pieter DeVries.  One problem I did have with the book's characters is the fact that you get the impression that Herbert himself dislikes them all.  He highlights their moral and intellectual faults and in the end has Paul betraying his own ideals. 

The story is the sort of epic that lends itself more to fantasy under usual circumstances, with the noble House Atreides gaining control of Arrakis, the most important planet in the galaxy, only to be betrayed from within and attacked by their enemies the Harkonnens.  Paul and his mother Jessica are forced to flee and find sanctuary among the harsh but honourable Fremen.  Paul then rises to fulfill a Fremen prophecy and leads them on a crusade to reclaim Arrakis. 

The sandworms are one of the finest elements of the book, being primal creatures, their actions almost seeming acts of God.  Another truly unique element of 'Dune' is the fact that human machinations, especially those of the Bene Gessirit, are behind almost everything, as even the prophecy of Paul's coming turns out to be an ancient Bene Gessirit artifice created in the off-chance that a Sister might one day use it to control the Fremen. 

One of my personal favourite ideas introduced into the story is when it becomes apparent that the Emperor's super-warriors, the Sardaukar, are trained on a brutally harsh world.  It is then revealed that the life on Arrakis has created even more potent warriors in the form of the Fremen.  The words 'God created Dune to train the faithful' will forver remain in my mind as one of the most memorable words in literature. 

Ultimately, though, what makes 'Dune' a candidate for the best SF book ever is Dune itself, the planet Arrakis.  A world so carefully established and described that you will believe in it completely and perhaps even feel the beat of its unrelenting sun. 

I've hardly even scratched the surface in this review and I'd say that anyone claiming to be a science fiction fan should really read this book.  I would warn you though, its not light reading so be prepared for a pretty heavy and involved novel. 

Finally I would like to give special credit to the book whose film adaption brought us the unforgettable image of Patrick Stewart ('Star Trek: TNG' and 'X-Men') charging into battle with a flag in one hand and a pug in the other!

Followed by 'Dune Messiah'.

5 out of 5

 

Dune Messiah

Book two.  Many people have said bad things about 'Dune Messiah', but I think that although different from 'Dune' and never that book's equal, this second story of the Atreides is nevertheless a masterpiece.  Herbert now shows Paul's attempts to govern the galaxy that he and the Fremen have won.  Mua'dib must juggle politics and religion with his personal life and more and more he finds himself dissatisfied with the power he has aquired.  To my mind, this book is the perfect follow up to 'Dune' and it develops Paul's character in ways that not even the first book managed, making him more human, more believable. 

Also, we see the return of Duncan Idaho, killed by Harkonnens in the first book.  Duncan quickly becomes one of Herbert's finest characters and the choice he makes at the end of the book is the sort of scenario that really makes a great character.  Duncan, or rather the Duncan gholas (clones, more or less), go on to become a pivotal element in the later books of the Dune saga and his introduction here is perfectly orchestrated. 

Another brilliant element to this book is when Paul is blinded and so perfect is his prescience that he can effectively see the world around him using that power. 

'Dune Messiah' is an excellent science fiction book and at around 200 pages, it won't eat into your social life like 'Dune' may have done.

Followed by 'Children of Dune'.

5 out of 5

 

God Emperor Of Dune

Book four.  This is the weakest of Herbert's Dune books by a long way.  Not only does it suffer from the fact that the story is chronologically very distant from the previous books, therefore making a lot of the elements feel unfamiliar, but it also lacks much in the way of things happening.  Most of the book is spent in either philosophical posturing or political debate.  In themselves, those two elements are not necessarily a bad thing, but there is not much else here to add a bit of pace or excitement. 

Another failing this book has is that Herbert's apparent dislike for the characters he puts into the forefront is very strong here and he is constantly picking and ripping apart poor old Duncan Idaho, who is to my mind Herbert's best character.  An even larger failing in terms of the characters is the fact that Leto II, the God Emperor in question, is unrecognisable, having none of the vision or subtlety that he had in 'Children of Dune'.  I understand that he is becoming more and more sandworm, but I still think that turning him into a psychotic tyrant was a mistake on Herbert's part. 

Finally, in this book's favour, I will add that the ending, with Leto's fiendishly clever plan to put his plan for mankind into effect, is such a twist that it may well make up for the book's other failings in your eyes.

Followed by 'Heretics of Dune'.

3 out of 5

 

Heretics Of Dune

Book five.  I think that this book ranks right up there with the first two.  The Scattering initiated by the God Emperor Leto Atreides has ended and the galaxy is very different.  Also, a new threat has entered the frame as the Honoured Matres, deadly, violent women who use sexual technique to enslave men, return from the Scattering.  The Bene Gessirit must break their usually passive standpoint and begin a war against the Honoured Matres, for the invaders seem to have primitive Bene Gessirit training and they could very well destroy civillisation itself.  Amongst these rumbles of impending war, the Bene Gessirit are undertaking an important experiment as the military genius Miles Teg begins to train a young Duncan Idaho ghola. 

Where to start?  I really enjoyed the subtle tension with which Herbert builds up the foundations of this cataclysmic war between the Bene Gessirit and the Honoured Matres.  Another masterstroke is the training of Duncan Idaho, through whom we get to ask questions and discover the answers.  I also like the way in which familiar things from the original 'Dune' novel reappear here slightly changed; for instance, the calm world where Duncan is trained was once Geidi Prime, home of House Harkonnen. 

The new characters introduced here are also of superb quality in particular Darwi Odrade, who is a Bene Gesserit with a difference and may well be the only hope for their order; Sheeana, a remarkable girl who can speak to the great sandworms and, the finest of them all, Miles Teg.  Miles' transformation towards the end of the novel will leave you gaping with wonder, one minute you'll be fearing that he is about to be written out and the next you'll be all but dancing with glee at his new state of being. 

In 'Heretics of Dune' we also get to learn alot more about the Bene Tleilax.  You'll find yourself underestimating them often, believing the Bene Gessirit have them under control and then suddenly discovering that the Tleilaxu are quite capable of holding their own.  I apologise if I'm about to give too much away, but I thought it was genius of Herbert to have the Honoured Matres destroy something that, up to this point, has been totally central to the series.  He shows that in this war, the outcome is far from certain and nothing will ever be the same again.

Followed by 'Chapterhouse: Dune'.

5 out of 5

Read more...

Science Fiction (here)