....one must be willing to give up one's humanity: that is the God Emperor Leto's path as well, and we are left wondering about the multi-levelled brutality of his choice.
Herbert worked as a reporter, and it shows in the precision and compactness of his diction. He wrote dozens of novels and stories, and that shows up in the depth of his characterizations and the almost Shakespearian neatness of each scene. On that level the book is entertaining, witty, clever, alluring, and thoughtful.
It is also a novel of poignant moments. As Leto reviews his lost humanity and thrashes about, his fanatical Fish Speaker guards overhear him. "The Lord is troubled tonight," one comments. The other replies, "The problems of this universe would trouble anyone." Leto overhears them, and weeps.
His justifications for an all-female army to the macho Duncan are priceless, if rather biological, and the scene with the Tleilaxu ambassador priceless.
Previous readers (and reviewers) have wondered: what exactly is the Golden Path? I won't spoil the mystery, but I will mention this: its outcome is Siona, and what she leaves to her descendants.
Leto's tyranny is troubling. Like all tyrants, he insists on its necessity for the good of the people. That it does in fact open up the Secher Nibw still leaves us with the dilemma of a being formerly human but mutated into something else, and dominated by a past personality (Harum) known as a ruthless autocrat. But one we pity for his isolation and aloneness and the lost humanity that comes with every predatory occupation. "Your failure" (he accuses the Bene Gesserrit in a later book) "condemned me, the 'God Emperor,' to millennia of personal despair."
Yet even he has his moments of kindness and even love--and gratitude, as when he replies to a question about whether his Golden Path might fail: "Anyone and anything can fail, but good brave friends help."