on September 21, 2003
Without the novelty of the original, there's not a lot to recommend this (first of many) sequels. For all the self-doubt & confusion of Paul, Alia, and Duncan's ghost, the characters are largely one dimensional. Herbert somewhat falls under the weight of his purportedly eon shaking majestic characters who rarely say or do anything clever or wise (particularly the Reverend Mothers here and in 'Dune', who are supposed to have the insight of millennia, but are essentially ineffective, even pathetic).
While the plot does offer an interesting unifying twist, there's far too much irritating (cf. C.J. Cherryh, particularly 'Rusalka') vacillation about choices. We're meant to be carried along in the tide of mysticism, but it just becomes some vague hocus pocus to excuse any arbitrary action or excess of confused introspection.
Some Messianic parallels: the disciples were, granted, confused when Jesus saw things so differently; Paul sees his destiny in sacrifice to save others, and is brave enough to do it. But we don't have the attractive wisdom and love of the real deal. Nor do we see the teaching result in good fruit; rather it's never even really addressed why Paul has this genocidal Jihad beyond his control - he's either not bright or not humanitarian enough to end it.
on January 12, 2003
Dune is the story of a desert planet called Arrakis and a royal "House Atriedes" who assumes control of the planet under the direction of the Emperor of the local galactic vicinity. The planet is a complete wasteland of desert except for one commodity: spice. Why is spice so valuable? Because everyone in the galaxy is addicted to it! The enemy Harkonnens, the former stewards of the planet, object to this transfer of power and fight for control of the planet. The son of the Duke Leto Atriedes, Paul "Maud-Dib", is the main character. After the destruction of the base by the Harkonnens and the death of his father, Paul and his mother Jessica (who is trained in the mysterious weirding ways of the Bene Gesserit) escape into the desert and join the native Fremen peoples who live in the desert by carefully preserving water. A struggle for power ensues in which Paul becomes a sort of prophet for the Fremen people due to his extraordinary adeptness in the weirding ways of the Bene Gesserit.
The cover of Dune reads "Science Fiction's Supreme Masterpiece," and Arthur C. Clarke says "I know nothing comparable to it except Lord of the Rings." I was looking to read some good sci-fi, not having much experience in the genre. These and other gushing reviews on the part of sci-fi addicts lead me to my neighborhood bookstore to pick up a copy. I had just finished reading Lord of the Rings for the second time and thought "I've read the best of Fantasy, so let's see how sci-fi stands up."
Let me say straight away that Dune is no Lord of the Rings. You might think so from reading the raves posted on amazon.com, some bordering so ridiculously on hyperbole as to call it "the greatest masterpiece of the century." Such reviews are unlikely to be anything more than the persistent voices of a few obsessed fans. My foremost complaint with Dune is that it is, for the most part, simply boring. Now I know there are many books out there that are boring and still great, that is, they can be tough to get through but very rewarding in the end. Around page 200 of this one I started wondering when the acclaimed Hugo/Nebula award winning storyline was going to kick in. I thought "patience, patience, and it will come..." Around page 400 I thought "okay, getting close to the end, still waiting..." And then just about everything important, interesting, or exciting happens all in the last 50 pages and we're done in a snap with a routine, relatively unexciting, and predictable battle scene to top it off.
Now there are some good aspects of this book, but not many. Herbert manages to steep the plotline in complicated political, philosophical, and religious issues throughout. All of this is very interesting, but the character development takes a big hit. Just when Paul and his mother escape into the desert (I'll try not to give too much away) is when I started to realize I disliked Paul as a character. Not only disliked him, he was a downright conceded, over-the-top, stuck-up fatalistic prick! And every other page Herbert has to remind me, as if I didn't get it 3 minutes ago, that all of Paul's abilities are due to this mysterious "wierding way." The Maud-Dib picks his nose and, as if his mind's eye had perceived all of the cumulative Bene Gesserit training in history, realizes he must fulfill the role set forth in his visions. Well okay, that's a parody, and perhaps I'm making too much of a small point. But the result of all this is that the characters come off seeming too artificial, too steeped in politico-mystical jibber-jabber of the extreme kind. And although almost all of the characters are extremely intelligent, none of them are anywhere near likeable or good in any sense of the word, leaving me depressed because of what potential I realize they have.
So was there anything I enjoyed about Dune? Yes, but mostly these were isolated concepts of the storyline. The most fascinating part in my mind is when Jessica is able to look back through the generations of knowledge of the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers and herself becomes one. This idea of a female cult possessing extremely acute mental powers and the idea of a Kwisatz Haderach -- the foretold "male Bene Gesserit" -- who becomes a religious prophet to a tribe of desert nomads is an intriguing one. The problem is that Herbert hammers home the same ideas over and over again. I suppose also that I would've enjoyed it more had Herbert strayed less into utilitarian political philosophy and more into mysticism. Other than this, Dune reminds me of a really complicated Star Wars that takes forever to get to the action.
on July 15, 2002
What a disappointment as a continuance of Dune, which was a truly great story and epic. My dislike of this book is not due to the fact that it is different in structure to the original. I enjoyed the change of pace and setting, as this book is dialogue oriented and takes MANY unexpected turns. While reading it, I couldn't put the book down.
My dislike comes after having finished it - and of wondering what the point of this novel was in the first place. The ultimate flaw in this story is the total change in Paul, making the first novel irrelevant. Everything stems from this crucial fact. I'm not even going to bother with the other characters, who would have had to behave differently had Paul remained a strong character fighting the direction fate wants to pull him.
The galaxy is not a better place after having suffered the terrible consequences of Paul's life. He admits to a "conservative estimate" of having killed 61 billion, sterilizing 90 planets, demoralizing hundreds of others, and wiping out 40 religions. While noble and admirable at the end of Dune, an atmosphere of degeneration, court rivalries, and intrigue is readily apparent in the beginning of Dune Messiah, which takes place about twelve years into Paul's reign.
Paul has been helpless against fate and spends too much time feeling sorry for himself. In Dune he is determined to avoid the future Jihad, which takes place anyway. He is pathetic and useless in Dune Messiah. He suffers mood swings and is more interested in feeling the collective sociological movements of humanity in a melange-induced stupor than in making decisions.
I mean, what has he been doing these past twelve years to avoid the Jihad? There's plenty he could have done! Why doesn't he act like the Messiah he is supposed to be?! What a wasted opportunity! This Messiah failed to change the galaxy in any positive way. His failure makes one wish for the triumph of the defeated Vladimir Harkonnen, who, while corrupt and self-serving, had a taste for ruling and decision-making. The materialistic Harkonnens were too small minded to have devastated the galaxy as did Paul, who is an inverted version of Hamlet - unable or unwilling to act but suffering melancholy after the fact, thus becoming even more useless.
Despite all the carnage Paul has wrought, the true problems of galactic society continue to exist at the book's end. Manipulative secret organizations like the Bene Gessereit, Bene Tleilaxu, and who knows what else is out there, continue to pursue their own bizarre objectives. The Spacers' Guild, with its dominance in stellar transport, continues to be powerful and oppressive.
By playing his ultimate trump card, as he threatened at the end of Dune, destruction of the spice on Arrakis, Paul could have simultaneously broken the backs of his enemies and avoided the Jihad. Sure, he would have plunged the galaxy into a Dark Age with the absence of spice destroying intergalactic travel. But would this have been worse than the death and destruction that he brought about anyway? Somehow someone would have eventually figured a way to get around the problem of spiceless navigation.
A Messiah is someone who is to be a savior or liberator. Paul didn't save or liberate anything. Herbert ruined something great.
on March 5, 2002
The main reason i picked up this book was because i'd heard it praised as Science-Fiction's-Crowning-Achievement. more than a few sci-fi fanatic buddies of mine found this book the dune series frighteningly addictive. they would say things like "i just got the 6th dune book!" while jumping up and down excitedly. one of the best sci-fi authors around, Arthur c. Clarke, even compared Dune to The Lord of the Rings.
sadly, at least for me, dune wasn't all it was cut out to be.
if not downright awful, Dune is _certainly_ no LOtR. LOtR has characters, history, rich cultures, awesome landscapes, and above all the vivid imagination of a smart, meticulous man behind it.
okay, so frank herbert was probably meticulous, considering he had to create the simply massive amount of politics found in Dune. is all the political junk why i gave the book 2 stars? not quite. politics don't thrill me, but they don't bore me to tears either. unfortunately, for some reason Herbert's endless, tiring banter did.
after some deliberation (after all, i hesitate to call an alleged Masterwork a piece of [junk] until i've thought about the reprecussions of such a statement.) ... i've come up with a theory to explain why Dune was so frustrating to read.
as the novel progresses, i found myself assaulted by a seemingly endless barrage of events, one taking place right after the other with no warning.
although this style is similar to LOtR, and many fantasy/sci-fi works, what is so disheartening about Dune is that the events are not explained thoroughly. sure, Herbert offers a paltry excuse for why the Atriedes and the Harkonnens hate each other, and he tries to summarize why the Emperor wants to kill the Fremen, but his answers lack depth. they don't make sense.
I'm not sure about others, but when something doesn't make sense to me, i don't believe it. plausibility makes good fiction.
inevitably, someone will call me an idiot for not understanding the socio-economic reprecussions of spice production, but this isn't entirely true. i understand it superficially, but herbert doesn't give me enough facts or history or first-hand accounts for me to gain a real understanding of his world. it's almost as though he assumed the reader could see inside of his head, something which we certainly can not.
even more disappointing is that Arrakis had SUCH potential--a desert culture more extreme than any on Earth, a desperate people, a royal feud...
sadly Herbert is so fixated on propagating stereotypes (Baron Harkonnen, the fat evil homosexual pedophile...Paul Atriedes, the young handsome messiah who can see into the future...shall i vomit now?...) and stuffing in as much action and politics as possible that he takes no time to develop the culture, the languages, the history, the characters...all of the things that would make sludging through 550 pages of political maneuvering worthwhile.
the result: i found myself reading on in a hurry, even skipping over sentences, to get to the good part that i could feel coming. unfortunately, none came, and i ended up feeling disappointed and more than a little betrayed.
best piece of science fiction ever written? c'mon, i'm sure sci-fi can do better than Dune.
on September 27, 2001
Some books should never beget sequels. They are so perfect that any attempt to serialise them will only succeed in making the sequels look bad. Dune is such a book, and the sequels all meet their destinies by indeed looking bad. Some critics have even suggested that Herbert wrote the sequels only to cash in on the popularity of the original. This is uncharitable. Herbert wrote the sequels because he believed that he had important things to say. The problem is that he throws out most of what made the progenitor so good in order to say his Important Things.
Nor does it help that those Important Things don't turn out to be too important. Crusade as a cleansing social/moral force; the psychoanalysis of prophesy; the pitfalls of omniscience; all are themes that have been explored more deeply and more cohesively by other writers.
Moreover, such themes are out of place in the world of Dune. Dune was effective because it was simple. The Fremen commanded our interest because their outlook on life was as stark as their environment. Jessica commanded our sympathy because she chose her loyalty as consort and mother over her instilled training as social engineer. Paul commanded our respect because he continually overcame adversity, displayed courageous resourcefulness and showed himself in every way his father's son. These are all characteristics with which we can identify because they satisfy our yearning for love, honour and justice. And in Dune, Herbert successfully elevated them from the commonplace to the heroic by keeping them free of unnecessary artifice.
In Messiah, Herbert forgets this principle and overindulges in cleverness. Every character has inscrutable agendas, unfathomable layers, infinite subtlety. Such properties must be used sparingly. When they are slathered on with a trowel, as they are here, they only succeed in turning the characters into caricatures of themselves. I was nauseous after the umpteenth description of such and such a verbal blade unerringly penetrating to such and such a depth because it was precisely engineered with such and such a sub-harmonic and delivered with exactly such and such a sneer. Ohh Puhlease!
This is an unattractive work and the sequels that follow only get worse. But when a writer composes a masterpiece as fine as Dune, I suppose he can be forgiven his later excesses.
on May 3, 2001
I am a life-long SF fan and finally got around to reading Dune for the first time in my 31st year. I was very disappointed. I cannot come anywhere close to agreeing with its 'title' of SF's grand masterpiece. I found the writing unsatisfying and quite dated. Too much drug use stuff (boy, you can tell it was written in the sixties!), too much exposition, and too little character development (of everyone but Paul at least, who I really got too much of). Potentially interesting minor characters are introduced, only to be killed off in very vague ways before they can really be developed. The spacing Guild and how they use the spice is never really explained, nor is CHOAM and the endless, sketchy references to it. The Emperor (and the Guild for that matter), very important characters, are never even seen until the very end, and ALL the action takes place in the last 50 pages or so. However, the worst part is the ending; the one-on-one fight with Feyd is very predictable, and I was seriously expecting to turn the page to another chapter when it ended; terrible ending, quite a let down.
The bad stuff being said, the book does get progressively better as it goes along; or at least less boring. And it does paint an intriguing picture of Arrakis, I do now find myself interested in Dune itself, and that is a very original and interesting part of the story. I have been anxious to finish the book and watch the movies. I do find myself thinking about stuff from the book, so it does kindof 'get under your skin' I think, even if like me you don't think its very good.
I guess I was expecting it to be the Lord of the Rings of Sci-Fi, but it does not even come close. If you want a grand epic that is the pinnacle of its genre (fantasy, in that case) I recommend you stick with it. Dune is quite a let down by comparison.
on October 25, 2000
Everyone else has given this five stars, but I am writing to let people know that some of you may not like it. BIG QUALIFICATION: I have to admit I have not read the entire book. The first time I tried was in college, but I only got to around p. 150. Now, 13 years later, I had to give up at p. 250. (I would appreciate it if someone could tell me at what stage it gets better.)
The book is simply dull. I point out the following:
THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION: Yes, the setting is some distant future, with space travel etc. But this is definitely not science fiction. There is no theme around technology, scientific dilemma, or interaction/conflict between humanity and technology/science. The correct genre is fantasy. It calls to mind the Lord of the Rings (I did read all of that) in its rich detail of a fantasy world.
STORYLINE IS TOO DULL: sure, the detail is impressive, but the story is predictable. It starts out with so much promise - the struggle among the noble houses, the Emperor, the Guild, etc. in a complex setting. But the book disappoints. The characters are so one-dimensional in their various superhuman skills or character traits that they are like comic book characters. The Bene Gesserit, Mentat, and others are capable of understanding the grandest significances from the minutest of details - it just becomes too ridiculous after a while.
STORY HAS NO SUSPENSE: You know from the first few chapters how everything is supposed to turn out. So many prophecies. And then you have the silly, pretentious mock quotations that preface each chapter - there is absolutely no suspense because you see that everything is going according to prophecy. It is like reading the Bible - you know how all conflicts will turn out in the end.
TOO MANY INCONSISTENCIES: Characters see the most elaborate intrigues in the simplest things, and understand the most byzantine possibilities in strategic maneuvering. Precisely because Herbert makes his characters so "perceptive" - and plots and intrigues so complex - you start to see silly inconsistencies. For example, you have Lady Jessica and Thufir Hawat (a Bene Gesserit and a Mentat - two superanalysts) know that there is a traitor and that their situation is precarious when they arrive on Arrakis. But the room in the fortress that controls the protective shield is occupied by a couple of engineers and an old woman such that the traitor is able to kill them with a knife and thereby bring down the entire dukedom. How can you explain this oversight? Another example: Arrakis is practically the most important planet in the universe because of the spice. Yet the Emperor has sent only one ecologist who has any idea what the planet is about while everyone else is only interested in mining the spice? In real life, would corporations and nations behave this way? Third example: if the Emperor and the Harkonnen are so ignorant and cavalier about the planet's ecology, wouldn't it have occurred to them that they could get rid of the pesky sandworms with bombs when they come to swallow the mining equipment? I know that no book can be airtight in its premises (and that there are inconsistencies in the real world as well). But because Herbert creates such a complex, rich world with clever, superhuman powers of perception, he invites the reader to read with a higher level of critical analysis. And the book cannot survive the higher critical analysis.
I would appreciate if a fan of Dune could tell me why I'm wrong. Or at least around what page the book gets any better. Until then, the book goes on my shelf of books that I regretted ever starting.
on October 15, 2000
I find it hard to believe this is also a Frank Herbert book, after reading the great "Dune". I understand the book is a collection of serial installments published in a scifi magazine, and that is exactly how it reads. There is none of the character development we find in the original except for the revived Duncan Idaho who struggles between two masters. You never find out why he decides to stay on the side of Paul at the end, one point of the novel that I thought might be interesting.
There wasn't much talk about water this time either, one of the good parts of the first book. It seemed like Arrakis was becoming more moist, people weren't hoarding water as much as they did in the first novel, but why? Had some scientific plan for the distribution of the stored water in the cave gone into effect? If this was discussed I missed it. At the end I was basically forcing myself to finish it. I will read the rest of the series but I sure hope they're closer to the original than this book was.
on February 10, 2000
When I first read Dune, I became obsessed. what a great storyline! It had just about everything I've been looking for in Science-Fiction, such as a really complex plot and an almost complete lack of cliches, among other things.
Then I picked up all the other Dune books (Including Dune: House Atreides) to see if it could accomplish the other impossible: Surviving through about six sequels.
You know what? It couldn't. Instead, I get what is the second worst of the Dune books (the worst being God Emperor). So WHY is it so bad?
First, its the shortest of the series. Its only got like 300 pages while the others have at least 450.
Second, Herbert seems to of lost it. Rather than having a complex story with alot of subtleties like the first one, we have a bunch of unconnected events, most of which are trhere for no apparent reason. For example: Alia fighting a training machine naked, Paul losing his eyes, etc. The Bene Gesserit come up with a plan to get another Kwisatz Haderach... and drop the plan almost immediately, it seems. there is also supposed to be some conspiracy, but that part is breifly wrapped up in the ending.
One problem with Dune as a whole is that the characters never really have definate personality traits. One minute Paul is a hero type, another minute he's a tyrant, and then next he's confused. No consistency at all. Then we have Alia. She was an extremely wise little girl in the first one, but you wouldn't know from Messiah or Children of Dune, in which she seemingly lost all her intellect and now is simply a stock character with emotional problems. If I wanted that, I'd play a Final Fantasy game.
These, my friends, are why I do not like Dune Messiah. As of writng, I've read through God Emperor and started on Heretic (I might as well finish) and can say: read the first Dune, which was GREAT, but ignore the sequels unless you're obsessed.
on August 5, 1999
the climax of Dune Messiah is mindblowing, shocking, thrilling and brilliant- getting there is one huge pain in the back.
this book is roughly half the length of Dune, yet took me nearly twice as long to read. the focus shifts from Muad'Dib to a conspiracy against him and the effects his victory in Dune have had on the Fremen and Arrakis itself.
the jihad of the Fremen that Paul feared has been allowed to occur. meanwhile, Dune has begun to be made green, alienating the older Fremen. the Bene Gesserit, Bene Tleilax, spacing guild, and Paul's own wife- the Emperor's daughter- scheme to rid themselves of Atreides rule. the palace intrigue and underhanded maneuvers that fill this book are niether engaging, nor particularly interesting. it is only when at last the novel truly brings the focus back to Muad'Dib that things begin to pick up.
Paul has always known the path he must take, yet in the stunning conclusion, he rejects it and passes the legacy and responsibility onto his infant son Leto, setting the stage for the books to come.
Muad'Dib's true end illustrates why so many Dune fans hate David Lynch's movie with a passion.