GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE by Frank Herbert


Email this review


This fourth and apparently final episode in the Atreides saga--following Dune (1965), Dune Messiah (1969) and Children of Dune (1976)--is a fatalistic, somber, typically complex creation which manifests something of the structure of a Bach fugue (a parallel which Herbert clearly intended). 3500 years have passed since the death of Paul Atreides and the accession of his son Leto II: the ecological transformation of Dune is complete, with crops, forests and seas obliterating the desert; the sandworms have vanished, ending ""melange"" (addictive geriatric spice) producton; the God Emperor Leto broods in his citadel as he slowly metamorphoses into Shai-Hulud, the fearsome giant sandworm of old Dune. So now there's a dullish peace throughout the Empire, rigidly enforced by the Emperor's ruthless control of the remaining melange and his omniscient, oracular vision. But, while wise old royal ma-jordomo Moneo is convinced of Leto's essentially benevolent intentions, embittered Siona (Moneo's daughter) and bewildered, reincarnated Duncan Idaho (latest in a long line of clones provided by the Tleilaxu for Leto's use) view him as a vicious tyrant to be expunged at all costs. The resulting struggle unfolds at a stately, almost staid pace, with even more talk than usual (tantamount to a lecture at times) and less action. Leto himself, however, gradually emerges as a genuinely tragic hero, accepting (and even abetting) his own approaching doom at the hands of Siona and Idaho--who never fully appreciate the terrible sacrifices Leto has made in order to redeem a humanity of which he is no longer wholly a part. Something of a disappointment in terms of surface action, then--but ultimately profound, poignant and powerful: a fitting end to a series which, its many faults notwithstanding, is un-equaled in scope, intelligence, inventiveness, and narrative power.

Pub Date: May 6th, 1981
Publisher: Putnam