I’d initially called my Dune Messiah post “They Lived Happily Ever After. Until…”
I’ll mention my alternative title for this post later.
Dune Messiah depicts the times and events after the “fairytale ending” of Dune where the protagonist had finally overcome the obstacles he faced.
After that apparent victory, reality starts to intrude and the promise of ongoing stability is shown to be a vain expectation.
Where Dune traced the downfall and restoration of the House of Atriedes, Dune Messiah showed the consequences of taking more power than what was originally lost.
With more power comes more responsibility and increasing dangers. New Emperor Paul Muad’Dibh has to face threats to his unborn heirs as other powers conspire to control the succession to the Imperial throne. Paul finds the only available solution requires great personal sacrifice.
Children of Dune picks up the story several years later after Paul’s sacrifice. His sister Alia has been made Regent until the twin heirs, Leto and Ghanima reach adulthood, but whose interests is she really representing?
Other surviving major characters from the previous two books return in Children of Dune, but all seem to get caught up in parts of different conspiracies; with plans within plans all of which lead to uncertain goals. I don’t think I’m revealing any “spoilers” if I say that no one seems to achieve the outcome they desired.
Above I said I’d reveal my alternative title for this post:
“I Created a World So I’m Going to Use It.”
After building a convincing, complex setting for Dune, including its landscape, ecology, technology, politics, religion, commerce and mythology, I feel that Herbert didn’t want to cast all of that work aside – but wanted to make as much use as possible of his created universe; even if he didn’t quite have the same strength of story to combine with it.
The Dune series started with a book I loved so much in my teens that I immediately reread it. Going back to the book 40 years later I can understand why. I can also see why I never took to the sequels. Both have enjoyable moments and occasional hints of intrigue, but as a whole they don’t work for me.
Dune had a definite, structured, compelling narrative that led to a purposeful conclusion. The sequels, perhaps moreso Children of Dune, seem more like part of an ongoing, unending saga with characters I decreasingly care about.
There are three more Frank Herbert penned books in the series. I’ll take a break and read other things before I think of starting on them.
And I think I’ll avoid the many prequels and sequels written by Herbert’s son, Brian.
Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has been able to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, government tends more and more to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class – whether that class be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or entrenched bureaucracy.
– Politics as Repeat Phenomenon: Bene Gesserit Training Manual.