Saturday, June 08, 2013

Heretics of Dune, by Frank Herbert

Book cover Indeed, the pattern holds: Frank Herbert creates a very beautiful book after the bore that was Emperor of Dune. One good book followed by a bland one and then again. Heretics of Dune has more action, more of the Bene Gesserit introspections and revelations and a bunch of diverse heroes, each with their own "powers". It's basically the superhero Dune book.

Well, I am obviously oversimplifying here, but the gist of it is right. The book is entertaining, with many characters to identify with and a compelling storyline. A new pattern emerges, though: after many pages of setting the stage and keeping the reader on the edge of the seat with anticipation, Herbert just quickly reveals his hand and finishes the game. It's like, for him, the mystery of the story was all that mattered and, once exposed, the book must end. That was a bit frustrating.

The book follows the exploits of yet another, better and improved, Duncan ghola, a weird desert girl who can command worms, a Tleilaxu master, many Bene Gesserit and the loyal Bashar Miles Teg. All in the face of terrible danger from "the Scattering", the many flavours of humans that spread out from the centre core after the death of Leto II and the ensuing chaos. The Tleilaxu are shown as bumbling buffoons, which somehow bothered me, because they are always shown as a powerful force, on par with the witches of Bene Gesserit, yet on every occasion they are outclassed, outsmarted and outmanoeuvred by them. Also the Zensunni Sufi angle was a bit of a stretch. The priesthood of Rakis was somewhat similar, and although it was normal for them to be idiots, they were presented as a powerful force as well, which made no sense. There were other things in the book that were not perfect, but one can easily overlook them.

Overall I loved the book, it was one of the most entertaining for me in the saga. More stretches of the imagination, though, and some felt a bit like special effects. Although the universe is the same with Dune, Heretics feels differently. In a way every Dune book was an extension of the original universe, trying as much as possible to not thread the same path as its predecessors, but this book really shifted the perspective of the reader towards a completely different awareness, while expanding some elements from the original Dune book, like the Bene Gesserit inner dialogue and deep perception and also hints of ecological laws, only this time applied to the entire Universe. At the end I resented that it had finished so quickly, which after all, is the hallmark of any good book.