Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

children of duneJust say no…

😀 😀 🙂

(This is the third book in the Dune series and therefore the review will contain spoilers for the first two, Dune and Dune Messiah. And maybe even some for this one. You have been warned!)

It is 9 years since the blinded and heartbroken Paul Muad’dib walked off into the desert of Dune to die. His weird little children, Leto and Ghanima, take after their Auntie Alia in so many ways – prescient, gifted or cursed with the memories of all their ancestors, nuts. Until now I thought the horrid little kids who sing the duet in Polar Express were the creepiest children ever, but Leto and Ghani have them beat hands down! Alia, meantime, has overindulged so much in the spice drug melange that she has become what the Bene Gesserit feared – an Abomination! No longer able to control all the voices of her ancestors inside her head, she has fallen under the influence of the strongest of them – the evil Baron Harkonen. Leto and Ghani look on this as a warning and are assiduously avoiding doing the spice drug conversion thingy that Rev Mothers do, as they think this is what caused Alia to become Abominable.

Alia and the Baron Harkonnen from the 2003 TV Mini Series - imagine having him inside your head!
Abominable Alia and Baron Harkonnen from the 2003 TV Mini Series – imagine having him inside your head!

Meantime Jessica has returned to the folds of the Bene Gesserit and has now been sent back to Arrakis (Dune) for reasons that remain somewhat hazy. Basically she appears to be trying to protect the genetic line by persuading Leto and Ghani (9-year-old twins, remember) to mate and breed. It’s always good to have a supportive granny, isn’t it? And has Paul really died in the desert? Who is the mysterious Preacher who keeps popping up and calling Alia names? If he is Paul, why is he trying to undermine his family’s rule? Why do Leto and Ghani want to get to Jacurutu? How come Leto is having prescient dreams if he’s not taking spice? What is the Golden Path that Leto keeps banging on about as the way to save something? Save what? Or who? Seriously – if you know the answers, do tell – personally I’m baffled!

Leto and Ghanima from the 2003 TV Mini Series, which clearly decided to age the 9-year-old twins considerably...
Leto and Ghanima from the 2003 TV Mini Series, which clearly decided to age the 9-year-old twins considerably…

By all the descriptions this had to be Fondak, and no other place could be Jacurutu. He felt a strange resonant relationship with the tabu of this place. In the Bene Gesserit Way, he opened his mind to Jacurutu, seeking to know nothing about it. Knowing was a barrier which prevented learning. For a few moments he allowed himself merely to resonate, making no demands, asking no questions.

The book starts off well, getting straight into the story. I was about to say that it’s important to read these in order or you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on but… I did read them in order and I still found this one almost completely incomprehensible! I can only assume that Mr Herbert too may have been sampling the delights of mind-altering substances while writing, and I wondered if perhaps it’s necessary to be doped up to the eyeballs to follow the ‘plot’. Unfortunately, having no illicit drugs to hand, I was forced to attempt it on wine only and that clearly wasn’t strong enough. (I also tried sobriety – but that was so much worse!)

wine bottles

The thing is it seems as if it’s going to be good. The writing is as good as usual and Herbert creates a nicely chilling atmosphere. The description of all the personalities within Alia trying to take control of her mind is brilliantly done, and Leto and Ghani channelling the thoughts of their dead parents is incredibly creepy. Herbert uses Leto’s mullings on what he should do as a vehicle to indulge in a bit of philosophising about the Cold War concerns of his own time, concluding unsurprisingly that the American Way of Life is best. There are loads of conspiracies going on with everyone scheming against everyone else, and Herbert makes this a fascinating look at the loneliness and ultimate fragility of power.

But… Herbert forgets to tell us what’s actually going on! Having a rotten memory, I usually jot down brief notes for review purposes – here’s one of my notes… “About 2/3 now – haven’t a clue what’s going on, don’t like anybody, don’t care who wins (wins what?) and thoroughly bored with the psychedelic drugs, man! Lots of pseudo profundity that’s supposed to be taken seriously and sooooo repetitive. Just want it to be over now.” You can tell I was really enjoying it!

The last third shows some brilliant imagination even if it’s frankly weird to the point of laughable. I have to mention the sandtrouts…

(Spoiler!!! Spoiler!!! Spoiler!!!)

Dune Leto II - The Tyrant by andrewryanart who seems also to have decided to age him.
Dune Leto II – The Tyrant by andrewryanart who seems also to have decided to age him.

The bit where Leto and the sandtrouts merge is without a doubt one of the most inspired pieces of lunacy I’ve ever read, made beautifully squirmily disgusting by the quality of the writing. But when the process turns Leto into some kind of pint-sized superhero who can leap tall buildings in a single bound and destroy hardened warriors with one punch, I began to giggle. And, during the big dramatic finale, that giggling turned into uncontrollable, tears-running-down-the-face, hysteria when he picked up his Abominable Auntie Alia and swung her around his head! I’m not altogether convinced that was the effect Herbert was aiming for…

Alia feinted to the left but her right shoulder came up and her right foot shot out in a toe-pointing kick which could disembowel a man if it struck precisely.

Leto caught the blow on his arm, grabbed the foot, and picked her up by it, swinging her around his head. The speed with which he swung her sent a flapping, hissing sound through the room as her robe beat against her body…Alia screamed and screamed, but still she continued to swing around and around and around.

(End of spoiler)

Great start, incomprehensible middle, unintentionally hysterical end. The last sentence of my notes reads “Right load of old tosh!” and I stand by that! Will I be reading more of the Dune books? Not for the foreseeable future… see? I’m prescient too…

…though…

God Emperor of Dune by BlazenMonk Apparently this is what happens to Leto in the next book. Seriously, just say no to drugs... before it's too late! I'm almost tempted to read it now...
God Emperor of Dune by BlazenMonk
Apparently this is what happens to Leto in the next book. I’m almost tempted to read it now…

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78 thoughts on “Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

  1. I always think it’s interesting, FictionFan, how a book can be well-written (i.e. the writing style is high quality) and still be, quite frankly, not a good story. It’s so much more than just writing style isn’t it? It’s solid plot, characters in whom one’s interested, and an outcome you want to know. On the other hand, I really did enjoy the wit in your review. 🙂

    • Haha! Thanks! Some books just demand to be made fun of! 😉 Yes, I felt Herbert probably knew what he was trying to say, but he got so carried away with making it all mystical the plot got lost in there somewhere. Still incredibly imaginative though…

  2. *laughing lots* Stellar review, FEF! I loved every bit of it. The review, that is, not the book. That’s what Alia looks like?! It is not! And the Baron looks better than even I pictured. I think I’d have joined his side–had he looked like that.

    Yes, and I was thinking Jessica had to go. That should’ve been Alia’s first move. No plot. Just…throw her off the planet or something.

    Now look at all those bottles you went through. I definitely feel your pain.

    *laughing even more* He turns into that?! Herbert hates him.

    • *laughs lots too* Thank you, C-W-W! (And may I say how nice it is to have you back!) I know – she doesn’t look like my impression of Alia either, but I love the goofy expression on her face! I still prefer the Baron from the original films though – this one isn’t grotesque enough.

      Leto could have swung her round and round and round… and then let go…

      If I read any more of these, I may have to go into rehab!

      It’s kinda tempting though… I love all the fan art!

      • I’m back and more professorish than ever, can you believe! Yes…Alia was supposed to have blond hair, wasn’t she? *laughs* Oh, this Baron might be a good natured uncle or something like that.

        Haha! That is such a funny picture…what the writing conjures up. Imagine!

        Rehab isn’t a bad place. You get ice cream every day, I hear.

        Maybe you should just get a book of that!

        • Good noodles! That’s a frightening prospect!! Red, I thought? Because of the Harkonnen genes? He does look sweet…

          I loved the way he then told her “I could have thrown you through the wall if I wanted” Boastful little brute!

          Really? Now that is tempting… I wonder if they do ice lollies…

          *laughs* Very good point!

          • Oh…it could be red, you’re right. I suppose that might work with the picture I have, I think…think…

            I know. He was always like that, though, from the very beginning! He needed a spanking or something.

            Oh, definitely, mickey mouse ones.

            • Just read it for a review I’m writing, and…she does not have red hair! It’s not brown either. I think it’s the one in between. I can’t remember what it’s called, the sudden, though.

              Hey! That’s not true…witness T&T!

              They’re actually really good. You’d love it.

            • *laughs* You were so mean to poor Irulan, you Chani-fan! Auburn? Like Anne of Green Gables… I wonder if she was a Harkonnen?!

              *gulps* I’m forced to admit that you make a very valid point there…

              Send me some!

            • No, it wasn’t auburn. It was something else. Auburn and this other color always confuse me. Not sure what they’re trying to say. If it’s red, say it’s red. If it’s black, say it’s black. Much simpler see. You felt bad when Chani died, too!

              And…and…Amelia and Schwarz!

              Well, I haven’t had any since Disney World…

            • Strawberry? Copper? Bronze? Green? Yeah, I was at the time, but then when she tried to steal Ghani’s body so she could smooch with Leto/Paul I kinda went off her… a lot!!!

              Oh, fiddle-de-dee!! OK, I give up! You’re right! *rampages off like the Professor*

              I’ve never been to Disney World. *sad face* There was some talk a few years back of doing an Alaskan cruise on a Disney cruise-ship, but I had this vision of being on the deck at midnight gazing at the incredibly romantic Northern lights sparkling across the snow… and turning round to find Goofy standing beside me! Put me off a bit…

            • Bronze! I think that was it. I think! That’s true. But she didn’t!

              I won. *pins on medal on himself*

              Oh, you should’ve went! Just punch Goofy. And you’d have to take picture, then. You’d just have to!

            • (Andy’s just lost the first set!! Do something!!!)

              But she would have! Irulan’s a much nicer person…

              Oooh, be careful you don’t stab yourself! *crosses fingers*

              Can you imagine? I’d punch him and then I’d get lynched by a mob of horrid little kids! And you’d laugh… *laughs* OK, OK, I’ll take some – next week after the tennis finishes! Almost definitely!

            • (Goodness no! Well…depends. Who’s he playing?)

              You obviously like Irulan for a reason you’re not telling me!

              *laughs* I’ve never stuck myself with a pin, you’ll be glad to know.

              Okay…I’ll be counting on them! *laughs* Oh come on! Kids aren’t anything. You could take a picture with him! I remember the first time I went…long ago. I was attacked by Winnie the Pooh, I think. I took a pic with him!

            • (Too late!! Federer destroyed him in three sets! It was vicious!)

              She wears prettier frocks. Plus she stayed to look after the horrid little kids even after what their Pa did to her. (*laughs hysterically at “Pa”!* It’s impossible to take that word seriously!)

              Glad…hmm! Yes…

              *nervously reads the camera instructions again* *laughs* Did you fight back? I have this vision of you standing with one foot on his chest pumping your fist as Tick hastily gets out the camera…

            • Isn’t that BUS’s fav?

              *laughing* You really didn’t know it was spelled that way? Hahaha…that’s so funny. It’s a normal word here, though I don’t use it much.

              Of course not! I wrapped my arm around him like any sensible person would do!

            • Well, I think she probably supports Andy first, then Roger.

              I think it sounds like Pah! I can’t imagine having said that to my Dad too often and getting away with it… *chuckles*

              But he could have been a criminal mastermind in disguise…

            • Well, I suppose Pah is just not an expressions that is used too muchly much here, you must understand.

              True! That is a good point. Or it could’ve been Amelia. You never know.

  3. Hysterical review! And as you’ve guessed, the next volume God Emperor of Dune is even more barmy! I still can’t believe I read that one.
    Later in the series we do learn more about the Preacher [minor spoiler coming] in that it is suggested that he is a ghola of Paul created by the Tlaxcalu to wreak chaos. (We never see him again though).
    To anyone reading this though I have to say that the first two books are magnificent. Dune Messiah is particularly good and its shine increases as the series slowly sinks in quality…

    • Haha! Thanks! The book just begs to be mocked! I can’t believe you read it either! Though I must say the fan art makes it so tempting… must resist! Must resist!

      Ah! Well, that would make a bit more sense (in the Dune definition of sense, that is)! I really couldn’t see why he seemed to be bringing his family down. (Oddly, I won’t miss him…)

      Agreed! I really enjoyed the first and the second was brilliant. I wonder what went wrong after that…

  4. I read these many, many years ago and have had (and still have) no desire to reread them. ‘Nuff said! Though I am glad to know that I am not the only person to find them incomprehensible and, frankly icky in parts. When I was young, any criticism of these destroyed one’s street cred as a “serious” sci-fi/ phantasy reader. Ah, those were the days…..

    • The first two were good, especially the second, but… well, as you say, ’nuff said! Yes, as I remember it, one had to be either a Lord of the Rings fan or a Dune fan, but it was against the law to be both… 😉

  5. Loved this review. Too much Rafa might be included in the difficulties, do you think? Maybe you should stick with Mr. Darcy. I bet he could confuse the Dune children.

    I enjoyed this, and not least the reminder of The Polar Express.

    • Haha! Thanks, Susan! I had to get the book out of my system somehow! Darcy would be appalled at the way this lot behave, and Lizzie would teach them some manners! (And maybe also how to dance…)

      Hehe! Those poor kids in Polar Express have provided me with much fun…

  6. Haven’t read this one, FF, and frankly, I have no intention of reading the series. Just not something I’d find interesting. Beautifully written review, however!!

    • Thanks, Debbie! A wise woman! 😉 The first two in the series were good though, but in this one it all seemed to go horribly wrong! Not my usual kind of thing either, but I’m trying to overcome my aversion to fantasy…

  7. Oh GOD. I read all 4 Dune books on holiday once – on a boat on the Norfolk Broads, it rained all week, I read all my books and there were NO OTHER BOOKS except these on the boat, and I had to read them. Still haunted by them over 20 years later.

    • Haha! Poor you! That’ll teach you to take a pre-loaded Kindle along next time! I thought I’d read them before but I’ve come to the conclusion I’d only read the first one – no way could I have forgotten those sand trouts! But I think there’s six – you really need to read those last two… 😉

  8. A very funny review! I got halfway through this book many years ago and, having enjoyed #1 in the series but been unimpressed by #2 (hm, is there a pun there?), decided to bid the Dune saga farewell.

    • Haha – thanks! I enjoyed 1 and loved 2! And I thought I was enjoying this one till about halfway through I realised I didn’t know what was going on and didn’t care! I think I’ve reached my limit now though… 😉

  9. Your review is hilarious!
    SPOILERS Paul wanted to end what had become onerous–being Muad’Dib–a myth Jessica exploited. but he couldn’t take the golden path–fusing himself with one of the Makers. His son was the chosen one in that regard. Leto sacrificed himself to do that. But yeah. It is a bit of a paradox. END SPOILERS
    While I enjoyed the saga, I can see how off-putting it can seem. 😀

  10. I haven’t ventured beyond the first in the series – but am really enjoying your reviews. Sounds like you need a very stiff drink or perhaps a game-player mind to really follow what’s going on…

    • Haha, I don’t think I’ll try to talk you into reading the rest – though I did enjoy the second. Very, very stiff! In fact, I think you need the stuff on a constant intravenous drip just to survive…

    • Haha! I wish I’d had the sense to stop too! But actually the second one was really good too – better than the first I thought. But then it all went downhill… 😉

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