Thursday, January 22, 2009

Book Review: Frank Herbert – God Emperor of Dune (1981)

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The fourth book in the Dune series stands out as the most different from the rest as far as plot, writing style and attitude as a whole are concerned. Three and a half millenniums have passed since the events in the previous book, and still the author manages not to just bring in an entire series of new characters but preserves some of the old ones too. We probably would have liked it less otherwise.

In fact, the book is a character study for the God Emperor, Paul Atreides’ son, Leto II. Starting from a baby who experienced the agony of life while still in the womb, then a child with prescient visions, a teenager symbiotic with the sandtrouts and becoming eventually the God Emperor of the known universe, Leto II has led no ordinary life.

It is interesting to follow the metamorphosis of this Tyrant as his people call him, see what makes him human, or better yet, discover how much of him is still human. He first lost his physical human form after the inoculation of the sandtrouts into his system. Only the face and hands are left of what used to be young Leto II, the rest of him has transformed into a giant worm-like creature, the advantages of this condition being that it made him practically indestructible.

On a personal plan, he lost his family. The Atreides line is not extinct but, as he’s lived longer than any other human ever had, he had to go repeatedly through the painful experience of seeing the ones he loves dying. It hardened him and emotionally distanced him from the ones around him. Still inside he is struggling with his condition and the solitude he has to endure. It is probably the reason why he is hanging onto a long series of Duncan Idaho ghola, an unique contact with the past and last reminder of who he used to be.

Settled on the Golden Path the way he is supposed to, Leto II is living a sentient life just waiting for the inevitable to happen. It is a fact he has accepted ever since the beginning, making the greatest sacrifice for the benefit of the human kind while supporting the risk of being hated by basically everyone. To quote a more modern character: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” (Harvey Dent) Of course, that only applies to those who have the capacity to become a hero in the first place.

The romantic aspect is also explored though to a lesser degree. A creature like Leto II has become still finds the capacity to love against all odds.

Of all the books in the series this one is the most dragging, Leto’s point of view regarding everything around him leaving space for many long essay-like speeches, some with pure philosophic ideas, some with pure rambling, intentional or not, most of them adding little to the plot.

Written for Nemira Fan SF campaign:
“Aceasta recenzie face parte din campania Fan SF”

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