“Dune Messiah” by Frank Herbert (Week 5 – Book a Week)

Last week, I reviewed The Magician King, fussing and moaning and worrying about sequels.  Dune Messiah embodies the core of those fears.  It’s an unnecessary slog through what happens after all the mammoth problems and conflicts of the previous book have been resolved.

One of the central themes of this space epic is dealing with success.  The main characters in a recently conquered universe worry about what their power has wrought.  They don’t have anything else to conquer or anyone else who can conquer them.  So, the central conflict is mostly in the heads of the characters.  “Should I or shouldn’t I?”  This might be an engaging subject.  I am sure great empires were undone from within, that rulers engage in exciting internal battles, but in this book it makes for a lot of waffling, some abrupt arguments and very little actual action.

This is not to say that a book should only be measured by how much shooting there is.  A lot of the excitement in the first Dune book was in the build-up and the planning.  But in Dune Messiah, the empire is already built.  Characters argue with themselves about visions that are never shared with the audience. It’s not mysterious, it’s boring.

It’s easy to make a connection between a hero who has conquered many worlds and an author who has already written his great work.  The main character, Paul Atreides, worries that his past victories will undo his future.  Dune Messiah is undone by Dune.  That book ended with such totality, there wasn’t a lot of mess left to clean up.

Are there people out there who would love this book?  I am sure they are legion.  It’s got the characters that were so exciting in the first adventure.  It’s got a couple of intriguing additions (Bijaz, the riddling dwarf, in particular).   The world is consistent, there just doesn’t seem to be much left to do in it.  If you would like to go deeper into the world of Dune, I recommend you reread the original.

Not Recommended

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Week 6 – Machine Man

Week 7 – The Glass Key

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