Monday, May 07, 2007

God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert

Before I summarize the story there are a few things that need to be mentioned about this book. First this book takes on a different feel from all the others written by Frank Herbert. The reason behind this is that the book is mostly written in first person, from the view of Leto II the God Emperor. These are in the forms of stolen journals and other journals Leto keeps for future generations. The other Dune books contained quotes from other sources to highlight chapters, but this one relies on the quotes to tell the story. Another thing about this book is that it jumps the reader 3,500 years after the book Children of Dune. The Universe has changed as can be expected. Dune, now known primarily as Arrakis, is a plush fertile planet with rivers and rain. The exception to this is the small area Leto has set aside for testing the Atreides. And finally in all Frank Herbert's and even in the books by his son, Brian, women are a very strong presence. They are the true rulers behind the men. Even more so in this book. Leto's army of "Fish Speakers" is all women. The reason for this in the book is that in general women mature faster and that in order to protect life one must create/adore life and women achieve this through the act of childbirth.

Now for the story, again I'll warn you there are spoilers here.

Leto II, after 3,500 years as Emperor, has continued into his metamorphoses of becoming a sandworm. The only human features left are his arms and hands and his face which is contained within a sandtrout coweled area. This metamorphoses is part of the Golden Path that his father Maud'dib could not do. This was done to ensure the contiuation of humankind. While this concept is not entirely clear, it is stated that humankind would have become basically lazy and would have killed itself off, if the God Emperor had not been ruling. Leto while being mostly sandworm, still rules from Arrakis, where the sandworms and sandtrout are extinct. Leto has a horde of spice which he uses as rewards for the others in the universe. Due to this shortage of spice, space travel is kept to a minimum. The Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit, the Ixians and the Bene Tlielax all compete for their spice rewards.

The Ixians are still creating machines and have all but broken the rules of the Butlerian Jihad, in which "No machine shall be constructed in the form of the human mind." The Ixians are trying to create a machine to replace the Spacing Guild navigators in folding space. The Ixians also have a device called the "no room" in which all is hidden from Leto's prescient vision. In this room they create Hwi Noree, a woman who can conquer the only known weakness of the God Emperor, LOVE.

Duncan Idaho is still around for this novel, but still only a ghola, the Tleilaxu have cloned many Duncans for Leto. Leto likes the company of the Duncans although many have died mysteriously, at the opening of the book one is to assassinate Leto as programmed by the Tleilaxu. But being mostly sandworm, nothing can kill the God Emperor, except water, which that is a secret none yet know. So this Duncan dies and his replacement is suspiciously readily available. The Duncans are commanders of the Fish Speakers, Leto's all woman army.

Leto also has his own breeding program to keep the Atreides bloodline alive and to continue the species. The latest Duncan is to breed with Siona, daughter of Moneo, the Emperor's right hand man and sometimes confidant and heir to Atreides bloodline. Duncan, however, will not be "the Emperor's stud."

Duncan falls in love with Hwi Noree and with this fighting in his conscience he teams up with Siona to assassinate the God Emperor as he comes to his wedding. In the fighting Siona kills Hwi and Duncan is heartbroken. They then cause the worm to fall into a river where the sandtrout all separate from his body and he dies.

This summation of this immense book is very short, when compared to all the information contained in this installment into the Duneverse. This book takes more patience than any of the others to get through but in my opinion with all the philosophies this one tackles it is even more worth it.

As a side note I know there is a great spoof of this book in an episode of the cartoon "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy." In this Mandy has evolved into a worm like creature and runs the universe from her Cinnamon mines and she keeps a constant clone of Billy to entertain her. If you ever get a chance to check it out the episode is titled "Mandy the Merciless."

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