Jun 26, 2011

Children of Dune, by Frank Herbert

The second book in the Dune series, "Children of Dune" is a much more cerebral work than the first book. The action is mostly within the realm of political drama, or within the minds of Paul and his sister Alia. The Jihad has already occurred, Paul's visions of a terrible, ravaging war have come to pass; now we are in the aftermath. Paul questions how he might get himself out of the cycle of prescience, and comes to the conclusion that only one of the many possible outcomes is the least horrible.

I liked this book, though not nearly as much as the first. Paul, despite his protests to the contrary, knows he is as a god and uses his power as such. Alia is torn between the age-old nature of the Reverend Mother's wisdom she was born with and the blossoming 16 year-old body she has. Both of these characters, despite Herbert's efforts, seem to me one-dimensional. The most interesting characters are the secondary ones. Hayt, the ghola of Duncan Idaho, is immensely fascinating. The Fremen who helped Paul lead his Jihad display two common reactions to sudden ethnic power: nostalgia for the old ways and heady enjoyment of the new. Irulan, Mohaim, Scytale, Edric: these schemers brought together by necessity fight the needs of the group in order to obtain their own goals.

What I found contrived was the attraction between Alia and Hayt. It's not so much the relationship itself that bothers me as the way Herbert wrote it. It reminds me of how he described the attraction and love between Paul and Chani in "Dune." While Herbert did a great job of writing about older love, like Paul and Chani's throughout "Children of Dune," he is not nearly as good at describing the initial stages of it. The clumsiness of the prose when this subject is brought up took me out of the visualization of the novel. I don't believe I will read more of the Dune books, though I might finish the ones that were written by Herbert himself.

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