Book Two in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the Bestselling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time
Dune Messiah continues the story of Paul Atreides, better known—and feared—as the man christened Muad’Dib. As Emperor of the known universe, he possesses more power than a single man was ever meant to wield. Worshipped as a religious icon by the fanatical Fremen, Paul faces the enmity of the political houses he displaced when he assumed the throne—and a conspiracy conducted within his own sphere of influence.
And even as House Atreides begins to crumble around him from the machinations of his enemies, the true threat to Paul comes to his lover, Chani, and the unborn heir to his family’s dynasty...
About the Author
Frank Herbert was the bestselling author of the Dune saga. He was born in Tacoma, Washington, and educated at the University of Washington, Seattle. He worked a wide variety of jobs—including TV cameraman, radio commentator, oyster diver, jungle survival instructor, lay analyst, creative writing teacher, reporter and editor of several West Coast newspapers—before becoming a full-time writer.
In 1952, Herbert began publishing science fiction with “Looking for Something?” in Startling Stories. But his emergence as a writer of major stature did not occur until 1965, with the publication of Dune. Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune followed, completing the saga that the Chicago Tribune would call “one of the monuments of modern science fiction.” Herbert was also the author of some twenty other books, including The White Plague, The Dosadi Experiment, and Destination: Void. He died in 1986.
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Table of Contents
Books by Frank Herbert
THE BOOK OF FRANK HERBERT
DESTINATION VOID (revised edition)
THE DOSADI EXPERIMENT
THE EYES OF HEISENBERG
THE GREEN BRAIN
THE MAKER OF DUNE
THE SANTAROGA BARRIER
THE WHITE PLAGUE
THE WORLDS OF FRANK HERBERT
MAN OF TWO WORLDS
(with Brian Herbert)
The Dune Chronicles
CHILDREN OF DUNE
GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE
HERETICS OF DUNE
Books by Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom
THE JESUS INCIDENT
THE LAZARUS EFFECT
THE ASCENSION FACTOR
Books edited by Brian Herbert
THE NOTEBOOKS OF FRANK HERBERT’S DUNE
SONGS OF MUAD’DIB
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dune messiah / Frank Herbert ; with a new introduction by Brian Herbert.
p. cm.—(Dune chronicles ; bk. 2)
eISBN : 978-1-101-15787-9
1. Dune (Imaginary place)—Fiction. I. Title.
by Brian Herbert
Dune Messiah is the most misunderstood of Frank Herbert’s novels. The reasons for this are as fascinating and complex as the renowned author himself.
Just before this first sequel to Dune was published in 1969, it ran in installments in the science fiction magazine Galaxy. The serialized “Dune Messiah” was named “disappointment of the year” by the satirical magazine National Lampoon. The story had earlier been rejected by Analog editor John W. Campbell, who, like the Lampooners, loved the majestic, heroic aspects of Dune and hated the antithetical elements of the sequel. His readers wanted stories about heroes accomplishing great feats, he said, not stories of protagonists with “clay feet.”
The detractors did not understand that Dune Messiah was a bridging work, connecting Dune with an as-yet-uncompleted third book in the trilogy. To get there, the second novel in the series flipped over the carefully crafted hero myth of Paul Muad’Dib and revealed the dark side of the messiah phenomenon that had appeared to be so glorious in Dune. Many readers didn’t want that dose of reality; they couldn’t stand the demotion of their beloved, charismatic champion, especially after the author had already killed off two of their favorite characters in Dune, the loyal Atreides swordmaster Duncan Idaho1 and the idealistic planetologist Liet-Kynes.
But they overlooked important clues that Frank Herbert had left along the way. In Dune, when Liet-Kynes lay dying in the desert, he remembered these words of his father, Pardot, spoken years before and relegated to the back reaches of memory: “No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.” Near the end of the novel, in a foreshadowing epigraph, Princess Irulan described the victorious Muad’Dib in multifaceted and sometimes conflicting terms as “warrior and mystic, ogre and saint, the fox and the innocent, chivalrous, ruthless, less than a god, more than a man.” And in an appendix to Dune, Frank Herbert wrote that the desert planet “was afflicted by a Hero.”
These sprinklings in Dune were markers pointing in the direction Frank Herbert had in mind, transforming a utopian civilization into a violent dystopia. In fact, the original working title for the second book in the series was Fool Saint, which he would change two more times before settling on Dune Messiah. But in the published novel, he wrote, concerning Muad’Dib:
He is the fool saint,
The golden stranger living forever
On the edge of reason.
Let your guard fall and he is there!
The author felt that heroic leaders often made mistakes . . . mistakes that were amplified by the number of followers who were held in thrall by charisma. As a political speechwriter in the 1950s, Dad had worked in Washington, D.C., and had seen the megalomania of leadership and the pitfalls of following magnetic, charming politicians. Planting yet another interesting seed in Dune, he wrote, “It is said in the desert that possession of water in great amount can inflict a man with fatal carelessness.” This was an important reference to Greek hubris. Very few readers realized that the story of Paul Atreides was not only a Greek tragedy on an individual and familial scale. There was yet another layer, even larger, in which Frank Herbert was warning that entire societies could be led to ruination by heroes. In Dune and Dune Messiah, he was cautioning against pride and overconfidence, that form of narcissism described in Greek tragedies that invariably led to the great fall.
Among the dangerous leaders of human history, my father sometimes mentioned General George S. Patton because of his charismatic qualities—but more often his example was President John F. Kennedy. Around Kennedy, a myth of kingship had formed, and of Camelot. The handsome young president’s followers did not question him and would have gone virtually anywhere he led them. This danger seems obvious to us now in the cases of such men as Adolf Hitler, whose powerful magnetism led his nation into ruination. It is less obvious, however, with men who are not deranged or evil in and of themselves—such as Kennedy, or the fictional Paul Muad’Dib, whose danger lay in the religious myth structure around him and what people did in his name.
Among my father’s most important messages were that governments lie to protect themselves and they make incredibly stupid decisions. Years after the publication of Dune, Richard M. Nixon provided ample proof. Dad said that Nixon did the American people an immense favor in his attempt to cover up the Watergate misdeeds. By amplified example, albeit unwittingly, the thirty-seventh president of the United States taught people to question their leaders. In interviews and impassioned speeches on university campuses all across the country, Frank Herbert warned young people not to trust government, telling them that the American founding fathers had understood this and had attempted to establish safeguards in the Constitution.
In the transition from Dune to Dune Messiah, Dad accomplished something of a sleight of hand. In the sequel, while emphasizing the actions of the heroic Paul Muad’Dib, as he had done in Dune, the author was also orchestrating monumental background changes and dangers involving the machinations of the people surrounding that leader. Several people would vie for position to become closest to Paul; in the process they would secure for themselves as much power as possible, and some would misuse it, with dire consequences.
After the Dune series became wildly popular, many fans began to consider Frank Herbert in a light that he had not sought and which he did not appreciate. In one description of him, he was referred to as “a guru of science fiction.” Others depicted him in heroic terms. To counter this, in remarks that were consistent with his Paul Atreides characterization, Frank Herbert told interviewers that he did not want to be considered a hero, and he sometimes said to them, with disarming humility, “I’m nobody.”
Certainly my father was anything but that. In Dreamer of Dune, the biography I wrote about him, I described him as a legendary author. But in his lifetime, he sought to avoid such a mantle. As if whispering in his own ear, Frank Herbert constantly reminded himself that he was mortal. If he had been a politician, he would have undoubtedly been an honorable one, perhaps even one of our greatest U.S. presidents. He might have attained that high office, or reached any number of other lofty goals, had he decided to do so. But as a science fiction fan myself, I’m glad he took the course that he did. Because he was a great writer, his cautionary words will carry on through the ages and hopefully influence people in decision-making positions, causing them to set up safeguards that will protect against abuses of power, both by leaders and by their followers.
As you read Dune Messiah, enjoy the adventure story, the suspense, the marvelous characterizations and exotic settings. Then go back and read it again. You’ll discover something new on each pass through the pages. And you’ll get to know Frank Herbert better as a human being.
October 16, 2007
EXCERPTS FROM THE DEATH CELL INTERVIEW WITH BRONSO OF IX—
Q: What led you to take your particular approach to a history of Muad’dib?
A: Why should I answer your questions?
Q: Because I will preserve your words.
A: Ahhh! The ultimate appeal to a historian!
Q: Will you cooperate then?
A: Why not? But you’ll never understand what inspired my Analysis of History. Never. You Priests have too much at stake to . . .
Q: Try me.
A: Try you? Well, again . . . why not? I was caught by the shallowness of the common view of this planet which arises from its popular name: Dune. Not Arrakis, notice, but Dune. History is obsessed by Dune as desert, as birthplace of the Fremen. Such history concentrates on the customs which grew out of water scarcity and the fact that Fremen led semi-nomadic lives in stillsuits which recovered most of their body’s moisture.
Q: Are these things not true, then?
A: They are surface truth. As well ignore what lies beneath that surface as . . . as try to understand my birthplanet, Ix, without exploring how we derived our name from the fact that we are the ninth planet of our sun. No . . . no. It is not enough to see Dune as a place of savage storms. It is not enough to talk about the threat posed by the gigantic sandworms.
Q: But such things are crucial to the Arrakeen character!
A: Crucial? Of course. But they produce a one-view planet in the same way that Dune is a one-crop planet because it is the sole and exclusive source of the spice, melange.
Q: Yes. Let us hear you expand on the sacred spice.
A: Sacred! As with all things sacred, it gives with one hand and takes with the other. It extends life and allows the adept to foresee his future, but it ties him to a cruel addiction and marks his eyes as yours are marked: total blue without any white. Your eyes, your organs of sight, become one thing without contrast, a single view. Q: Such heresy brought you to this cell!
A: I was brought to this cell by your Priests. As with all priests, you learned early to call the truth heresy.
Q: You are here because you dared to say that Paul Atreides lost something essential to his humanity before he could become Muad’dib.
A: Not to speak of his losing his father here in the Harkonnen war.
Nor the death of Duncan Idaho, who sacrificed himself that Paul and the Lady Jessica could escape.
Q: Your cynicism is duly noted.
A: Cynicism! That, no doubt is a greater crime than heresy. But, you see, I’m not really a cynic. I’m just an observer and commentator. I saw true nobility in Paul as he fled into the desert with his pregnant mother. Of course, she was a great asset as well as a burden. Q: The flaw in you historians is that you’ll never leave well enough alone. You see true nobility in the Holy Muad’dib, but you must append a cynical footnote. It’s no wonder that the Bene Gesserit also denounce you.
A: You Priests do well to make common cause with the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. They, too, survive by concealing what they do. But they cannot conceal the fact that the Lady Jessica was a Bene Gesserit-trained adept. You know she trained her son in the sisterhood’s ways. My crime was to discuss this as a phenomenon, to expound upon their mental arts and their genetic program. You don’t want attention called to the fact that Muad’dib was the Sisterhood’s hoped for captive messiah, that he was their kwisatz haderach before he was your prophet.
Q: If I had any doubts about your death sentence, you have dispelled them.
A: I can only die once.
Q: There are deaths and there are deaths.
A: Beware lest you make a martyr of me. I do not think Muad’dib . . . Tell me, does Muad’dib know what you do in these dungeons?
Q: We do not trouble the Holy Family with trivia.
A: (Laughter) And for this Paul Atreides fought his way to a niche among the Fremen! For this he learned to control and ride the sandworm! It was a mistake to answer your questions.
Q: But I will keep my promise to preserve your words.
A: Will you really? Then listen to me carefully, you Fremen degenerate, you Priest with no god except yourself! You have much to answer for. It was a Fremen ritual which gave Paul his first massive dose of melange, thereby opening him to visions of his futures. It was a Fremen ritual by which that same melange awakened the unborn Alia in the Lady Jessica’s womb. Have you considered what it meant for Alia to be born into this universe fully cognitive, possessed of all her mother’s memories and knowledge? No rape could be more terrifying.
Q: Without the sacred melange Muad’dib would not have become leader of all Fremen. Without her holy experience Alia would not be Alia.
A: Without your blind Fremen cruelty you would not be a priest. Ahhh, I know you Fremen. You think Muad’dib is yours because he mated with Chani, because he adopted Fremen customs. But he was an Atreides first and he was trained by a Bene Gesserit adept. He possessed disciplines totally unknown to you. You thought he brought you new organization and a new mission. He promised to transform your desert planet into a water-rich paradise. And while he dazzled you with such visions, he took your virginity!
Q: Such heresy does not change the fact that the Ecological Transformation of Dune proceeds apace.
A: And I committed the heresy of tracing the roots of that transformation, of exploring the consequences. That battle out there on the Plains of Arrakeen may have taught the universe that Fremen could defeat Imperial Sardaukar, but what else did it teach? When the stellar empire of the Corrino Family became a Fremen empire under Muad’dib, what else did the Empire become? Your Jihad only took twelve years, but what a lesson it taught. Now, the Empire understands the sham of Muad’dib’s marriage to the Princess Irulan!
Q: You dare accuse Muad’dib of sham!
A: Though you kill me for it, it’s not heresy. The Princess became his consort, not his mate. Chani, his little Fremen darling—she’s his mate. Everyone knows this. Irulan was the key to a throne, nothing more.
Q: It’s easy to see why those who conspire against Muad’dib use your Analysis of History as their rallying argument!
A: I’ll not persuade you; I know that. But the argument of the conspiracy came before my Analysis. Twelve years of Muad’dib’s Jihad created the argument. That’s what united the ancient power groups and ignited the conspiracy against Muad’dib.
* * *Such a rich store of myths enfolds Paul Muad’dib, the Mentat Emperor, and his sister, Alia, it is difficult to see the real persons behind these veils. But there were, after all, a man born Paul Atreides and a woman born Alia. Their flesh was subject to space and time. And even though their oracular powers placed them beyond the usual limits of time and space, they came from human stock. They experienced real events which left real traces upon a real universe. To understand them, it must be seen that their catastrophe was the catastrophe of all mankind. This work is dedicated, then, not to Muad’dib or his sister, but to their heirs—to all of us.
Muad’dib’s Imperial reign generated more historians than any other era in human history. Most of them argued a particular viewpoint, jealous and sectarian, but it says something about the peculiar impact of this man that he aroused such passions on so many diverse worlds.
Of course, he contained the ingredients of history, ideal and idealized. This man, born Paul Atreides in an ancient Great Family, received the deep prana-bindu training from the Lady Jessica, his Bene Gesserit mother, and had through this a superb control over muscles and nerves. But more than that, he was a mentat, an intellect whose capacities surpassed those of the religiously proscribed mechanical computers used by the ancients.
Above all else, Muad’dib was the kwisatz haderach which the Sisterhood’s breeding program had sought across thousands of generations.
The kwisatz haderach, then, the one who could be “many places at once,” this prophet, this man through whom the Bene Gesserit hoped to control human destiny—this man became Emperor Muad’dib and executed a marriage of convenience with a daughter of the Padishah Emperor he had defeated.
Think on the paradox, the failure implicit in this moment, for you surely have read other histories and know the surface facts. Muad’dib’s wild Fremen did, indeed, overwhelm the Padishah Shad-dam IV. They toppled the Sardaukar legions, the allied forces of the Great Houses, the Harkonnen armies and the mercenaries bought with money voted in the Landsraad. He brought the Spacing Guild to its knees and placed his own sister, Alia, on the religious throne the Bene Gesserit had thought their own.
He did all these things and more.
Muad’dib’s Qizarate missionaries carried their religious war across space in a Jihad whose major impetus endured only twelve standard years, but in that time, religious colonialism brought all but a fraction of the human universe under one rule.
He did this because capture of Arrakis, that planet known more often as Dune, gave him a monopoly over the ultimate coin of the realm—the geriatric spice, melange, the poison that gave life.
Here was another ingredient of ideal history: a material whose psychic chemistry unraveled Time. Without melange, the Sisterhood’s Reverend Mothers could not perform their feats of observation and human control. Without melange, the Guild’s Steersmen could not navigate across space. Without melange, billions upon billions of Imperial citizens would die of addictive withdrawal.
Without melange, Paul-Muad’dib could not prophesy.
We know this moment of supreme power contained failure. There can be only one answer, that completely accurate and total prediction is lethal.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
All of you people out there writing reviews are comparing this book to DUNE and this book will never be DUNE. I loved DUNE personally, but DUNE was something that in my opinion happens once in a lifetime. It was such a mastery of all the topics touched upon in the novel and it brought together many concepts that should be lived through everyday life. Dune Messiah on the other hand is still an amzing novel. It however is made to show the imperfect sides of our beloved Paul so we constantly push it to the side. It truly leads up to the events of the next book and is needed to bridge the gap. stop hating.
As a relative newcomer to the Dune collection, I started reading the books in a supposed "chronological" order that includes the Brian Herbert/Kevin Anderson books interspersed w/ the Frank Herbert originals. Dune Messiah, while short, was excellent - even moreso when read immediately following the Paul of Dune installment. Best part was the return of Duncan Idaho, in any form. Interesting to see the Guild's involvement in the conspiracy when you consider how Norma Cenva might have viewed the collusion. Recommended read.
Even though this may be the shortest book in the series. i think it is underrated sequel. some people think it is too short and boring. I liked it. I thought it was a good sequel to dune. it seemed to touch on more profound ideas to me. It was fun returning to Maud dib. the ending is a surprise. also, this book pretty much sets up the third book,Children Of Dune.
Dune Messiah contains all of the power and captivation of Dune, yet has exceeded the original in intelectual stimulation and sheer excitement. While Dune focused more upon the ascention of Maud'dib, Dune Messiah concentrates upon the beginning of the fulfillment of his destiny as the Kwiswatz Haderach and his fateful yet necesssary demise. I hate to say it, but this one's better than the classic if anything, it'll make you think, and perhaps, rethink, most of what you know about Paul Atreides and the enigmatic land Arrakis, known as Dune.
Dune Messiah: known to people as 'a real stinker', or 'a wonderful novel'. Why do those who say it is horrible think this way? It is because this small novel holds BIG messages. Those who think this novel sucks are blind to what this book really holds. It is very complex in writing, and ignorant beings just can't read it. You truly cannot read the Dune series and skip this book, it isn't possible. Frank Herbert is a true genious, and this book IS as much of the series as DUNE is. I do not recommend it, I tell you to read it. If you don't read this book, then you are not a true Dune fan, that is the truth of it. This relatively small novel is too important to skip for all you REAL fans. Get ready for a philosophical roller-coaster...
This book is amazing. It takes a little while to get going but it pays off. If you plan on reading the other dune books, then this contains to much information to skip.
I'm a big fan of sci-fi sagas and fantasies and must say when I read the first thirty pages of this book I couldn't put it down.However somewhere along the way the intensity simmers down and you get this subplot of Paul's wife intriguing against him.Towards the end it draws to quite a bit of an anti-climax.It's a worthy read if you're a follower of the series.As a first for me it didn't really give me the urge to follow up on the preceding and succeeding titles.
Not as good as Dune but still a great story. Some new interesting character-types and skill-sets introduced in this and a great story. There are still some profound statements to be found regarding political and religious "maneuvering and impetus" I look forward to children of the dune -
Book 2 in Frank Herbert's series, Dune Messiah follows a deified Paul Atredies through an inescapable path of events divined through his prescience. The story picks up after the jihad that followed his overthrow of the Corrino Emperor at the end of Dune. Some 65 billion people died in the wars, and numerous planets were sterilized. An amusing exchange compares this with the modest achievements of Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler back on old Earth. Throughout the story, Paul is a pitiable character, he knows the unpleasant fate to come, but cannot change it. Other characters play their part, according to script. But the script runs its course...at the end, he no longer knows with certainty what is to come. The book ends with Paul wandering off into the desert, where he is destined to become the next Elvis -- seen everywhere although every knows he must be dead.
I was inspired by my recent rereading of Dune to pick up the second novel in the series, which just served to remind me why I don¿t read series. The plot was muddy and confusing, the characters little more than cardboard cutouts, and to be honest, not much of anything happened during the book. Let Dune remain a standalone novel, at least for me.
An OK sequel to a great book, Dune. If I'd never read it, I wouldn't have missed much. It wasn't a complete waste of time, either, but I really think that "Dune" stands well enough on its own. This didn't seem nearly as well written or thought out. More of a reaction to a contract.
This novel was okay. Clearly not comparable to the original, but far preferable to succeeding books in the series which become increasingly philosophical.
Let me just say: I am one of those people who actually enjoyed the later Dune books written by Frank Herbert. I was hooked, addicted. I needed my fix.I got it with Dune Messiah.Dune Messiah takes place some 12 years after Dune. Paul is the Emperor, and has conquered most of the universe thanks to his crack team of Fremen, ready to embrace him as their messiah.The Bene Gesserit, a group of space witches, however, do not wish to bend to readily to Paul's rule, and as such, team up with other fringe groups to dethrone Paul. Beware of Tleilaxu bearing gifts, Paul, as there is more to the Ghola (a sort of clone) of Duncan Idaho than meets the eye.The universe is changed with all the conspirators, co-conspirators, and counter-conspirators conspiring against one another. Attempts at the life of Paul, his concubine Chani, and other members of the Atreides line are made.This book doesn't give as much whiz as the first Dune, but is just as great for any who, like me, read Dune, and wanted more.
I love this book! It's my favorite besides the original novel. It's sad and it's still close enough to the original story and characters - only one major ghola, as yet - to make it relevant.
Frank Herbert's second installment of the Dune saga begins twelve years after the overthrow of the empire. The jihad of Paul Atreides and his Qizarate legions has brought the name of Muab'dib to the every sector of the galaxy. The novel opens with scenes of conspiracy and theories of history: simulacrum of real action. The planet of Arrakis, indeed the entire Atreides empire, vibrates with explosive potential but is, for the moment, quite still.Unlike the first book, Dune Messiah centers less on action and more on contemplation. It locates Paul on the edge of expected (self-) destruction. The jihad has led him inextricably to this point. And now he waits, hoping to disengage. But the inevitability of the future is tempered by Paul's foreknowledge, his spice-induced ability to see what approaches. Perhaps this is why some readers are "bored" by this book: there is little expectancy from Paul while there is an absurd paranoia among the other characters. We can't align ourselves with the paranoids, but to stand with Paul precludes the energy of expectancy. So what are we left with? Where can we go?In a way, this novel is a discourse on the nature of fate and foreknowledge, A Boethian exploration of one man's place in a seemingly fixed course of events. Like Boethius's god, free will is not compromised by Paul's foreknowledge as he sees the course of the events he set (and continues to set) into motion. But because he knows where this will lead him, he rides the wave rather than swims.Perhaps the question we should be asking is why Herbert decided to take this direction. Why deal with the question of free will and fate in the context of political conspiracies and galactic power struggles? Except Paul is never the victim of these forces! His only power struggle is with his own past and present.All in all, the novel is primarily transitory: it sets the stage for future works while conveniently dispatching Book 1's hero honorably and philosophically. While it doesn't carry quite the same "umph!" as the Dune Part 1, there is merit to be found in its elegant simplicity.
I found this a bit slow and rambling. Disappointing after having read Dune
The previous Dune novel took me quite a while to finish, but I found this one to flow much smoothly and I finished it the same day I finished the first Dune. I had read reviews and interviews with the author to see that many people apparently felt annoyed at this book for bringing the hero down from his pedestal. I don't see how people go this view at all.I thought that all of Paul's actions were very down to earth. He had to make many difficult decisions, and at the end I recall one character even stating that the holy war done in his name was not something he could have called to a stop, it had become it's own rolling monster. His sacrifice at the end was also very touching. I feel that for the people to move on the Hero has to become a martyr.
Book two is much shorter than the first, and has much less action. As a separate work, it is almost silly, but as a part of a longer story Dune Messiah is an integral part of a SF classic. I prefer to look at it in the latter way. In a nutshell, Paul sees in to the future and doesn't like the things that he sees, but they have to happen any way, so they do. Much sadness and anguish follow and a weird love union emerges. The reader gets to see the human sides of the characters from Dune, which is interesting. Also, the future sometimes turns out a bit different than anticipated, big surprise there. Not particularly recommended unless you plan on reading the entire Dune series. At least it is short.
I listened to the unabridged audiobook rather than physically rereading this. I think that was the way to go. The prose is so repetitive at times (a function of both mediocre writing and all the freaking PRESCIENCE!!11!) that I felt OK cleaning the house, etc. and missing bits and pieces. Also, it's so overwrought in places that I'm sure I would've thrown a physical book across the room - read aloud, it's like a melodramatic radio play. There were some bits that I thought were lovely, here and there. For some reason, I found the scene where Paul gropes blindly around in the birth/death chamber, having temporarily lost/closed his psychic vision, terribly affecting. There were some bits that were so terrible, I burst out laughing (Alia in general, Alia's last conversation with Duncan in particular). Still, I love the wacky-dark bio-steampunky Dune universe a bunch, and uncovering more about the various groups and governments making up that universe makes this book worthwhile for me. A lot more about Bene Tleilax, which is cool. Also, I found it interesting that this basically ends with a mirror of the Feyd Rautha crysknife battle at the end of the first book, even down to the bad guy getting stabbed in the head. I had fun listening to this.
So I thought Dune was the best thing since the bound codex, right? And I read it about five times over the course of my young-adulthood. And then I read Messiah and was pretty much completely dissatisfied. Not enough to give it a poor rating, since it is interesting (I mean, we all still care about Paul, even if he is a whiner) and it did keep my attention. So it's a fine book in that regard.The failings here, however, are enormous. You haven't seen foreshadowing until you've read Dune Messiah. It takes that to a whole new, grotesque level-- that and pretentiousness. Thought Dune was pretentious?* Hah! This one makes Dune look downright proletarian. It's as though Frank Herbert managed to make a blunt weapon out of pretentiousness and use it directly on the reader's mind. My final impression was of just another massive philosophical acid trip consisting of a bunch of people smarter than me bandying hints and portentous minutiae in the middle of a half-realized desert wonderland for over three hundred pages. I found that didn't really care about Duncan Idaho, anyway, since he was only in Dune for about forty pages and he only spoke about twice. Telling me ten times in a row that Paul really really liked Idaho is not going to make me feel the same way about him, Frank Herbert! Now I'm afraid to read number three.*I did-- pretentious in a kind of familiar, loveable, stylistically-necessary way.
A tidy little sequel that doesn't answer many questions about the original, but does cast the characters in a new, unexpected light. Although the story is supposed to create an aura around new, divine leaders, the book actually does the opposite by making them seem more human.
I think most people don't particularly like this book, but I'm not sure why. Is it because Paul-Muad'Dib, Messiah, Emperor, God, is shown as a flawed human? Is it because we see that even with his awesome powers, he's still unable to map the future, to escape the future, the same as any ordinary human? We know Paul was never going to be perfect, was never going to be an angelic being or benevolent emperor; Frank Herbert told us that in "Dune." We know that Paul knew his destiny, knew the consequences of his actions, from the earliest moments; we can speculate that he might've even had the power to change the outcome, to escape the jihad fought in his name, to fling off the mantle of power that weighed upon him and turned his friends and companions into slavish minions, willing to do anything in the name of Muad'Dib. And yet he didn't. He continued on his course of actions, perhaps because, in his arrogance, he began to believe too much in his own mythology--Muad'Dib, the Kwisatz Haderch, the Lisan al-Gaib; perhaps he even grew to enjoy the trappings of power, underneath his disdain. And perhaps that is what truly destroyed him, in the end: recognition of his human-ness underneath the godhead. I found this book to be just as powerful as "Dune" as it explores what happens to the messiah once he is accepted and the changes he's wrought become routine and ritualized. It wasn't about the world-shaking changes he brought to everyone else; it was about the psyche-shaking changes his role brought to himself, the dark side of power that defines who and what we become.
I was surprised at how much this story differed from the original Dune. The whole experience was changed and unfortunately it was near impossible to match what I received from Dune. Overall I found the story okay but quite philosophical and kind of surreal. I will also admit that it likely needs a reread for proper appreciation.
Many people did not like Dune Messiah. I did. I thought the themes of the novel were very interesting and thought provoking. It is not as layered and well written as Dune is, but it covers completely new, yet familiar themes. Paul Mau'dib is now Emperor of the known universe but he cannot stop the Fremen's jihad that has killed over sixty billion people across the planet; he has prescience and forms of advanced mind powers yet he cannot (or does not) control his own destiny. I think the main themes of Dune Messiah examine the basis of power, the use of religion as a weapon, and how society controls its leaders. Paul is bound to Fremen law despite being the most powerful man in the universe. On a smaller scale, Dune Messiah also covers the slow yet sure change of Dune. Fremen move into cities and their culture begins to change. The ecosystem of Dune changes as well. Subplots involving espionage, betrayal, and conspiracy also keep the plot riveting and exciting. All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable book. It may not be for all, but I found that personally speaking, it was enough for me.
I gave this four and a half stars because in its own right it's a fine novel with quotable lines, rich ideas, scenes with real impact and a plot whose details stayed with me decades later, and I want to indicate that here Herbert is still at the top of his game. That said, I don't think this impresses as much as the first book in the series, Dune. I think Herbert knows it couldn't, and rather teases the reader in the opening when a historian is being interrogated and insists there's more to this world than planet Dune with its extreme aridity, its savage nomad warriors its sandworms and commodity, spice, that allows interstellar travel and prescient visions.Maybe not--but that is a lot of what made the experience of that first novel so uniquely immersive. The way it created this world where water was so precious one wore special suits to reclaim every bit of water. That novel defined epic. This novel is much more intimate. At it's heart its a love story--two love stories really. But it also entwines the personal with the political and certainly this portrait of Paul, who in Dune we first meet as a child, is disturbing. He urges one of his people to study Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler, and tells him Hitler was responsible for taking six million lives (much more actually--the six million represents only the Jews Hitler exterminated). He observes he's been responsible in sparking off his Jihad in ending the lives of 61 billion. For all that, Paul remains sympathetic--he's riding a tiger and is trying to find a way off without getting himself and everyone he loves mauled. A joker is thrown into the deck with the return of Duncan Idaho--who died protecting Paul in the first book--as a "ghola" and gift to Paul. A creature created from Duncan's dead flesh is more than a clone--and the question in the book is just how much of Duncan is in this gift? And is he a Trojan horse? It's a question very much to the fore of the mind of Paul and his sister Alia, who finds herself drawn to Duncan.I found the end of the book poignant and heartbreaking and warming all at once. And no, this isn't the mind-blowing epic that the first book, Dune, was, but it's a book that still contains human-scaled characters I can care about. I do recommend it and think fans of Dune shouldn't be disappointed in this sequel as long as they understand this is a very different book than the first. I can't say that for the third book, Children of Dune, after which I just couldn't care less about the characters. That was my last book in the series.