Heretics of Dune (Dune #5)
By: Frank Herbert
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
In this, the fifth and most spectacular Dune book of all, the planet Arrakis–now called Rakis–is becoming desert again. The Lost Ones are returning home from the far reaches of space. The great sandworms are dying. And the children of Dune’s children awaken from empire as from a dream, wielding the new power of a heresy called love…
Of course, I’ve been meaning to finish the series as I mentioned in my last review of the Dune books, but given things that had been going on offline and my schedule, I didn’t think I would’ve been able to get close to finishing most of the books in time for Sci-Fi Month. But! I managed to squeeze in the fifth Dune book, so here we are, surprise review that was not originally scheduled for this month’s events. Yay! 😛
So there’s another massive time jump in this book, not as big as between Children of Dune (review) and God Emperor of Dune (review), but it’s enough of a time jump to see notable changes in the empire since Leto II. There’s been a Scattering of humanity amongst the stars; the Bene Gesserit has regained some of their former strength, the Ixians, the Bene Tleilax and their new brand of Face Dancers, and the dangerous Honoured Matres, a violent sect combining combat skills and sexual prowess. Arrakis–or rather Rakis–is still the central stage for all of th conflicts to play out, the planet that everyone wants. This book feels more complex than its predecessor because in the absence of Leto II–known as the Tyrant here rather than as the God Emperor–because all of these fractions are out in the open vying for power. And things really become this back-and-forth tumult of characters falling into each other’s traps, master plans being revealed as to how these various groups plan on steering the future of humanity moving forward.
Once again the point of reference here is still Duncan Idaho, still being revived as a ghola. Through his story that element of the breeding programs and the use of sex as a means to control others and steer the direction of humanity through future generations rings are addressed. This element has always been present in the Dune series, in the early novels through the Bene Gesserit and their search of the Kwisatz Haderach, and later with Leto II taking full control of their program as part of his steering of humanity down the Golden Path. In this novel humanity is at a crossroads as the Bene Gesserit are now aware of the Golden Path but find themselves questioning whether to follow along with the plans and step out of their shadows of operations. But their methods, as well as that of the Honoured Matres, uses sex as a weapon, and Duncan continually bemoans his role of being their stud for whatever reason. Nonetheless the notion of controlling the breeding process is an eerie and chilling element that reminds me of the dystopian novels like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (review).
Heretics of Dune deals with the fallout of Leto II’s eons of centralisation, with various factions now struggling to gain the upper hand in the massive power vaccuum that emerged after the events of the previous novel. The end was obviously a shocker as it reinforces once again how destructive the fallout has been and how intense the conflict has been. Can’t wait to read the final novel from the original series!