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Dune Messiah

Dune Messiah - Frank Herbert I don't normally look at reviews of a book prior to writing my own take on it, but sometime I just draw a blank after finishing a book. Some books are harder to review than others, sometime because I feel ambivalent about them, sometime I don’t fully understand them, and sometime I don’t know the reason, they just are. After finishing Dune Messiah I feel like I need some kind of launching pad to start off the review, some inspiration or perhaps I will resort to simply ripping off somebody’s review wholesale (unfortunately Cecily has not reviewed this one yet so I'll pass on the last option ;)

[b:Dune|234225|Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)|Frank Herbert|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1349105964s/234225.jpg|3634639], as you are undoubtedly aware, is probably the most famous sci-fi novel of all time. Dune Messiah is like Frank Herbert’s equivalent of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album in that it has to follow up a once in a lifetime mega hit and is doomed to come up short. Having read the book I do not get the feeling that Frank Herbert was feeling under pressure to match Dune’s success. Perhaps authors are not subject to the same level of pressure as pop stars.

At around 340 pages Dune Messiah is about half the length of Dune, it is also very different in tone and pacing. It starts off twelve years after the events of Dune. Our literally know it all hero Paul "Muad'Dib" Atreides is now Emperor of the known universe and is having a suitably heroic melancholic time of it on account of the jihad which caused billions of death in his name. In the meantime powerful enemies are ganging up to snuff him out because he is too powerful, he is literally a know-it-all thanks to his oracular powers, and nobody likes a smartass. His wife concubine can not have a baby because his legal wife slipped her some contraceptive (and oracular powers apparently do not cover food additives). To make matters worse (or perhaps better) his dead teacher Duncan Idaho is returned to him as a sort of clone (ghola) with a suspicious mission and a new highly ominous name of Hayt. With all the odds stacked against him how can he survive? With panache of course!

The first third of the book is very interesting with all the aforementioned odds being piled up against Paul, then the pacing of the book begin to sag with a lot of ruminations and philosophizing by the major characters and my mind drifted off to parts unknown. After a rather dry 100 or so pages the plot revives quite a bit and the climax is quite thrilling (if not exactly unpredictable).

This book clearly has a lot of depth, themes and subtexts, unfortunately its profundity mostly escaped me as profundities tend to do. One of the Amazon reviewers mentioned that the book is so profound wh8ile reading it he frequently had to stop to think about what Herbert was really saying. The stoppages I made are mostly to do with thinking about my options for lunch and other mundane things.

The two central characters are less compelling than they were in the previous book, Paul is all broody and miserable, his sister Alia goes through mood swings between being supernaturally sage, overly shrill and a teenager with a crush. Hayt/Idaho is pretty cool though, is he or isn’t he? Of course he is!

For me Dune Messiah acts as a slightly dull (but not too shabby) bridge to go on to the original trilogy’s grand finale [b:Children of Dune|112|Children of Dune (Dune Chronicles, #3)|Frank Herbert|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348092992s/112.jpg|3634573] which is brilliant by all accounts and I am looking forward to reading soonish.