Thursday, November 09, 2006

God Emperor of Dune

God Emperor of Dune (Dune Chronicles, Book 4)

Frank Herbert

Date: 01 April, 1991   —   $7.19   —   Book

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Fiction, Science Fiction

This is one of the stranger of the Dune novels, and the most philosophical. Leto II, thousands of years after his voluntary pairing with the biology of the sandtrout/sandworm, has become a tyrant who limits the spice and supresses the traveling urge of all of humanity. This is not, however, from malice but from a deliberate plan to force humanity in a new direction. After his death, he hints, there will be a diaspora, a scattering of humanity to the four winds with new purpose and renewed drive.

In essence, all of the Dune novels are about how slavery shapes people. Dune shows how people are enslaved by the demands of nobility; Dune Messiah is about people enslaved by predestination. Children of Dune is roughly about enslavement by the past, but its true message is that enslavement by the future can be thrown off by one determined act. In God Emperor of Dune, Leto tries to explain to yet another Duncan Idaho how he is trying to change the future of humanity. The message never gets through, but a sharp reader can understand a hint of what he is trying to convey. Near the end, we get one part of his complicated plan: he has been trying to breed the trait of being invisible to prescience - a goal in which he has finally succeeded.

More to the point, however, this book is a commentary on the theory of government. Given thousands of years in which to work, and a series of goals in mind, as well as the ability to see repercussions of certain actions, a government might well become an exercise in eradicating itself. Part of Leto's plan is to make government eventually unnecessary, a goal which his detractors do not believe. In fact, a large part of his goal is to make himself hated as well as loved, the object of oppression whose death removes the shackles of the mind.

While this book is fascinating in its own right, it is not particularly interesting in terms of advancing the story. It is a presentation of a person more than a plot; it gives a bridge to the next part of the story but does not explain it any more than it explains itself. This book has more interest for sociology students than for science fiction readers. Still, there are worse judgements out there than that.

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