THP Supplemental: Dune Messiah and Children of Dune

27 May

Dune has spawned an ungodsly number of sequels and prequels, but I liked the original a lot, so I’m trying to make it through as much of the series as I can stand. Thus far I’ve trundled through the next two.  The extended Dune edition of The Hugo Project continues…


Dune Messiah
Children of Dune

Frank Herbert
published in 1969 and 1976


Warning! Spoilers ahead!


So, the story of House Atreides’s shenanigans on Arrakis continues. Hooray?

…I have mixed feeling about all of this nonsense. On the one hand, there is still a lot of depth to the stories, and still a lot of ideas and plot unfolding. On the other hand…it’s getting harder and harder to care. Dune Messiah at least had the benefit of being shorter than the original – which, technically, Children of Dune is as well, though not by a whole lot.

The fact that each book jumps roughly a decade ahead in time doesn’t help much, either – the beautifully detailed world that Herbert created for us in Dune keeps changing, which is rather the point of the books, but it feels like as soon as the reader might have the slightest beginnings of a general grasp of the social and physical structure of the Dune-verse, everything changes again.

Look, I’m just going to come out and say it: I can’t follow these books. I can’t do it. I can’t figure who’s on whose side and who thinks who is on whose side and who is plotting what in collusion with whom anymore. It doesn’t help that everybody in the books is trying to manipulate everybody else and knows they’re being manipulated by everyone else except nobody’s sure whose manipulations of whom are successful and/or recognized and/or accepted by the person being manipulated and Sweet Mother of the Eternal Flaming Hedgehog, somebody stop this paragraph before it makes my brain hurt even more than it already does.

Am I just incredibly stupid? Does my brain just operate at right angles to Herbert’s? Is there somebody out there who is actually able to follow all of these ridiculous plots within plans within schemes all wrapped in bullshit prophecy mysticism?

These books are like something out of Mrs. Bennet’s head.
(Minus the green beans in cranberry juice.)

If you haven’t watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the above image makes no sense to you. Also, you are full of fail. To remedy this situation, click on the picture and WATCH THEM ALREADY THEY ARE AMAZEBALLS.

Back to the books.

Since a larger-than-entirely-healthy portion of my self-identity is comprised of my intelligence, I’m going to move forward on the assumption that I am not incredibly stupid and that what we have here is, in fact, a case of WHITE MALE BRILLIANCE wrapped in layers of fog and glitter and PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN except I’m pretty sure even Herbert had lost track of the number of curtains by this point.

I am so over WHITE MALE BRILLIANCE, both that of Herbert and of his protagonists. By the end of Dune Messiah, I was so done with Paul and his tragic manpain of prophecy. By page 150 of Children of Dune, I was so done with Leto II and his tragic manpain of prophecy and not telling Ghanima anything.

And I hate, hate, hate the central thesis emerging in these books. Because apparently the only people who know what humanity truly needs are Leto and Paul (WHITE MALES of BRILLIANCE) and so now Leto has to be a horrible despot for millennia so that people realize how good they had it under Paul’s jihad and then magically humanity realizes its ultimate destiny or some shit?

Yes, white men making the tough, manpain-inducing decision to be mean to people for their own good. That sounds like a brilliant plan and is no way cliched or offensively patronizing and rage-inducing.

Basically, my bullshit threshold was reached early in Children of Dune, and since WisCon has effectively destroyed my manpain tolerance, I am not in the mood for any of this.

…and yet, I’m still curious where this is going. Damnation. Apparently the next book takes place 3500 years in the future (STOP WITH THE TIME JUMPS ALREADY) so maybe after a break and some palate-cleansing YA fantasy I’ll be able to tackle this again.

And now I don’t even have the energy to talk about race/gender/sexuality/ability/etc in the books because I am SO DONE right now. Though I will say that Herbert is really great at creating fantastically strong females and then forgetting about them (Jessica), killing them (Chani), driving them insane (Alia), making them stupid and petty (Irulan), or ignoring them unless they’re advancing the plans of their brother (Ghanima). Why did Herbert bother creating her when she serves as a plot device for her brother and basically nothing else?

So. Incredibly. Done.


This calls for large quantities of ice cream. Join me next week as I watch the Sci Fi channel’s miniseries Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune, and, depending on how things go, two weeks after that I may have some thoughts on God-Emperor of Dune and the ensuing sequels. Maybe.


Posted by on 27.5.2013 in Books


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2 responses to “THP Supplemental: Dune Messiah and Children of Dune

  1. Joe

    28.5.2013 at 6:26 pm

    There is a fatal flaw in your criticism- these aren’t white men making the decisions in the books (nor are they men!). I know it sounds silly, but read on:

    Though Paul and Alia would probably appear white, Leto II, and Ghanima would appear half-Arabic. However, one’s appearance does not determine their culture and this is a moot point.

    These 4 characters have the collective experiences of all humanity. Leto II and Ghanima cannot be biased by their own culture because they have EVERY culture. Additionally they cannot be biased by their gender because they have EVERY gender. Leto II has experienced giving birth billions of times and has lived the life of a mother billions of times. He has died billions of deaths and been born billions of times. He is no more male than female, no more white than black, no more a 4 year old than a 200 year old. He IS humanity so there cannot be a racial or gender bias! The same is not 100% true for Paul since he lived 15 years of his life as a white male before he had the memories of humanity. However, Ghanima, Alia, and Leto II had the accumulation of human experience while they were still in the womb.

    Is that a convenient co-out by Frank to excuse himself from his own biases when writing these books? Absolutely! There’s no reason to assume that they aren’t filled with white-male-centric ideals. But within the books’ own universe, this is a self-sufficient argument.

    Frank used these two sequels to set up the story around the decline of Paul’s life, to show that he was not this all-powerful omnipotent being. Their main point is to demonstrate that it was not a glamorous life for Paul, but instead filled with sorrow, pain, and suffering.

    I agree that the plot is incredibly complicated, making the first read through an arduous, confusing task. However, the tangled plots and intricacies make them great for subsequent readings. There’s a lot that you have to know from future books for things to make total sense. I’ve read each book of the main series 5-10 times each and I promise that they do actually make sense (…for the most part).

    If you do get around to God Emperor, you will probably find it boring. In my opinion, it is by far the best Dune book (only because I’m a giant Dune nerd). I’m told that it is similar to The Silmarillion for LotR. The more into the universe you are, the more exciting the boring little details are for you.

    Congrats on making it through these books! I have much respect for you.

    • Myriad

      3.6.2013 at 10:52 pm

      True, Leto and Ghanima would likely appear half-Arabic, and true, one’s physical appearance does not determine one’s culture. However, the point is not the least bit moot – Paul, certainly, and to a lesser extent Leto, are avatars of White culture. There IS such a thing as Whiteness, just as there is such a thing as Blackness – and while both are incredibly broad, overly-generalized terms, they do have a cultural meaning that is related to but not dependent on skin color. One does not need to have dark skin to participate in Black culture, nor does one need to have light skin to participate in White culture, but unfortunately the state of our society is such that socialization tends to lead to a strong correlation between skin tone and culture.

      On the gender front, I do see your point, and perhaps Herbert did intend for Leto and Ghani to be genderless. He did not succeed, however – his continual insistence that female preborn are more at risk for becoming Abominations, the fact that when the twins channel their parents, Leto is always Paul and Ghanima is always Chani, the fact that the idea of Ghanima following the Golden Path (rather than Leto) is never seriously considered – Their genders are very clearly defined and not the least bit fluid, at least as they are presented in the books. The only one who shows any sort of gender fluidity is Alia/Harkonnen, but of course she/he/zie is evil.

      If you haven’t picked up by now, I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the Dune-verse. I’m certainly enjoying discussing it with you!


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