A substantially shorter novel than the first book in the series, Dune Messiah is on the Book Shelf this week.
Published four years after Dune, Messiah is set twelve years after the events that saw Paul Atreides become Emperor, marry a princess in name only, and his Fremen launched their jihad on the galaxy.
Paul and his Fremen wife, Chani, are struggling to have a child, but political machinations within the empire have prevented it. But the plans are even darker than that, the Bene Gesserit, are working with the Guild, as well as a Tleilaxu Face Dancer (a gender changing human that can mimic faces) are all working together their plans hidden by the oracular abilities of the spice they partake.
Paul cannot see all the paths before him, though he tries to control as many as he can. But he is shaken when the Tleilaxu present him with a ghola (a re-animated human form) that looks to be his friend, and teacher, Duncan Idaho.
Trouble surrounds Idaho, as he is aware that he must be programmed somehow to hurt Paul, but there is also an undeniable attraction between him and Paul’s sister, the incredibly powerful Alia.
As Paul struggles with his visions, he realises that he may now be no more than a tool of his own ideology, that his government has become more than him, and that it will endure, even should he leave.
If Paul was active in the first book, he is much more passive here, watching as things unfold around him, aware of the course they are already going to take. It makes him a little hard to relate to, but that may be part of the idea. He is not the young man we left at the end of the first book, even as he was cementing his plans with the Padishah Emperor. He is older, different, and almost resigned to his fate.
I love the end of the book, and I also love how Herbert expanded upon his original novel by introducing other things, cultures, ideas, and changed Paul from what we thought was the hero, a man who made himself an emperor by the end of the first book, to an emperor who made himself into a god in the second, and showing the folly of that.
I very much enjoy the universe Herbert created, and am enjoying exploring it as I am. There is so much more left to explore, and the spice must flow…