Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Just to be very clear here: Frank Herbert's originals are absolute classics of SF. It's not just Dune -- although that one is superior to the rest -- but all six of these books that should be put on a pedestal.
That being said, the density of ideas, the wonderful interlocked wisdom wafting from the pages, the stunning panorama of future history make an absolutely thrilling ride. This one has a lot less action than, say, Heretics, but the reveals and the implications are enough to utterly transform our understanding of the entire Dune universe that came before.
Unfortunately, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. Frank was taken from us too soon. All the various ideas and directions did not finalize in this book. We have a very open-ended conclusion that annoys me as much now as when I was 14-years-old. We need the amazing combination of the BG and the HM, the exodus, and the eventual blow-out that would have come with the inclusion of the thinking machines that drove the HM to near-extinction.
That's why we needed those two extra books by FH's son and KJA.
And what we got was nothing near what we needed.
It doesn't change the brilliance of this book or the ones before. It just makes me wish that someone like Brandon Sanderson had swooped in to finish this series in the same way that he brilliantly finished the WoT series.
As with much of Frank Herbert's other writing, Dune excluded, this one is a novel notable and worthy on the realm of ideas. He never stints on ideas. He might get slightly sluggish and lose the thread of the plot while we plod around in the ideas, but there are always great scenes and always great blow-out reveals. The original classic of Dune has none of these faults. It is a classic and imminently readable from page one and is still my favorite book of all time.
So what about this one? Is it worth reading for everyone else? It's book 6 in the very impressive and automatically Epic series that encapsulates over five thousand years from the events of Dune, ending with the centric viewpoint of the Bene Gesserit after the tyranny of Paul's son and the great diaspora that scattered all the peoples of the galaxy after his death.
The planet Dune is effectively destroyed at the end of Heretics of Dune and only a single sandworm and some sandtrout were lifted from the planet to be the seed of a new place where the Spice can be produced. This is especially important after the Bene Tleilaxu were also destroyed or partially submerged under the auspices of the Gesserit after the Honored Matres rampaged through the known universe.
This book takes up the new clones of Teg and Duncan, but mostly revolves around the conflicts between the Bene Gesserit and the Honored Matres. Each side has taken prisoners and tries to subvert the captives. The Bene Gesserit are more than slightly more successful at the task than the "knock-off Bene Gesserit" Honored Matres, despite the others being wildly more dominant and deadly in combat.
What we have is a novel that reminds me a great deal of the later Wheel of Time books with Egwaine in the White Tower, only, I have to point out that Chapterhouse Dune came out first. :) We know that Jordan was a big fan of Dune and stole a tone of great ideas from Herbert, so this shouldn't be too surprising, but rather than a 5-6 enormous spread of books, Herbert accomplishes a success-from-below story in a single novel. :)
The teaching and the subversion is the real main story in Chapterhouse. Don't let the cool space battles and space-opera fool you. This is a story of fantastic women doing fantastic things, the undisputed masters of the galaxy, and a massive conflict between the returning diaspora offshoot of the Bene Gesserit and the mainline that stayed behind.
On that level, it's still a great tale despite my other issues with it.
Anything this complex and full of great observations about human nature, politics, and even love should not be discounted lightly. It's super dense with fantastic ideas on every page and even though it will never be considered a standalone classic, it's a very, very worthy novel to read. Especially in conjunction with Heretics of Dune.
And, I assume, Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune carry on the tradition well since I'm going to plow through them and continue the storyline set up here. :) The cliffhanger at the end of Chapterhouse was a doozy. :)
Let's see if Herbert's son and Anderson make the ideas into something more traditional, eh? I can hope. They've had a lot of practice in the universe before attempting the big one. Herbert's death put a stop to the story and most of us fans were extremely upset. Hell, I remember reading this book the first time in '89 and wishing I could have written the sequel to it. I can't be alone in this. :) I can only hope that expectations live up, etc., etc.
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