Monday, December 12, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: God Emperor Of Dune

God Emperor Of Dune (Frank Herbert)



Plot

God Emperor Of Dune is set thousands of years after the original Dune trilogy. The book concerns the reign of Leto the II, slowly morphing into a full blown sandworm, and his quest to put humanity on the "Golden Path." He interacts with his inner circle, deceiving and informing them as he sees fit, and eventually is seduced by Hwi Noree, an Ixian ambassador. These interactions, in particular his evolving relationship with Hwi, develop a more human and relate able character than the one in the original Dune, and help to keep the character and dialogue heavy book afloat.

The book does have its flaws, and some of them are of the type that will prevent many readers from getting interested in this book. The first concerns pacing, the book moves terribly slow, even when compared to previous books in the series. Much of the book consists of Leto meditating, then talking to one of his servants, usually Moneo, his longtime aide. Almost all of the book is dialogue or introspective, and fans of the usual sci-fi fare will be hard pressed to finish the book. Action scenes are near nonexistent and rather boring in the few instances in which they appear. The book also doesn't really have a villain, and suspense is nonexistent. Having an omnipresent main character will do this every time, and here the protagonist's ability to see into the future, not to mention his nearly invulnerable body, prevent action scenes from achieving a sense of urgency.

There are some great scenes as Leto reflects on his life and the future, not to mention the course of humanity, but overall the book was a bit lacking. The plot barely moved until the end, when many things happened very quickly, and it was disappointing to see that the intrigue and plotting was mostly rendered moot by Leto's ability to see everything in the universe.

Overall, there is a good story buried in GEoD, but it is hurt by poor pacing, a lack of action, and no real conflict.

Characterization

Because the book is set 4,000 years after the previous book in the series, many characters including Jessica and Ghanima are killed off before the novel starts. This means that new characters must be brought in to replace them, and the failure of the new characters is one of the major failures of the book.

The most glaring failure is Hwi Noree. She has almost no personality, and it is hard to see why Leto would be attracted to her. The relationship is still entertaining due to the sheer bizarre qualities that it possesses, but their relationship isn't great and Hwi is a bit too dull to make it feel complete.

The other new characters, Nayla, Moneo, and Siona also fail to be more than mouthpieces for the story. Though the back and forth between these characters and Leto is often entertaining, it is due almost entirely to the strength of Leto's character. Leto is easily the best character in the book, unlike in Children of Dune, he both a human side and a defined personality. His quest to place humanity on the Golden Path causes him to question a great many things, and sifting through the memories of his ancestors has granted him an entirely unique perspective on humanity, religion and government. He isn't all about the fate of humanity, however, as he longs for a love life as well. For this, he finds Hwi, and though the relationship isn't great, and at times is even a bit silly (picture a woman getting married to a huge worm, then try to take this book seriously), it nevertheless lends the character a more human side.

The only other holdover, Duncan Idaho, is a bit hard to take seriously at first. One of more than fifty gholas created since the last book, Duncan is recreated over and over to serve in Leto's breeding program and to act as a reminder of his past. Just like the Duncans in previous books, this one quickly realizes he is being used, and aspires to rebel against Leto. He is a very sympathetic character, being basically a slave to Leto and trapped in a life and time thousands of years from the one he remembers, but his story is too similar to his arcs in the previous books to truly enjoy.

Prose

Prose is the high point of this book. The author does a great job of sprinkling philosophical tidbits throughout the book, both in excellent prefaces to each chapter, and in Leto's thoughts and dialogue. The book certainly has strong ideas, and as a philosophical book it is wildly successful. It covers topics such as government, religion, human nature, and war in a mostly in depth and insightful fashion. Though it is sometimes heavy handed, overall this is the best aspect of the book.

The author is also given an opportunity to once again build the world of Dune. In the thousands of years since the last book, much has changed. The sandworms are all but gone, and the deserts are largely replaced by greener areas. Even the fremen appear completely different, and the general culture of Dune is quite different from that in the original trilogy. The book introduces a handful of new creatures, and the world building is good, but it could have been a bit more in depth- much of the book takes place in Leto's palace or similar urban areas.

The dialogue is occasionally hard to follow, but when it is clicking, it is top notch, clever stuff. The author infuses many conversations with subtle humor and irony, and this gives the characters an extra bit of depth that is otherwise difficult to convey. The other aspects of the book are fairly average. The action scenes are few and far between and unspectacular, with the exception of a good "hook" at the beginning of the story. Imagery, such as Leto brooding in his underground chamber, is used to excellent effect when introducing new characters.

The book is undeniably well written, and the author's skill at crafting entertaining dialogue, and a world that is quite different from that seen in the original Dune trilogy, are some of the highlights of the book.

Conclusion

God Emperor Of Dune had potential, Leto is a strong, complex character, and the philosophical musings are intriguing and spot on more often then not. However, the weak supporting cast and terrible pacing and story issues prevented me from fully enjoying this book.

Final Score

65/100

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