Read: 1 September, 2016
I’m done! This journey a decade in the making has finally come to an end! Freedom!
Some reviewers have said that there are really two series in Dune – the first involving Paul and his immediate family, and the second involving the Bene Gesserit. That certainly seems to hold true, as Heretics and Chapterhouse have a very different feel. They are less personal, less interested in individual characters. Characters themselves can die but live on in Other Memory, interacting with the characters that still live. This means that the stakes are very different, as we fear for the safety of humanity itself, with little care of any individual players.
In many ways, Chapterhouse is a continuation of Heretics, which had ended on something of a cliffhanger. While I’m given to understand that this is supposed to have been a trilogy, it ends well. Leto II’s plan seems to finally be understood, the Bene Gesserit leadership understands its role in relation to humanity, and Duncan Idaho begins a new Scattering. It’s open-ended, sure, but it’s open-ended with a sense of finality.
I grew to like Odrade in the last book, and I was glad to spend so much more time with her here. Murbella got quite a bit of the second half, and I was glad to get to know her as something more than just Duncan’s sexual conquest and Odrade’s pawn. Rather, she starts to show agency, and she makes some very important decisions. She also becomes interesting, as she comes to embody a kind of synthesis between the Honored Matres and the Bene Gesserit. In no small way, she reshaped both sisterhoods into her own image, just as Odrade had initially shaped Murbella.
Miles Teg, whom I had so enjoyed in Heretics, took a back seat here. He’s present, but he’s more of a function – he carries out the plans of other characters. Where he is interesting is where we don’t know quite where his loyalties lie between Odrade and Duncan – in other words, he is interesting because of the conflict between Odrade and Duncan.
It’s difficult to say too much about this instalment because it lacks so much of what we might call storytelling. Things happen, the story moves on, but it does so without structure. It’s almost more like a meditation on the conflict, rather than something that could be properly called a novel. Still, the writing style and the characters sustained me, and I enjoyed listening to it every evening as I fell asleep.
Before I close up, I wanted to point out a very interesting quote in light of a Trump presidential candidacy:
“Democracy is a stupid idea anyway!”
“We agree. It’s demagogue-prone.That’s a disease to which electoral systems are vulnerable. Yet demagogues are easy to identify. They gesture a lot and speak with pulpit rhythms, using words that ring of religious fervor and god-fearing sincerity.”
I don’t think there can be any question that, whatever flaws he may have had as a writer, Herbert was keenly observant.
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