I had promised myself that I would occasionally post about authors who have inspired me with their prowess, characterization, world-building and narrative. Frank Herbert is certainly high on this list (probably right after Joan Vinge), but because Giant Worms are sexy, we see here the third installment in the Dune Chronicles instead of the actual Dune itself.
Make no mistake; Dune is a masterpiece of space opera, a classic of science fiction and the quintessential bible of messianic heroism in the dark expanse of Space Hell. Unfortunately, in order to read Children of Dune, one must already be familiar with the universe of Dune in the first place, otherwise I would recommend just reading Children of Dune before you do anything else by let’s say… Christmas of this year.
Let’s face the facts, though. By this time in the Dune Universe, Paul Muad’Dib is an aging and elusive character who everyone thinks is dead and yet (like the spirit of Elvis) he is rumored to be wandering somewhere in the receding deserts of Planet Arrakis. His children, and unfortunate sister Alia (a Spice addict with the worst case of possession in the known universe of literature), are looked on as saviors by the people of Arrakeen (capital city of Planet Arrakis and culture/spiritual center for the religion surrounding Paul Atreides and his conversion to Fremen spirituality.
It is here, in Children of Dune, where we truly see Herbert’s obvious distaste for the lemmings of the world, and how dangerously powerful a leader can become when followed blindly by his or her worshipers. Paul’s children, his legal wife Princess Irulan and concubine Chani, all suffer from this blind following and Leto (Paul’s oldest son), begins to become so intent on returning to the roots of what Muad’Dib (his father) set out to accomplish that (without going into ridiculous amounts of detail and spoiling the story) he starts to actually become one of the giant worms that inhabit Arrakis and protect the Spice Melange.
The reason this can be sexy is because James McAvoy portrayed Leto in the BBC/Syfy Channel miniseries “Children of Dune” and even when he had worm skin I liked looking at him. Bit skinny though. But still hot.
But the sexier part? Children of Dune is, at its heart, a well-crafted and well executed plot arc that warns humanity, even as far-reaching as this particular futuristic world is, that some things never change; that we should be as careful as we know how to be when glorification of mortal men (or women) becomes a model for existence. Smoke and mirrors to our real reason for existing in the first place: to live and live life.
Dune Messiah does a pretty good job of exploring that, too, but when you get down to it Children of Dune is just more fun. I’m sure someone out there disagrees with me. But people drinking poisonous liquid and turning into giant sandworms is just sexy, no matter how you swing it. Believe it or not when I write, I find myself drawing on Herbert’s sentiment without realizing it – minus the sand worms.
Read this book. I mean, read Dune first but then read this book. Do it.