See my earlier review of the other books in this famous series.
This book took seven years to publish after "Dune Messiah" and I can only guess it's because it is so much more complex than either of the first two. I actually found this book to be a harder read as there was so much to comprehend of Herbert's vision. On the surface, it appeared to be a simple plot but the characters' motivations and actions were difficult to follow at times.
Paul Atreides' twin children, Leto and Ghanima are about seven-years-old and being raised as Fremen by Stilgar. But since they are pre-born, they have the self-awareness of a mature adult and the memories of all those who came before them; making them somewhat monstrous in others' view and difficult to understand. Both rightly fear the possibility of becoming an abomination like their Aunt Alia who succumbed to the dominance of Baron Harkonnen.
Alia rules Arrakis and, by extension, the universe. Under the sway of Baron Harkonnen, she can only see threats to her position. She does not have her brother's prescience so his vision for humanity means nothing to her. She decides she must remove all the threats to her rule including her niece and nephew, her mother and even her husband, Duncan Idaho.
In the meantime, House Corrino would like to regain their power and put their heir on the throne as Emperor; but, of course, the twins - heirs to Paul Atreides - stand in the way. The Bene Gesserit are unhappy that they've lost Paul and Alia but see Leto and Ghanima as a possible breeding pair. They might be just as happy with a union of Ghanima and the Corrino heir, Farad'n; despite the fact that Ghanima is determined to kill Farad'n on sight. Surprisingly, Lady Jessica has other plans, all her own, for Farad'n.
And over-shadowing all is the presence of "The Preacher" who may or may not be Maud'Dib, Paul Atreides. The reader is left to wonder what happened to Paul's vision and plan to save humanity; was it totally destroyed by the uncontrollable jihad?
The last part of the book tells of the horrible decision that Leto takes upon himself - to save humanity from the events precipitated by his father. I admit to having a bit of difficulty understanding how Leto came to the decision he made; I'm not sure that Herbert sufficiently explained it. But it's more clear to me now than the last time I read these books, decades ago. I hope the next book is easier to understand than the last time I read it. ~~ Catherine Book
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