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Dune Messiah
Dune Chronicles #2
by Frank Herbert
G.P. Putnam., 220pp
Published 1969

See my earlier review of the first book in this famous series.

It's been twelve years since the events in the first book and although Paul Muad'Dib Atreides has created a new star empire, not everyone is happy with the status quo.  Many factions are uniting in an attempt to bring down his reign. The conspiracy includes his consort/wife Princess Irulan, the Reverend Mother Mohiam, a Face Dancer named Scytale, and a Guildsman.  The Princess is unhappy about her unconsummated marriage, the Reverend Mother is unhappy that the Bene Gesserit have lost the Atreides genes and greatly fears Paul as the kwisatz haderach, the Guildsman is unhappy about the control of mélange by the new Emperor, and Scytale…well, no one seems to know what motivates him to create this plot.  He contributes a ghola of the long-dead Duncan Idaho and gives him to Paul.  Paul knows exactly what Duncan is and refuses to acknowledge him as the real Duncan, referring to him, instead, as Hayt.  But what Paul cannot understand is the reason for the gift.  The Tleilaxu Face Dancers never just give a gift without a reason…which isn't made clear until the end of the book; thereby setting a plot point that carries through several books.

As the conspiracy advances, the story also focuses on Paul's sister, Alia.  Alia is his second-in-command and directs what can only be described as a state religion.  But she is troubled in that her prescience isn't telling her all that Paul can see.  She is also troubled by the ghola Hayt and the feelings that he raises in her.  And, of course, Paul still struggles with the visions he has of his jihad - which he cannot stop.  Paul's true love and companion, Chani, finally understands why she hasn't been able to conceive a child.  Unfortunately, although she does become pregnant, the repercussions are far-reaching and will deal a deadly blow to Paul.

This is a short story as it mostly tells the story of how Paul manages his empire and deals with the conspiracy.  The story is advanced a bit with Alia.  But the ending is shocking in the extreme; it seems unbelievable what Herbert did with Paul at the end.  The most important thing in this book, for this reader, is to consider just why it is that Paul is unable to stop the holy jihad that seemed to spring out of nothing from Arrakis to terrorize thousands of planets; killing billions of people.  There is an explanation but I was always disappointed that all that action occurred "off-screen", so to speak. Just the logistics of such an enterprise staggers the imagination and Herbert didn't provide any background on just how it was accomplished…disappointing.

The final events set the stage for just about everything that came after.  It has to be read in order; watch for my next review of "Children of Dune."   ~~ Catherine Book

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