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WesternSFA


Heretics of Dune
Dune # 5
by Frank Herbert
G.P. Putnam., 480pp
Published 1984

See my earlier review of the other books in this famous series.

This book was published four years after “God Emperor of Dune” and worth the time it took.  This was a superior story to the preceding novels.  Herbert got back to actual storytelling and not just espousing his pet theories on politics and religion; not that those aren’t in abundance…

This story takes place some 1500 years since Leto died.  As always, the Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilaxu are still engaged in a power struggle.  But this time, the Bene Gesserit may have found an advantage in one particularly talented witch, Darwi Odrade, and a very special Duncan Idaho ghola.

The controlled worlds, administered by the Bene Gesserit, the Bene Tleilaxu and the Navigators’ Guild are threatened by the return of the “scattered”; those humans who scattered throughout the universe after the death of the God Emperor.  In the scattering were Bene Gesserit sisters and Bene Tleilaxu.  Without mélange, the Sisters, now known as Honored Matres, were unable to complete their transformation to Reverend Mothers so had to find other skills to ensure their control.  They took sexual control to a new level, making them hated and dreaded throughout the universe.  With them also came the descendants of the Bene Tleilaxu and their differences are a bit harder to ferret out but it appears that they have might have maintained contact with the original Tleilaxu.  Their common cause may be a real threat to the Bene Gesserit.

On Arrakis, now known as Rakis, a young girl (a descendant of Siona), Sheeana, has discovered that the worms of Rakis obey her.  The Priests of the Divided God (aka Leto II) worship the girl and take her into their ranks to nurture and protect.  The Bene Gesserit are seriously interested in her, as well, and force the Priests to share the care and girl. The Reverend Mother Superior, Sister Taraza, has made a life-study of the God Emperor’s Golden Path.  She has come to understand certain things and worries that they have fallen from the Golden Path and humanity still faces possible extinction.  She develops her own plan to restore the Path but faces opposition with the Sisterhood.

The witches have commissioned another Duncan Idaho with some special attributes but they are also certain the Bene Tleilaxu have added their own special touch; it’s up to the witches to determine if the Tleilaxu have delivered a better tool or a weapon. Odrade is assigned to oversee the ghola’s education and she assigns Sister Lucille (a descendant of Lady Jessica) to administer his education and Miles Teg (a descendant of Leto I) to be his weapons master and manage security.  The boy isn’t yet a mature adult when everything goes sideways; the Keep is attacked by a faction of the Sisterhood supported by Face Dancers; but due to prior planning by Miles, the three of them escape and find a secret place to hide – left over from the Harkonnen days.  In that secret hideaway, while everyone is searching for them, Duncan Idaho is awakened but not as the Sisterhood had intended. They had intended him to eventually impregnate Sheeana to add to their breeding lines but his premature awakening put a serious crimp in that plan.

So the story has two major fronts:  on Rakis the Sisterhood makes alliance with both the Priests and the Bene Tleilaxu, and on Gammu (once known as Geidi Prime) the ghola Duncan Idaho and his two protectors have much to sort out as to who is in charge and what they intend to do.  On Rakis, Odrade discovers deeply hidden secrets of the Bene Tleilaxu and finds ways to control them that they never suspect.  On Gammu, Miles, Lucille and Duncan have to find ways to blend into the local society which they discover to have been completely infiltrated by the Scattered; in hopes of finding help to escape the planet and get back to the Bene Gesserit.

This was a really good novel; a very entertaining plot with good twists.  The characters were more interesting than I think he’d done since the first book.  All of them had depth and complexity. Not all plot lines were tied up and there are still some great unanswered questions so I’m really looking forward to the final Frank Herbert book, “Chapter House”, which I remember to be terrific.  ~~ Catherine Book

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