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I loved the first 4 books in Herbert's Dune saga, but I just couldn't get into Heretics of Dune. The book is set in the aftermath of Emperor Leto's reign and the Scattering of humans into the far reaches. The story itself focuses on the Bene Gesserit. And that's where I think it went wrong.
I never much cared for the Bene Gesserit. They seemed a bit too cartoonish. The sisters have incredibly high opinions of themselves but always seem to mess things up. They always seemed to have these devious plans but their motivation was never quite clear (yes, to control the breeding, but for what?).
That's all fine when the Bene Gesserit characters were in the background, but when they're front and center it's hard to really care about the book. The main Bene Gesserit characters all come across as humorless and staid. They had few distinguishing character quirks and quickly started to blend in with each other. In short, aside from the name I could barely tell them apart.
As for the plot itself - it suffers from too much "tell, not show." We get the sense that a group of returnees from the Scattering, the Honored Matres, pose a threat to the Bene Gesserit. However, we really only learn this from conversations. We never really see why the Honored Matres are such a threat. To the reader, they seem like an even more pathetic version of the Bene Gesserit. Their secret weapon is that they can give really good sex (I kid you not!). The first time we see an Honored Matres put her "skills" into action - and I do mean "see her in action" - SHE succumbs to the man because he gives her a good orgasm and knows where to touch her. She becomes a pathetic fool nearly willing to do whatever he says. Some threat!
I like the fact that Herbert tried to tell a tale in a new time frame with new characters rather than just go back and tell the story of Paul in his youth. However, this new era just doesn't seem all that different. It feels like Herbert recycled too many familiar concepts and gave them new names rather than creating a truly new era. The fact that their name is just a synonym for Reverend Mother makes it hard to think of them as anything but a shadow of the original Bene Gesserit.
Unfortunately, I have no desire to read ChapterHouse Dune. I highly recommend the first 4 Dune books, but this is where my Dune journey ends. No more Bene Gesserit for me.
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