This book is either a love it or hate it affair. It's quite different from the previous Dune novels. It takes place over 4,000 years after the original Dune novel. Leto is emperor and has become part Sandworm. There are no epic battles or even showdowns. Rather, God Emperor of Dune is about court politics. In particular, it focuses on the relationship between the God Emperor Leto, his majordomo Moneo, his daughter and rebel leader Siona, and the Duncan Idaho ghola. The book is about these four measuring each other up and trying to make sense of Leto's Empire.
More so even than Herbert's other books, God Emperor of Dune is a triumph of world building. Herbert takes the time to indulge in conversations between the characters and the verbal back-and-forth so common in his novels. There isn't an overarching threat, but there are minor threats and questions that each character has to answer. How does Duncan respond to the fact that he's been cloned so frequently? Can Moneo afford to remain loyal to the regime? Will Siona be rebel or heir to the Golden Path? Is Leto tyrant, god, or both? The biggest mystery is that nature of the Golden Path itself. What was Leto's sacrifice? Why did he do it? At the very least, it's a thoughtful look at the line between martyr and dictator.
My only regret is that the novel takes place entirely on Dune/Arrakis. We never really get a glimpse at the other corners of Leto's Empire. What does life outside the palace look like? We see courtiers from the Bene Gesserit, Ixians, and Tleilax, but always in the court, not in their own element. However, it's a tribute to the book that I actually find myself caring about those sorts of questions. I hope the next two books explore these reaches of the universe.
Again, don't turn to God Emperor of Dune for epic battles. It doesn't have them. You'll have to work with the text and really spend time with it in order to really appreciate it. However, if you finished Children of Dune and want more, I'd recommend this book.
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About the reviewer
Dominic J Nardi (FreeDom4)
I am a recent law school grad with an interest in Southeast Asia legal issues. Unfortunately for my checkbook, ever since high school I have been addicted to good books. I have eclectic tastes, although … more
"Veterans of the entire series, narrators Simon Vance, Scott Brick, and Katherine Kellgren are so familiar and comfortable with the extensive vocabulary and world of DUNE that they effortlessly bring the many characters, philosophical discussions, and diary entries into an incisive sonic whole."
Praise for the Dune audiobook—The First Installment in the New Multi-Cast Recordings of the Six Original DUNE novels:
“How does Herbert’s text come off when read aloud? Superbly!...The listener falls under the mellow sway of these talented voices. The production values here are top-notch. The sound is crystalline...But perhaps the most impressive thing about this production is the way all the neologisms and foreign terms sound so natural and flow so easily—and consistently—off the tongues of the performers.” —SciFi Weekly
“Vance imbues each character with a distinctive voice: his Duncan is a truculent Clive Owen sound-alike, while his Leto (suitably) has the stentorian tones of a self-absorbed Shakespearean actor.” – SciFiDimensions
Praise for the Dune series:
“One of the monuments of modern science fiction.” —Chicago Tribune on Dune
“Brilliant... It is all that Dune was and maybe a little more.” —Galaxy Magazine
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.