God Emperor of Dune — Frank Herbert, 1981
I finished it. Finally, I did it. It was one of the most tedious novels I have read in a while now, but I did it. God Emperor of Dune is the fourth novel in the Dune series. Logically speaking, the fourth novel is a start of a second trilogy. The first three novels make one trilogy and the others make the second one. Since I wanted to finish Dune once and for all, I jumped right in it after finishing the third one.
The third one ends with Leto 2 becoming the emperor and his long arduous rule of over 3000+ years starts. God Emperor takes us many years in the future since the events of the fist three books. Naturally, no characters in the old three books, except the Ghola Duncan Idaho, are part of this second trilogy. His long rule has changed Dune a lot. He rules the known universe with an iron fist. He is the history of the universe. The entire world lives in him and that makes him almost a God. His weaknesses are not known and he carefully controls the spice essence needed for many day to day affairs of the universe. This monopoly in spice makes his emperium impossible to be taken down. Yet there are some fanatics who keep trying. God Emperor is the story of this rule and the resistance.
Dune series is well-known for complicated plots, a keen observation of human behaviour and a for keeping seemingly impossible feat of keeping electronics away from the science fiction. This fourth book fares well in all these areas. And it is important to note that Frank Herbert always has something up his sleeve to offer in the instalment. Ever since I read the first one, I was thinking that the protagonist is prescient, who can defeat him? But in the following books, Frank has shown his ability to create newer and intelligent plots to expand upon his central theme. Even this book manages to do that as well. But that stream of new ideas become fewer and fewer as you progress in the series.
Once you complete the book, and you back at the plot you realise that the content was very less. Much of that is shrouded in the thickly veiled verbosity. For all intents and purposes, Leto is really the God of the universe, and his troubles are very well documented. Frank has this ability to actually go in the character and think like him. A seeming immortality does a lot to a human being and his pain, anger is very well narrated. The eccentricities are too many and well deserved. We get an inside look at how it is to be God, at least for a few thousand generations. However, apart from a psychological portrayal of a God being, the plot offers nothing substantial. At around 450 pages the book feels loaded with amorphous thoughts and themes.
This is significantly different from the first three books. I do not know if I should recommend it. There is a huge fan following for this and I have heard people claiming this book to be the best of the series as well. Though I do not have that impression, I can not completely condemn it. So here you go, I am undecided about the verdict. I guess I will settle by calling it just below the average.
Originally published at harshalbhave.in on August 30, 2016.