Children of Dune
US first edition cover
|Cover artist||Bruce Pennington|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ4.H5356 Ch3 PS3558.E63|
|Preceded by||Dune Messiah|
|Followed by||God Emperor of Dune|
Children of Dune is a 1976 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, third in a series of six novels set in his Dune universe. Initially selling over 75,000 copies, it became the first hardcover best-seller ever in the science fiction field. The novel was critically well-received for its gripping plot, action, and atmosphere, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1977. It was originally serialized in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in 1976, and was the last Dune novel to be serialized before book publication. The novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were published in one volume by the Science Fiction Book Club in 2002 and the two were adapted into a well-received television miniseries entitled Frank Herbert's Children of Dune by the Sci-Fi Channel in 2003.
At the end of Dune Messiah, Paul Atreides walks into the desert, a blind man, leaving his twin children Leto and Ghanima in the care of the Fremen, while his sister Alia rules the universe as regent. Awoken in the womb by the spice, the children are the heirs to Paul's prescient vision of the fate of the universe, a role that Alia desperately craves. House Corrino schemes to return to the throne, while the Bene Gesserit make common cause with the Tleilaxu and Spacing Guild to gain control of the spice and the children of Paul Atreides.
Dune traces the rise of Paul Muad’Dib, a young nobleman in an interstellar feudal empire who takes control of the single critical resource in the universe — the lifespan-enhancing, consciousness-expanding drug spice melange. As the first book closes, Paul has triumphed. His scheming, evil enemies are dead or overthrown, and he is set to take the reins of power and bring a hard but enlightened peace to the universe.
Herbert chose in the books that followed to undermine Paul’s triumph with a string of failures and philosophical paradoxes; Dune was a heroic melody, and Dune Messiah was its inversion. When the second novel, Dune Messiah, opens, Muad’Dib’s religion has sent his fanatical soldiers on an interstellar jihad, destroying the traditional structures of government and leaving billions dead. His vision of peace is corrupted by dogmatic religious bureaucrats, and his once-noble desert tribes, the Fremen, grow fat and wealthy on the spoils of war and the de-desertification of Dune.
Nine years after Emperor Paul Muad'Dib walked into the desert, blind, the ecological transformation of Dune has reached the point where some Fremen are living without stillsuits in the less arid climate and have started to move out of the Sietches and into the villages and cities. As the old ways erode, more and more pilgrims arrive to experience the planet of Muad'Dib. The Imperial high council has lost the political initiative and is powerless to control the Jihad.
Paul's twin young children, Leto II and Ghanima, sharing his prescience, have concluded that their guardian Alia has succumbed to possession by one of her ancestors and fear that a similar fate awaits them. They (and Alia) also realize that the terraforming of Dune will kill all the sandworms, thus destroying the source of the spice, but the thing which has possessed Alia desires this outcome. Leto also fears that, like his father, he will be trapped by his prescience.
Possessed by the persona of her grandfather Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Alia fears that her mother, about to return to Arrakis, will recognize her "abomination". Meanwhile a new religious figure called "The Preacher" has risen in the desert, railing against the religious government's injustices and the changes among the Fremen. Some Fremen believe he is Paul Atreides. Princess Wensicia of the fallen House Corrino on Salusa Secundus plots to assassinate the twins and regain power.
Lady Jessica returns to Arrakis and recognizes that her daughter has been possessed but finds no signs of abomination in the twins, but she has plotted with Gurney Halleck to test Leto with the Spice. Leto arranges for Fremen leader Stilgar to protect his sister if there is an attempt on their lives. The Preacher journeys to Salusa Secundus to hear a dream of Prince Farad'n Corrino, and in return pledges Duncan Idaho as an agent of House Corrino. Alia attempts to assassinate Jessica who escapes into the desert with Duncan Idaho's help, precipitating a rebellion among the Fremen. The twins anticipate and survive the Corrino assassination plot. Leto leaves to seek out the Preacher while Ghanima, masking her memory with self-hypnosis, reports falsely that her brother had been murdered. Duncan and Jessica flee to Salusa Secundus where Jessica begins to mentor the Corrino heir. He seizes power from his regent mother and allies with the Bene Gesserit, who promise to marry him to Ghanima and support his bid for coronation as Emperor.
A band of Fremen outlaws capture Leto and force him to undergo the spice trance at the suggestion of one of Alia's agents, who has infiltrated the group. His spice-induced visions show him a myriad of possible futures where humanity has become extinct and only one where humanity survives. He names this future "The Golden Path" and resolves to bring it to fruition. He escapes his captors and sacrifices his humanity in pursuit of the Golden Path. This requires him to physically fuse with a school of sandtrout, gaining superhuman strength and near-invulnerability. He travels across the desert and confronts the Preacher who does, in fact, prove to be his father, Paul Atreides.
Duncan Idaho returns to Arrakis and provokes Stilgar into killing him. With Stilgar's neutrality now untenable, he seizes Ghanima and flees. Alia recaptures Ghanima and arranges her marriage to Farad'n, planning to exploit the expected chaos when Ghanima kills him to avenge her brother's murder. The Preacher and Leto return to the capital to confront Alia who has the Preacher murdered, revealing his true identity. Leto reveals himself in a display of superhuman strength and triggers the return of Ghanima's genuine memories. He confronts Alia and offers to help her overcome her possession but she is overwhelmed by her ancestral personae and elects to commit suicide.
Leto declares himself Emperor and asserts control over the Fremen. Farad'n enlists in his service and delivers control of the Corrino armies. The seemingly immortal and omnipotent Leto is left as Emperor of the Known Universe, with Ghanima at his side. Leto will wed his own sister, as the Pharaohs of Old Earth often did, but Prince Farad'n, now renamed Harq al Ada (The Breaking of the Way), will become Ghanima's consort and continue the Atreides line.
Initially selling over 75,000 copies, Children of Dune became the first hardcover best-seller ever in the science fiction field. The novel was critically well-received for its gripping plot, action, and atmosphere, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1977.
- Touponce, William F. (1988). "Herbert's Reputation". Frank Herbert. Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers imprint, G. K. Hall & Co. p. 119. ISBN 0-8057-7514-5.
When Herbert completed the third book of the series, Children of Dune (1976), it became an authentic hardcover best-seller with seventy-five thousand copies sold (not including book club sales). It was the first hardcover best-seller ever in the science fiction field.
- Jonas, Gerald (August 1, 1976). "Of Things To Come". The New York Times. p. 176.
To appreciate Frank Herbert's achievement in the Dune trilogy, which concludes with Children of Dune you have to be a devotee of obsession ... Herbert's vision of a people forced by circumstance into total ecological awareness is worked out in convincing details ... What sets these books apart from their competitors is the obsessive quality of Herbert's imagination ... To read the Dune trilogy is to plunge into someone else's obsession ... Virtually every page in the trilogy contains a sentence that hints at the momentousness of the events being described. This is where the religiosity comes in. Herbert keeps interrupting the action with quotes from made-up sources that reinforce the atmosphere of millennial conflict and resolution. Taken out of context, these passages sound silly, like the words of wisdom spoken by Oriental sages on a TV sound stage ... But the whole point of an obsession is that it cannot be criticized from the outside; what distinguishes a successful obsessional tale from a failure that the reader is held, like Coleridge's Wedding Guest, so that 'he cannot choose but hear', no matter what his other faculties tell him. On this criterion, I would personally rate the Dune trilogy an unqualified success.
- "1977 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- Herbert, Frank (July 1980). "DuneGenesis". Omni. FrankHerbert.org. Archived from the original on January 7, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
Of course there are other themes and fugal interplays in Dune and throughout the trilogy. Dune Messiah performs a classic inversion of the theme. Children of Dune expands the number of themes interplaying. I refuse, however, to provide further answers to this complex mixture. That fits the pattern of the fugue. You find your own solutions. Don't look to me as your leader.
- Robinson, Spider (September 1976). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 111–13.
- Pringle, David (1990). The Ultimate Guide To Science Fiction. New York: Pharos Books: St. Martin's Press. p. 58. ISBN 0886875374.