God Emperor of Dune
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First US edition
|Cover artist||Brad Holland|
|Genre||Science fiction, Planetary romance, Political thriller, Psychological thriller, Fantasy, Conspiracy fiction, Adventure|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Preceded by||Children of Dune|
|Followed by||Heretics of Dune|
God Emperor of Dune is a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert published in 1981, the fourth in his Dune series of six novels. It was ranked as the #11 hardcover fiction best seller of 1981 by Publishers Weekly.
3,500 years have passed since Paul Atreides had become the messiah of the Fremen and the Emperor of the known universe at the end of the novel Dune. His son, Leto II, sees the path that his father Muad'Dib had also seen, a future that secures the continuation of human life throughout the universe. That future, however, requires an aberrant act of selflessness: becoming a hybrid of man and sandworm. At the end of Children of Dune, Leto II accepts this mantle of godhood from the Fremen and transforms himself into a monster of the desert, a sandworm, that will dominate the ecology of the planet Arrakis (known as Dune) for millennia. This is an act his father had been unwilling to do. Leto essentially accepts the terrible price of saving humanity which his father had rejected. God Emperor of Dune chronicles Leto's attempts to consummate the Golden Path, which delivers the volition of humanity by scattering it beyond the perceived safety of the Imperium's known universe, and also by destroying the possibility of the Imperium's control by any single entity, including himself.
3,500 years following his decision in Children of Dune to merge his human body with sandtrout, the haploid phase of the giant sandworms of Arrakis, Leto Atreides II continues to rule the remnants of the Imperium. The acquisition of sandworm biology has extended his life span, but also transformed him into a "pre-worm": a being with a human head and arms, but the body of a worm. These features give him near-invulnerability, but also leave him prone to instinct-driven bouts of violence when provoked to anger. As a result, his rule is one of religious awe and despotic fear, giving him the title of God Emperor. The death of the sandworms has given him sole control over melange, and he has disbanded the Landsraad to all but a few Great Houses; the remaining powers defer to his authority, although they individually conspire against him in secret. The Fremen have long since lost their identity and true spirit and their military might have been replaced with the Fish Speakers: an all-female army who obey Leto without question. He has rendered the human population into a state of trans-galactic stagnation; space travel is non-existent to most people in his Empire, which he has deliberately kept to near-medieval level of technological sophistication. All of this he has done in accordance with a prophecy divined through precognition that will establish an enforced peace preventing humanity from destroying itself through aggressive behavior, but at the cost of his reputation and ultimately his life; it is explained that Leto II has "never looked" at the moment of his own death by way of his prescient vision.
Arrakis has been terraformed into a lush forested biosphere, with only one section of desert remaining to serve as the base of Leto's home. The Atreides family continues to survive, with most of them becoming confidantes to Leto following a spice-induced ritual of enlightenment called Spice Agony to convert them to his agenda. His latest confidante, Moneo, has a resourceful daughter named Siona who has become the leader of an Arrakis-based rebellion against him; she steals a set of secret records from his archives and secrets them off-world to his enemies, unknowingly with his permission. Leto intends to breed Siona with the latest incarnation of Duncan Idaho, who has been reborn as a ghola hundreds of times during the reign. Leto is wary of when the Duncan ghola, moved by his own morality, will try to assassinate him before this can occur. The exact number of Duncan gholas is only known to Leto. Only 19 of the Gholas died of natural causes, the others dying of violence, often at the hands of Leto who kills them as they attempt to assassinate him.
When the Ixians send a new ambassador named Hwi Noree to serve at Leto's Citadel, Leto is overwhelmed by her purely selfless and altruistic personality, as well as his inability to discover her past through his prescience. He becomes enamored of her and asks for her hand in marriage, not as a mate, but as a companion to share his life with. Shortly thereafter, Leto tests Siona by taking her out to the middle of the desert. After improperly using her still-suit to preserve moisture, dehydration forces her to accept Leto's offer of spice-essence from his body to replenish her, and she endures Spice Agony to discover the scope of Leto's prophecy known as the Golden Path, and glimpses the future where humanity is hunted to extinction by machines. Although she is converted by the experience into allying herself with Leto's Golden Path, she remains dedicated to his destruction, and an errant rainstorm demonstrates for her his mortal vulnerability to water.
When Idaho falls in love and copulates with Hwi, Moneo sends him and Siona out to Tuono Village, an outcropping along the Royal Procession road, to keep them safe from Leto's wrath. Leto changes the venue of his wedding from Tabur Village to Tuono Village. Siona and Idaho overcome a searing mutual hatred of each other to plan an assassination. As Leto's procession moves across the bridge overlooking a river above the village, Siona orders one of her Fish Speakers to destroy the support beams with a lasgun. The bridge collapses and Leto's entourage, including Hwi Noree, plunges to their deaths into the river below. Idaho butchers the Fish Speaker in a fit of rage. Leto's body rends apart in the water; the sandtrout encyst the water and scurry off of his body, while the worm portion burns and disintegrates on the shore. With his dying breaths, Leto reveals a secret portion of the Golden Path: the production of a human who is invisible to prescient vision. Having begun millennia before with the union of Leto's twin sister Ghanima and Farad'n of House Corrino, Siona is the finished result, and she and her descendants will retain this ability. He explains that humanity is now free from the domination of oracles, free to scatter throughout the universe, never again to face complete domination. After revealing the location of his secret spice hoard, Leto dies, leaving Duncan and Siona to face the task of managing the empire.
The Golden Path, although secured, remains in jeopardy. Siona's theft of the records had revealed his weakness: his capacity for love. Aware of this, the Ixians had developed a new mode of stealth technology known as "no-" technology that can render rooms, ships, and even possibly planets invisible to prescient vision. Hwi Noree was born and raised in one such room as part of the conspiracy against him, which is why he could not perceive her. In addition, the Ixians have also begun the construction of navigation computers that will render the Spacing Guild's Steersmen obsolete. Leto's death will also cause the Scattering, the great forced exodus of the former Imperial citizens to other galaxies and planets.
Concept and themes
In God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert analyzes the cyclical patterns of human society, as well as humanity's evolutionary drives. Using his ancestral memories, Leto II has knowledge of the entirety of human history and is able to recall the effects and patterns of tyrannical institutions, from the Babylonian Empire through the Jesuits on ancient Earth, and thus builds an empire existing as a complete nexus encompassing all these methods. This galactic empire differs from the historical tyrants in that it is deliberately designed to end in destruction, and is only instituted in the first place as part of a plan to rescue humanity from an absolute destruction which Leto II has foreseen through his oracular visions. Leto II personally explores the emergent effects of civilization, noting that most hierarchical structures are remnants of evolutionary urges toward safety. Thus, by forming a perfectly safe and stable empire, Leto II delivers a message to be felt throughout history.
Stylistically, the novel is permeated by quotations from, and speeches by its main character, Leto, to a degree unseen in any of the other Dune novels. In part, this stylistic shift is an artifact of how Herbert wrote it: the first draft was written almost entirely in the first-person narrative voice, only being revised in later drafts to insert more third-person narration of events.
- "20th-Century American Bestsellers". The Bowker Annual/Publishers Weekly. LIS.Illinois.edu. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
- "God Emperor of Dune is unique in the series, however, because almost all of the quotations are from The Stolen Journals (and not from the complete journals found at Dar-es-Balat). They were written by Leto to personalize himself to distant readers in the future....Written in the first person (the early drafts of God Emperor show that Herbert wrote most of the novel in the first person and left notes for himself to transcribe into the third person; material that he did not transcribe resulted in the journal quotations), they range informally and thought-provokingly over a broad range of subjects from government to prophecy to the nature of language...I believe this is their primary function, for Leto so dominates the book that the other characters seem to exist at times only to bring out differences in him. Even in their most private thoughts they are all obsessed with the God Emperor." pg 87, Touponce 1988
- Touponce, William F. (1988), Frank Herbert, Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers imprint, G. K. Hall & Co, ISBN 0-8057-7514-5; PS3558.E63Z89
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