Here lies a toppled god--
His fall was not a small one.
We did but build his pedestal,
A narrow and tall one.
-Dune Messiah,
Book Two of the Dune Chronicles
by Frank Herbert

Prior Events:

“Truth suffers from too much analysis.”

In the first book of the Dune Chronicles, The Atreides family gained ownership of Arrakis, also known as Dune. The only planet known to have spice, the drug used to extend life, to give the Bene Gesserit their awe inspiring powers, and to allow the Guild Navigators the ability to send spaceships hurtling across the stars. Yet, just as quickly as they gained it, they were betrayed and the Duke, Leto Atreides was killed.

Fleeing into the desert, Paul Atreides, now the Duke, and his mother, escape the Harkonnen. Allying themselves with the the desert Fremen, they discover that a powerful force lay in the sand. Thousands of men and women all trained, from birth, to be a warrior people. Finding that they view him as their Messiah, Paul uses this to reclaim Arrakis in the name of the Atreides and the Fremen people.

Paul, with prescient visions, realizes that humankind borders on the edge of oblivion. Seeing only one way to stop it, he begins to follow what he calls the Golden Path. The personal horror begins to overcome him as he starts to understand what exactly he must do. Ascending to the Lion Throne, Paul becomes the Emperor of the Known Universe and thus begins the Jihad in the name of Muad'dib.

Plot Introduction:

"Once more the drama begins."

Twelve years since the events of the first Dune book, we come to the second book in Frank Herbert's Dune Chronicles, and Muad'dib's jihad has covered all of known space. Paul has created a religious empire which he cannot stop. The most powerful man in Known Space can but wait out his bloody jihad. He knows that even his own death would do nothing to cease the bloody warfare.

Chani, Paul's consort, has been unable to produce an heir to the Atreides throne. This is due to the efforts of Irulan, Paul's wife and key to the Lion Throne. She, in an attempt to gain the lost genetics of Paul Atreides, has been feeding Chani contraceptive drugs. By allying herself with the Bene Gesserit and the Guild, she has helped to create a plot which will destroy the myth of Muad'dib.

They plot to bring back Duncan Idaho, the legendary Atreides' swordsman, as a ghola who only knows himself as Hayt. Even the ghola knows that he is a weapon aimed against the Atreides name, but knows not what they intend. Nor is he able to stop his own programming, laid in by the Tleilaxu.

From the beginning of the book we are told that Paul will be defeated. And it is not the ghola Hayt, nor the mad-Fremen, nor even the constant plotting against him that defeats Muad'dib. It is his far-seeing future sight that locks him into the trap of absolute prediction, which can only lead to death.

Characters:

Paul Atreides

To endure oneself may be the hardest task in the universe.”

The Paul Atreides of the first Dune book is all but gone. In his place is a man fighting his own future, Muad'dib. Where he once embraced his prescient visions, now he abhors them. Every step of his life is played out for him, before it happens. He is the ultimate oracle.

He, unsatisfied with the role of oracle and god-head, desperately seeks to find a vision where he can say: "There! There's an existence which couldn't hold me. See! I vanish! No restraint or net of human devising can trap me ever again. I renounce my religion! This glorious instant is mine! I'm free!" Unfortunately, he knows that even that moment of selfishness causes the Golden Path to waver and so he continues on, in order to save humankind from destruction.

In Dune Messiah, we see Paul fall into the role of the tragic hero. Life contains no mystery for him and being forced to follow his own visions ultimately causes his downfall. This proves to be true when he loses his eyes to a Tleilaxu stone burner and can still see, with his vision-sight.

Alia Atreides

There are problems in this universe for which there are no answers.”'

In Dune we saw the birth of Alia Atreides, a child woken much before her time due to the Water of Life. She, while young in body, has the full skills of a Reverend Mother. Labeled abomination by the Bene Gesserit, she spends much of her time fighting against this idea.

She, like her brother, has become a religious icon. Saint Alia of the Knife. While she shares her brother's prescience, she fails to understand his struggle. Mainly due to the fact that she has her own battles to fight. Abomination. With no identity of her own, those of her past fight to take over. And the more she opens herself up to them, by taking the spice, the more she finds that she is losing herself.

She finds solace in the ghola's friendship, using him to keep her stable. Although she knows that Hayt is a weapon to be used against the Atreides family, she finds herself falling in love with him.

Hayt

The wise man molds himself-the fool lives only to die.”

Duncan Idaho was the ultimate Atreides soldier. Being rescued from the Harkonnen put him in a debt of loyalty to the Atreides family, which he gladly accepted, even to his death. But this proves to only be the beginning of Idaho's story.

In Messiah, we find out that when Idaho died, his flesh was preserved by the Tleilaxu. They, years later, used that flesh to create a clone of the original. While he wasn't identical to the first, he held memories of his predecessor. And thus, Hayt was created in order to be used against Paul who had no option but accept his childhood friend back with open arms. As the book progressing, Hayt finds that being with the Atreides has opened the flood-gate of memories. He is, more and more, becoming Duncan Idaho.

Personal Review:

We say of Muad'Dib that he has gone on a journey into that land where we walk without footprints.”

Dune Messiah is the powerful continuation of the original story. While Dune opened our eyes to this new world, Dune Messiah digs us deeper into it. From the Fremen conspiracy to martyr their god, to Irulan's attempt to regain the Bene Gesserit's lost Kwisatz Haderach.

From the beginning the reader understands that Paul won't survive to see the next book. Much like reading the last page of a book before you start it, one finds themselves what leads to that path. There are many who, in reading Dune Messiah, have said they felt it was just a transition book, between Dune and Children of Dune. But I've always felt that any of the Dune Chronicle books could stand on their own and I hold true to that with Dune Messiah.

In this book we learn the traps of prescience and the futile attempts to escape it. We delve deeper into the mystic religion that was created in Dune. Everything that Dune was, is expanded on in Messiah.

Where Dune ended with a definite conclusion and Paul becoming Emperor, Messiah ends with a man walking away from all that power and leaving behind his own deification. It may leave one feeling less good and happy inside, but it is the stronger finale in my opinion.

If you enjoyed Dune, than Dune Messiah may be right up your alley. If not, then it will at least give you the background for a better understand when you try Children of Dune. But if you're alright with a slower paced book, filled with politics, religion and a lot of interesting characters, then give Dune Messiah a chance. I promise you'll enjoy it.

Title: Dune Messiah
Author: Frank Herbert
ISBN: 0-425-04379-7
Publisher: Berkley Books
Date Published: 1975
Length: 278 pages
Genre: Science Fiction

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