Hwi Noree: I ask myself what would motivate the Lord Leto to accept this hideous transformation, this worm-body, this loss of his humanity? You suggest merely that he did it for power and for long life.
Inquisitor: Are those not enough?
Hwi Noree: Ask yourselves if one of you would make such payment for so paltry a return?
Inquistor: From your infinite wisdom then, tell us why the Lord Leto chose to become a worm.
Hwi Noree: Does anyone here doubt his ability to predict the future?
Inquistor: Now then! Is that not payment enough for his transformation?
Hwi Noree: But he already had the prescient ability as did his father before him. No! I propose that he made this desperate choice because he saw in our future something that only such a sacrifice would prevent.
-God Emperor of Dune,
Book Four of the Dune Chronicles
by Frank Herbert
"The past is always changing, but few realize it."
In Dune, Paul Atreides fulfilled the myth of the messiah and became the leader of the Fremen people. His Bene Gesserit training, coupled with the double-edged spice, caused him to break apart from what the sisterhood had intended with him, while still following their path. He became the Kwisatz Haderach. A man who could be many places at once and see events of the past, as well as the path of the future.
Dune Messiah told of Paul Atreides’ (now Paul Muad’Dib) attempt to overcome the terrifying future that seemed to lead only to humankind’s destruction. Locked into the trap of absolute prediction, he has little choice but to set up the most probable route to the salvation of mankind. A path that will, inevitably, lead to his own death. After the birth of his twin children, both prescient, Paul returns to his Fremen roots and walks into the desert to die, a blind man finally able to step without falling into the traps of future-seeing.
Leto II and Ghanima, the twins of Muad’Dib, find themselves fighting the terrible monster that is their ancestral memories. These Children of Dune realize that they are now the keepers of the Golden Path, the route that Paul Muad’Dib could only lead to, but not take. Leto II, seeing what his father was too horrified to do, began a transformation. The transformation would forever separate him from man, but would give humanity another chance to achieve the Golden Path. It is with this change that the first half of the Dune Chronicles ended.
"We always arise from our own ashes. Everything returns later in its changed form."
Thirty-five hundred years after Children of Dune and now, Leto II's transformation from man to worm is almost complete. His legs and arms all but useless flippers. The only part of his body that remains human is his face, a faint reminder of the sacrifice Leto made for his "Golden Path". But few are concerned with justifications for his actions. Leto, the God Emperor, is seen across known space as The Tyrant. As he has changed, so has Arrakis. Gone is the desert land that produced the precious spice. Now, the Sareer is the only remnant of the Dune times. Even the Fremen of old have died off, becoming a sick mockery of what they once were, museum-fremen. Dune is no more than a speck in the Lord Leto's memory. Now only The Tyrant's Arrakis remains.
God Emperor of Dune is the fourth book in Frank Herbert's science fiction world of Dune. And it continues the story of young Leto II, now the Worm-Lord of all known space, with millennia since Children of Dune's end. The book opens with the only real action scene of the entire book. Eleven rebels steal what they believe to be charts to Lord Leto's Citadel and are chased through his Forbidden Forest, by wolves he bred over three thousand years.
Much like his Caladan-born father, Paul Atreides, the God Emperor can pick apart the strings of the future. Even the Guild Steersmen with their ability to shield themselves from prescience ability cannot hide themselves from Leto. After thousands of years to learn, he watches for where holes in the universe occur. And from those, he interprets how events will occur. He is, much to the hatred of the Bene Gesserit, Tleilaxu, Ixians and a nice variety of others, not easily stopped.
Leto II – The God Emperor
"Some say I have no conscience. How false they are, even to themselves. I am the only conscience which has ever existed."
In Children of Dune we saw the character of Leto II grow into accepting his fate on the Golden Path. Now, in God Emperor of Dune, he has changed forever from that "boy". The known universe views him as an evil tyrant, which is the most appropriate title for one who controls all aspects of life. He calls his enforced tranquility "Leto’s Peace". While Children of Dune saw Leto as a hero, God Emperor makes the reader even question his humanity.
His prescience is much stronger then that of his father and, having lived so long, he is able to guess at what he cannot see. But, like his father said, absolute prediction equals death. And so he attempts to shield humankind from prescient visions. This proves to block even him, which was his intent all along.
"Tell me Leto: How many times must I pay the debt of loyalty?"
This novel is, like much of Herbert’s work, driven by characters. Realistic characters who are human, or at least human enough, and able to die. Duke Leto I, Muad’Dib, Duncan Idaho. But in Herbert’s world, dying doesn’t mean we won’t see that character again. In Dune Messiah we had the return of Duncan as a ghola. And he reappears in God Emperor of Dune, as the Lord Leto’s commander for his Royal Fish Speaker army. The Tleilaxu have been making Duncan gholas for the God Emperor since he came into power.
Each Duncan, although loyal to the Atreides name, ends up questioning their loyalty to Leto. They will follow their oath, but not go beyond their own limits and morals. This questioning often leads the gholas to rebelling against the God Emperor, which then leads to their deaths. It is the betrayal of the Duncans that leads to questions of Leto’s humanity. If the man who stood by the Atreides through anything would try to kill one of them, then we are forced to analyze the God Emperor’s actions. Essentially, this is same problem that every Duncan faces. "Is this man-worm truly still Atreides?"
"Siona Ibn Fuad al-Seyfa Atreides it is who curses you Leto. You will pay in full!"
God Emperor of Dune doesn’t have a definitive person as an antagonist, but Siona comes close. She represents the rebellion against "Leto’s Peace". Daughter of the God Emperor’s chief-aide, Moneo, she finds herself in a strange place. While her father believes unwaveringly in Leto, she sees what evil he has done. And thus, like many children, Siona eventually rebels against her father.
Siona is the penultimate success of the God Emperor’s breeding program. He cannot completely see her actions with his prescient visions into the future. Although she doesn’t know it, she is working for him even as she plots his demise. More importantly, she is working for the Golden Path.
Part of the problem in writing this review has been saying just enough and not too much. When you read the book, you find that there are many more than just the three characters I’ve spoken of. Quite a few of which I could have written entire nodes about. And just talking about one of the many topics this book covers could provide to be an absorbing task.
When I first read God Emperor of Dune I’d just gone through Messiah and Children, but had never read the original Dune. It was an eye-opening book to me. At thirteen years old, God Emperor can easily shape one’s thinking for a while. And it did. From it I gained an interest in religion and politics. Hero worship. Economics. Good and evil. The Dune series opened my eyes a lot to the physical world around me, but it was God Emperor that got me really thinking about the spiritual and the metaphysical.
Maybe it’s that I didn’t have an opinion on the original or maybe I just became absorbed in God Emperor really easily, but I’ve always felt that it was the best of the series. While all the other books are excellent (That is, all the other REAL Dune books. I really despise Brian Herbert.), God Emperor of Dune stands above the rest for me. It doesn’t have a lot of action, but it doesn’t need it. Some of the best characters were created for this book.
While I admit this book is not meant for everyone, it has a lot of wisdom that I think is applicable in life. It is filled with quotes that are just plain good. When I came across something I particularly liked, I’d fold the corner of that page over, so I could come back to it. Now, I can hardly go five pages without having at least one bent page. I’ve reread it so often that one would think a dog has been at it.
So, if you’ve got an interest in science fiction, or just want to try something new, God Emperor of Dune is definitely my recommendation. Like most of the Dune series, one can pick it up and just become engulfed in another world.
Title: God Emperor of Dune
Author: Frank Herbert
Publisher: Berkley Books
Date Published: 1982
Length: 423 pages
Genre: Science Fiction