Dune Messiah is volume two in Frank Herbert's Dune series, and I am of mixed mind about it on this reread.
On the good side, there's more here than I remembered from previous readings. Yes, it's still a short novel - just 256 pages - but it has more plot than I gave it credit for in my memory. Herbert's voice is still here, and the world is still rich and interesting.
I like the way Paul continues to struggle with escaping his vision of the future, and it feels believable, though there is less descriptive language about his actual visions this time. I also like Hayt's role and what he becomes. Those who've read farther into the series know he's going to be around for a very long time.
There are a few things on the not so good side, though.
Most importantly it seems possible that Herbert became enamored of some things that weren't mentioned or present in Dune itself. The planet Tleilax, for example, gets a brief mention in Dune as the source of twisted mentats and another when Barron Harkonnen says he needs to order a new mentat. That's it. In Dune Messiah, however, things are very different. We encounter the name "Bene Tleilaxu" with no explanation, and they have a long history. Several of their creations - Gholas and Face Dancers among them - play major roles in the story. Why did we have no hint of this in Dune itself? Is it possible that Herbert was asked (told?) to "write more Dune!" and turned out Dune Messiah too quickly as a result? I honestly don't know, but I find the way the Bene Tleilaxu are played up a bit bothersome. They are powerful enough they should have had a bigger role before.
As additional evidence for the possible "hurry up and publish it" idea, I give you the book itself. My copy of Dune is nicely typeset, Dune Messiah, on the other hand, was clearly rushed to press. As with Dune, each chapter starts with a quote, but no one bothered to start each quote on a new page. As a result some of these introductory quotes cross pages, which looks very odd and supports my theory that the entire enterprise of writing and publishing it was rushed.
There are some plot issues as well. When Paul took the water of life, whether or not he was presented with all of his ancestors (male, female, or both) is never made clear. We know that Jessica and Alia have an inner dialog with their ancestors, and I know we learn in the next book that the same is true for Ghanima and Leto, but we never find out if that's true for Paul. Why not? Again, I doubt Herbert was given the time he needed to get the book written.
And the link between Paul and Leto at the end is never explained. That may be a bit picky on my part, but I don't know what allows it to happen. An explanation would have helped me.
In all, Dune Messiah was better than I remembered, but still not nearly as good as Dune itself.
This book has a considerably different tone than the first book; much more melancholy, and it was even deeper and more complex, which may or may not be a good thing. It is not light reading. Much like the first book it was slow to get into at first, but was very engrossing by the middle and I couldn't put it down by the end. If you enjoyed the first book I highly recommend continuing the Dune Chronicles. Herbert has a magnificent voice and has created a stunning, deeply crafted world to rival that of Middle Earth.
(2nd in Dune series)
The bestselling science fiction series of all time continues! This second installment explores new developments on the desert planet Arrakis, with its intricate social order and its strange threatening environment. DUNE MESSIAH picks up the story of the man known as Maud'dib, heir to a power unimaginable, bringing to fruition an ambition of unparalleled scale: the centuries-old scheme to create a superbeing who reigns not in the heavens but among men.
But the question is: Do all paths of glory lead to the grave?
Science fiction. Set on the desert planet Arrakis - a world fully as real and as rich as our own - Dune Messiah continues the story of the man Muad'dib, heir to a power unimaginable, bringing to completion the centuries-old scheme to create a superbeing.
From the back cover: "With millions of copies sold worldwide, Frank Herbert's magnigicent Dune books stand amoung the major achievement of the human imagination.
Set on the desert planet Arrakis -- a world as fully real and rich as our own -- Dune Messiah continues the story of the man Muab'Dib, heir to a power unimaginable, bringing to completion the centuries-old scheme to create a superbeing..."