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Chapterhouse Dune Analysis Essay

(originally posted sometime in 2007… major edits)

Included in this review are the first six books written by Frank Herbert, not the subsequent books written from his notes by his son Brian and Kevin J. Anderson.

Author: Frank Herbert

Original Publishers: Ace and Putnam

Publishing Time Frame: 1965-1985

Official Website: http://www.dunenovels.com

It is important to note that Dune is a series unlike most other science fiction or fantasy series. While there is a large, overall storyline that encompasses all of the six books, each book is not individually dependent upon that storyline. Even though the second book, Dune Messiah, firmly establishes the 5,000 year time frame of the remaining novels as “the Golden Path” and ties them all loosely together, each novel itself represents only the briefest, and perhaps most critical of periods along that path.

Because of this, it is not only possible, it is almost essential to judge each book on its own as well as a contributor to the larger story arc (such as you should/could with a series like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time or George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire).

All in all, the series as a whole is strong. The middle two books, plagued by an all-knowing, future seeing character, are forced to pare down on very specific issues with Herbert playing a very delicate game of show and tell. Having a major character who knows everything that will happen over the course of the next 25,000 years makes for some interesting writing as Herbert dances around what the future holds for the series without giving too much away about the future of the individual book. The plodding of those two books, however, is more than made up for in the four that bookend them.

What sets this series above most others is its sheer scope. Encompassing a time line of some 7,500 years, Herbert was able to justifiably link the first book, Dune, with the last, Chapterhouse: Dune with room for many more stories to be added up by faithful fans and devoted children (as Brian Herbert has proven). Below, I’ll discuss the six books individually.

Title: Dune

Author: Frank Herbert

Publisher: Ace

Originally Published: 1965

More than forty years after its initial publication, Dune remains a pivotal book in genre fiction and is easily the most significant of the series. It is here that Herbert lays the groundwork for the remaining books, and of them all, Dune contains the most complete and, in my opinion, most compelling story. On the surface it is a story of political intrigue and maneuvering, but through Herbert’s deft characterizations and robust world-building, the issues he addresses parallel issues we are still facing today.

Set outwards of 20,000 years in the future, the primary storyline revolves around the political struggles between three noble houses, House Corrino, House Harkonnen, and House Atreides (these houses are detailed as preludes to Dune in volumes of their own by Herbert’s son Brian and science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson. I have not read these volumes.). The story revolves around the struggle for supremacy and control of a single planet, Dune. This struggle incorporates political, economic, religious, and even mystical intrigue and manipulation, and serves as an accurate commentary and discussion on the state of social awareness in the 1960’s.

Perhaps the only issue I take with the book is that it is written in the rather uncommon 3rd person omniscient point of view, which allows Herbert to expand upon the internal musings of all of his characters at any given moment. At times the resulting “head hopping” can get confusing, and moving from one character to another in this manner takes a while to get used to, as there is no specific structure Herbert employs to bring a sense of order to the narration. And with so many different characters, the larger scenes can quickly become almost overwhelming. This PoV does, however, provide for a much more robust character creation process, and allowed Herbert to build very strong characters much quicker than he would have been able to otherwise.

Dune remains as topical today as it did in 1965 and maintains a significance few works are able to achieve. Its many themes range in subject from ecology to religion, pacifism to militarism, and mysticism to ancestor worship. The story itself is one of ascendancy, revenge, destiny, and love. It is complex and told with an almost unbiased historical bent, yet having access to inner thoughts, motivations and intentions for each and every character makes this an unexpected and immensely personal experience.

Title:Dune Messiah

Author: Frank Herbert

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Originally Published: 1969

Dune Messiah picks up twelve years after the close of Dune. While the basic story is wholly dependent upon the first book, Herbert successfully created a sequel able to stand on its own without having intimate knowledge of it’s predecessor. Some of the finer details would be lost, to be sure, but the story itself would remain complete.

The difference in the two books is immediately apparent, however. The thematic issues in Dune Messiah are much more focused than in the original. Even the size of the book, a mere 220 pages, reflects this concentration. In fact, throughout the remaining books, Herbert seems to focus upon one of the themes initially presented in Dune and explore it more fully and more singly than in that original. Here, it is the robust exploration of religion that Herbert revolves around, and, unfortunately, this singularity leaves Dune Messiah feeling somewhat incomplete. It doesn’t have the rich, all encompassing societal reach that Dune introduces and maintains, and therefore seems at times to be almost myopic in scope. The story itself, while a highly enjoyable read, seems secondary and in place only to serve as a launching point for the four books to follow.

Title: Children of Dune

Author: Frank Herbert

Publisher: Berkley Publishing

Originally Published: 1976

Nine years after the close of Dune Messiah, the new Emperor’s children are coming of age in a time of massive social and economic change.

This is one of the weaker novels of the series. The characters are not nearly as well explored or complex than in the previous novels. They are of singular vision with little happening to change their steadfast natures. Duncan Idaho is easily the single most developed and complex character, and his storyline, though it plays only a secondary role in the overall plot of the book, is easily the most compelling in the novel.

As in Dune Messiah, Herbert latches onto a single theme from Dune and explores it more fully, and with much the same result. His explorations are interesting, and in a few cases remarkably profound, but the story he tells seems secondary (and the characters seem tertiary) to these explorations. The thematic issues he focuses upon are those of social and economic change within a society based upon tradition and ancestor worship, along with a theoretical exploration of foretelling the future. These explorations are amazingly thorough, but again, rather than serving the story, they story seems intended to serve the explorations, which, in my mind, lessens the novel as a whole.

Title: God Emperor of Dune

Author: Frank Herbert

Publisher: Putnam

Originally Published: 1981

First and foremost, without knowledge of the previous books, the premise for God Emperor of Dune is, at best, weak. Herbert evidently was well aware of this, as the early chapters are filled with a rehashing of information from the previous three novels. Without this, there is simply no way God Emperor of Dune would have stood on its own. Perhaps the result works better on a reader new to the series, or as a reader removed from the series by 26 year span of publications, but for someone reading the novels back to back, it made the first 150 or so pages agonizingly and monotonously familiar. Beyond those initial pages lies Frank Herberts thorough exploration of religious fanaticism through the 4,000 year old Leto II, the seemingly immortal Emperor of Dune.

Herbert also breaks from the style of the previous novels in that great sections of narration are preaching dialogue from Leto II. It came to my attention mid-read that this novel was originally written in first person, which explains this to a large degree. Unfortunately, Herbert was less than successful in migrating back to the now familiar third person omniscient and the entire novel suffers greatly because of it.

Once again, the story of Duncan is easily the most enjoyable and entertaining, as he is the only character who seems affected by the situation around him, and the only character who experiences any kind of personal journey or change. Everyone else is rather steadfast in their natures, leaving them quite flat and predictable. This extends even to Leto II. Even though his speeches and sermons reveal tremendous amounts of information about him personally and about his intentions and designs, new and unknown information doesn’t seem to affect him in any significant manner.

Because of the tremendous amount of soliloquy performed by Leto II, this novel comes across more as a series of essays punctuated by minor storylines than a full novel with thematic concerns. Of all the novels, this one most of all seems to serve the primary purpose of acting as a bridge between events. It almost seems as if Herbert wanted to get on to another aspect of the universe he created, but felt he was unable to do so until he made the reader more fully aware of what exactly lay upon Leto II’s “Golden Path.” And though the story of Duncan breaks up the “info-dumping” speeches of Leto II, it isn’t enough to really save God Emperor of Dune from itself.

Title: Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune

Author: Frank Herbert

Publisher: Putnam

Originally Published: 1984 and 1985 respectively

There is no way to separate these two novels, as there simply isn’t a complete story contained within either one individually, and neither one is able to stand on its own as even an average read. Together, however, they make for a rich, complex, and potent ending that actually stands out among previous books as the best writing and most enjoyable read since the original Dune 20 years previous.

Taken as a series, which I firmly believe you must do with these two books, Herbert returns to the style of the original, and the results are more than satisfying. The story is complex and the characters rich and deep. Gone is the dependence on knowing the future, and the delicate dramatic dance Herbert was forced to do is able to be cast aside, allowing him to tell the story without fear of having a single, all-knowing character reveal too much, too eary. The storylines entwine and evolve throughout the two books. At times they seem to drag slightly, but the culmination in Chapterhouse Dune makes it all worthwhile. All in all, the two book series eclipses Dune Messiah as the strongest of the Dune followups.

Taken singlulary, Heretics of Dune stands slightly lower than Chapterhouse Dune only because there is no adequate resolution to the ongoing storylines. Had I been forced to wait the year between publications, my opinion Heretics would likely be lower as I would have found myself less than satisfied with the cliff-hanger type ending Herbert employed (that said, had I been forced to wait the four years between publications of, Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune, my opinion of God Emperor may well have been higher. Funny how that works.)

A final thought on the series…

With the release of Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, Brian Herbert has reportedly assembled the notes and final outlines of the series and concluded it as his father originally intended. I haven’t read either of these books, although I probably will one day. The problem is, I actually like the way Chapterhouse ends the series. So much of the series was spent struggling for survival with bleak glimpses of the future, the ending was refreshing. It stands well in contrast with what precedes it. More importantly, however, it doesn’t wrap everything up in a nice, neat little bow. It is the end of the story, but it isn’t the end of the characters existence. I like that in an ending. If I discover that Hunters and Sandworms finally lays to rest all the unanswered questions or wraps up the first six books nice and pat… Well, I think I will prefer to pass on Brian’s ending, and keep my fond memories of the world his father Frank created.

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    Frank Herbert (8 October1920 – 11 February1986) was an American science-fiction writer, most famous for his Dune novels.

    See also:
    Dune — quotes from the novel, its sequels and derivative books
    Dune (1984 movie based on the novel)
    Dune (TV miniseries based on the novel)


    General sources[edit]

    • Briefly, the scientists working the Oregon coast found that sand could be controlled only by the use of one type of grass (European beach grass) and by a system of follow-up plantings with other growth. The grass sets up a beachhead by holding down the sand in an intricate lacing of roots. This permits certain other plants to gain a foothold. The beach grass is extremely difficult to grow in nurseries, and part of the solution to the dune problem involved working out a system for propagating and handling the grass.
      • "They Stopped the Moving Sands" part of a letter to his agent Lurton Blassingame, outlining an article on how the USDA was using poverty grasses to protect Florence, Oregon from harmful sand dunes (11 July 1957); the article was never published, but did develop several of the ideas that led to "Dune"; as quoted in The Road to Dune (2005), p. 266
    • This group is composed of those for whom belief in saucers is tantamount to religion...They believe men from outer space will step in on Earth "before it's too late," put a stop to the atomic bomb threat "by their superior powers," and enforce perpetual peace "for the good of the universe"...
      • On UFO cultists, In "Flying Saucers: Fact or Farce?", San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, "People" supplement, (20 October 1963); reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly
    • It's rooted in the fears to which all men are heir and, thus, deserves sympathy, not censure or laughter. The dream may be out of touch with history, but it's a good dream, and it doesn't appear to have been used to bilk gullible widows out of their savings. Never mind that we have a consistent record of slaughtering our messiahs. Look beyond the wacky arguments to the motivation — that sense of brotherhood which is all that has ever saved mankind from going over the brink.
      • On belief in UFOs, in "Flying Saucers: Fact or Farce?", San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, "People" supplement, (20 October 1963); reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly
    • The thing we must do intensely is be human together. People are more important than things. We must get together. The best thing humans can have going for them is each other. We have each other. We must reject everything which humiliates us. Humans are not objects of consumption. We must develop an absolute priority of humans ahead of profit — any humans ahead of any profit. Then we will survive. … Together.
      • "Introduction" to New World or No World (1970)
    • There are no uncharted isles here where we can run away to sunshine and sparkling white beaches. We have just this one world, and on these pages we're beginning to get a feeling for the gigantic physical project confronting us. Our awakening is touched with dismay; we must come to terms with this world or it will terminate us. When we speak of defending the environment, we are speaking of defending our own lives.
      • "Introduction" to New World or No World (1970)
    • Ecology is a dirty seven-letter word to many people. They are like heavy sleepers refusing to be aroused. "Leave me alone! It's not time to get up yet!"
      • "Introduction" to New World or No World (1970)
    • When I was quite young... I began to suspect there must be flaws in my sense of reality. It seemed to my dim sense of confusion that things often blended one into another, and the Law of Excluded Middle merely opened up a void wherein anything was possible. But I had been produced to focus on objects (things) and not on systems (processes).
      • "Doll Factory, Gun Factory" (1973), essay reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly
    • If we define Futurism as an exploration beyond accepted limits, then the nature of limiting systems becomes the first object of exploration.
      • "Doll Factory, Gun Factory" (1973), essay reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly
    • The current utopian ideal being touted by people as politically diverse (on the surface, but not underneath) as President Richard M. Nixon and Senator Edward M. Kennedy goes as follows — no deeds of passion allowed, no geniuses, no criminals, no imaginative creators of the new. Satisfaction may be gained only in carefully limited social interactions, in living off the great works of the past. There must be limits to any excitement. Drug yourself into a placid "norm." Moderation is the key word
      • "Science Fiction and a World in Crisis" in Science Fiction: Today and Tomorrow (1974) edited by Reginald Bretnor
    • By the time we awaken faintly to the awareness that we have been socially conditioned, we find ourselves so indoctrinated that it's difficult, if not impossible, to break the old patterns … Survival pressures demanding that we evolve, grow, and change, however, continue to proliferate. We don't want to change, but the floodgates open abruptly and we are overwhelmed.
      • "Science Fiction and a World in Crisis" in Science Fiction: Today and Tomorrow (1974) edited by Reginald Bretnor
    • Science fiction, because it ventures into no man's lands, tends to meet some of the requirements posed by Jung in his explorations of archetypes, myth structures and self-understanding. It may be that the primary attraction of science fiction is that it helps us understand what it means to be human.
      • "Men on other planets", essay in The Craft of Science Fiction, (1976), edited by Reginald Bretnor
    • If you ask "Should we be in space?" you ask a nonsense question. We are in space. We will be in space.
      • "Man's Future in Space", (1981), essay reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly
    • The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action in mind.
      • "The Plowboy Interview: Frank Herbert", in Mother Earth News No. 69 (May/June 1981)
    • We are questioning more than the philosophy behind our dependence upon limited and limiting systems. We question the power structures that have grown up around such systems.
      • Without Me, You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers (1981), co-written with Max Barnard
    • All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.
    • Technology is both a tool for helping humans and for destroying them. This is the paradox of our times which we're compelled to face.
      • "Conversations in Port Townsend," interview with Tim O'Reilly, 1983. Reprinted in The Maker of Dune: Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly
    • What I'm saying in my books boils down to this: Mine religion for what is good and avoid what is deleterious. Don't condemn people who need it. Be very careful when that need becomes fanatical.
      • "Conversations in Port Townsend", interview with Tim O'Reilly, 1983. Reprinted in The Maker of Dune: Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly
    • A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating. You're there now doing the thing on paper. You're not killing the goose, you're just producing an egg. So I don't worry about inspiration, or anything like that. It's a matter of just sitting down and working. I have never had the problem of a writing block. I've heard about it. I've felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I'd much rather go fishing, for example, or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, 'Well, now it's writing time and now I'll write.' There's no difference on paper between the two.
      • As quoted in Shoptalk: learning to write with writers (1990), edited by Donald Morison Murray

    Dune (1965)[edit]

    These are just sample quotes, for more quotes from this novel see Dune
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.
    • Muad'Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It's shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad'Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.
      • Princess Irulan in The Humanity of Muad'Dib

    The Green Brain (1966)[edit]

    • Without coming fully awake, Rhin felt his presence beside her, experienced a primitive demand for his protective masculinity. She nestled against him, murmured, "its so hot. Doesn’t it ever cool off?"
    • "I only believe in certain kinds of hell," she said, and again she was looking at him, the green eyes steady.
      "To each his own, eh?"
      "You said it; I didn’t."
    • It wasn’t the kind of answer he'd expected — too subtly penetrating and leaving too much uncommitted. He reminded himself that it was difficult to control uncommitted people. Once a man had invested his energies, he could be twisted and turned at will... but if the man held back, conserved those energies...
    • A person cries out against life because it's lonely, and because life's broken off from whatever created it. But no matter how much you hate life, you love it, too. It's like a caldron boiling with everything you have to have — but very painful to the lips.
    • Is it possible this triviality is a code of some sort? the Brain wondered. But how could it be ... unless there's more to these emotional inconsequentials and this talk of a God than appears on the surface?
      The Brain had begun its career in logics as a pragmatic atheist. Now doubts began to creep into its computations, and it classified doubt as an emotion.
    • "A slave is one who must produce wealth for another," the Brain said. "There is only one true wealth in all the universe. I have given you some of it. I have given your father and your mate some of it. And your friends. This wealth is living time. Time. Are we slaves because we have given you more time to live?"

    The Santaroga Barrier (1968)[edit]

    • " Life exists immersed in a sea of unconsciousness", he reminded himself.
      "In the drug, these people gain a view of that sea".
    • We sift reality through screens composed of ideas. (And such ideas have their roots in older ideas.) Such idea systems are necessarily limited by language, by the ways we can describe them. That is to say: language cuts the grooves in which our thoughts move. If we seek new validity forms (other laws and other orders) we must step outside language.

    The Godmakers (1972)[edit]

    A novel expanding four short stories, first published in serial form between May 1958 and February 1960
    • When a wise man does not understand, he says: "I do not understand." The fool and the uncultured are ashamed of their ignorance. They remain silent when a question could bring them wisdom.

    Dune Genesis (1980)[edit]

    "Dune Genesis", an essay in Omni, Vol. 2, No. 2 (July 1980), p. 72
    • Don't give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero's facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero. And sometimes you run into another problem.
      It is demonstrable that power structures tend to attract people who want power for the sake of power and that a significant proportion of such people are imbalanced — in a word, insane. … Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.
      It is the systems themselves that I see as dangerous.
    • No matter how finely you subdivide time and space, each tiny division contains infinity.
      But this could imply that you can cut across linear time, open it like a ripe fruit, and see consequential connections. You could be prescient, predict accurately. Predestination and paradox once more.
      The flaw must lie in our methods of description, in languages, in social networks of meaning, in moral structures, and in philosophies and religions — all of which convey implicit limits where no limits exist.Paul Muad'Dib, after all, says this time after time throughout Dune.
    • Do you want an absolute prediction? Then you want only today, and you reject tomorrow. You are the ultimate conservative. You are trying to hold back movement in an infinitely changing universe. The verb to be does make idiots of us all.
    • In the beginning I was just as ready as anyone to fall into step, to seek out the guilty and to punish the sinners, even to become a leader. Nothing, I felt, would give me more gratification than riding the steed of yellow journalism into crusade, doing the book that would right the old wrongs.
      Reevaluation raised haunting questions.I now believe that evolution, or deevolution, never ends short of death, that no society has ever achieved an absolute pinnacle, that all humans are not created equal. In fact, I believe attempts to create some abstract equalization create a morass of injustices that rebound on the equalizers. Equal justice and equal opportunity are ideals we should seek, but we should recognize that humans administer the ideals and that humans do not have equal ability.
    • Reevaluation taught me caution. I approached the problem with trepidation. Certainly, by the loosest of our standards there were plenty of visible targets, a plethora of blind fanaticism and guilty opportunism at which to aim painful barbs.
      But how did we get this way? What makes a Nixon? What part do the meek play in creating the powerful? If a leader cannot admit mistakes, these mistakes will be hidden. Who says our leaders must be perfect? Where do they learn this?
    • The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.

    The Bureau of Sabotage series[edit]

    Whipping Star (1969)[edit]

    • Where is the weapon with which I enforce your bondage? You give it to me every time you open your mouth.
    • You can say things which cannot be done. This is elementary. The trick is to keep attention focused on what is said and not on what can be done.
      • "BuSab [Bureau of Sabotage] Manual"; p. 87
    • Learning a language represents training in the delusions of that language.
      • "Gowachin Aphorism"; p. 111
    • Providence and Manifest Destiny are synonyms often invoked to support arguments based on wishful thinking.
      • "From The Wreave Commentary"; p. 136

    The Dosadi Experiment (1977)[edit]

    • That is one of the Law's purposes, of course: to test the qualities of those who choose to employ it.
      • Gowachin Aritch to Jorj X. McKie; p. 68
    • Does a population have informed consent when a ruling minority acts in secret to ignite a war, doing this to justify the existence of the minority's forces? […] failure to provide full information for informed consent on such an issue represents an ultimate crime.
      • "From The Trial of Trials", p. 246
    • Does a population have informed consent when that population is not taught the inner workings of its monetary system, and then is drawn, all unknowing, into economic adventures?
      • "From The Trial of Trials", p. 252
    • Governments always commit their entire populations when the demands grow heavy enough. By their passive acceptance, these populations become accessories to whatever is done in their name.
      • Gowachin Mrreg to Jorj X. McKie; p. 297

    Quotes about Herbert[edit]

    • There is a tirelessness about the man and his works. Part guru, part Ancient Mariner, Frank Herbert showed us how to make SF think.
      • John Clute, in Science Fiction : A Visual Encyclopedia (1995), p. 164

    External links[edit]

    When a wise man does not understand, he says: "I do not understand." The fool and the uncultured are ashamed of their ignorance. They remain silent when a question could bring them wisdom.
    The thing we must do intensely is be human together. People are more important than things.
    Muad'Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson. ~ Princess Irulan in Dune
    No matter how finely you subdivide time and space, each tiny division contains infinity...
    The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.

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