Skip to main content

Children of Dune (SF) - Frank Herbert ****

After a slightly bumpy second title in the series, Frank Herbert returned to form with Children of Dune, which has a lot of the positive aspects of the original, but moves things forward considerably. With Paul's children Leto and Ghanima centre stage (though, to be honest, Ghanima gets a little sidelined), we have a second run at what Paul attempted... in perhaps a more measured fashion.

One huge step forward in the writing over the first novel is that there are more shades of grey - the baddies here have redeeming features and are capable in some cases of change and development. Although Children of Dune could never have the impact of the original Dune, bursting as it did fresh onto the science fantasy stage, it is a very worthy successor.

Perhaps the biggest fault of the book is that, even more so than the first title, there is a huge amount of agonising and philosophising. It's not that there's not a good spine of action - there is - but it's surrounded by a lot of, sometimes repetitive, discussion and internal monologue. It also raises environmental/biological issues that should have come through earlier. By this stage in the series, the planet has been partially greened - this is killing off the sandworms, but no one seemed to realise this would happen, even though it was entirely obvious, and they are totally central to Dune's economy. This then gets the reader thinking about the biology of sandworms. These vast creatures would need a huge amount of energy - but where do they get it from in the empty desert? It's pretty much impossible to see how the worms could be powered, biologically speaking.

Despite these concerns, though, the book works well, with some genuine surprises. If you liked Dune, it's worth getting through the (relatively short) okayish Dune Messiah to get on to this one.

Children of Dune is still solidly in print - but for entertainment's sake, the cover shown here is from my 1978 New English Library copy.

Review by Brian Clegg


Popular posts from this blog

The Art of Statistics - David Spiegelhalter *****

Statistics have a huge impact on us - we are bombarded with them in the news, they are essential to medical trials, fundamental science, some court cases and far more. Yet statistics is also a subject than many struggle to deal with (especially when the coupled subject of probability rears its head). Most of us just aren't equipped to understand what we're being told, or to question it when the statistics are dodgy. What David Spiegelhalter does here is provide a very thorough introductory grounding in statistics without making use of mathematical formulae*. And it's remarkable.

What will probably surprise some who have some training in statistics, particularly if (like mine) it's on the old side, is that probability doesn't come into the book until page 205. Spiegelhalter argues that as probability is the hardest aspect for us to get an intuitive feel for, this makes a lot of sense - and I think he's right. That doesn't mean that he doesn't cover all …

The Best of R. A. Lafferty (SF) – R. A. Lafferty ****

Throughout my high school years (1973–76) I carefully kept a list of all the science fiction I read. I’ve just dug it out, and it contains no fewer than 1,291 entries – almost all short stories I found in various SF magazines and multi-author anthologies. Right on the first page, the sixth item is ‘Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne’ by R. A. Lafferty, and his name appears another 32 times before the end of the list. This isn’t a peculiarity of my own tastes. Short stories were much more popular in those days than they are today, and any serious SF fan would have encountered Lafferty – a prolific writer of short fiction – in the same places I did.

But times change, and this Gollancz Masterworks volume has a quote from the Guardian on the back describing Lafferty as ‘the most important science fiction writer you’ve never heard of’. Hopefully this newly assembled collection will go some way to remedying that situation. It contains 22 short stories, mostly dating from the 1960s and 70s, each w…

David Beerling - Four Way Interview

David Beerling is the Sorby Professor of Natural Sciences, and Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Sheffield. His book The Emerald Planet (OUP, 2007) formed the basis of a major 3-part BBC TV series ‘How to Grow a Planet’. His latest title is Making Eden.

Why science?

I come from a non-academic background. None of my family, past or present, went to university, which may explain the following. In the final year of my degree in biological sciences at the University of Wales, Cardiff (around 1986), we all participated in a field course in mid-Wales, and I experienced an epiphany. I was undertaking a small research project on the population dynamics of bullheads (Cotus gobio), a common small freshwater fish, with a charismatic distinguished professor, and Fellow of the Royal Society in London. Under his guidance, I discovered the process of learning how nature works through the application of the scientific method. It was the most exciting t…