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Chapter House Dune (SF) - Frank Herbert ****

Although there have been follow-up titles by his son, Chapter House Dune was Herbert's closing work in the Dune sequence. Here the focus is fully on the Bene Gesserit, giving us a more sustained central character in Darwi Odrade than was available in Heretics of Dune - though once again the ending of the book, detached from her story, seems rushed and skeletal.

Although Herbert always highlights the drawbacks of the Bene Gesserit approach, they come through here as the heroes in contrast to the almost entirely negative alternatives of the Honoured Matres. As always in the Dune books, we get a mix of meandering dialogue/interior monologue and highly engaging action - here the waffly parts were more political than philosophical, which made them more interesting for me. Despite apparent contradictions in earlier books, Herbert seems to have been marginally in favour of democracy, though in a very particular form that was structured to avoid bureaucracy taking over.

There's a lot here to like, though it's a shame that Herbert didn't feel able to bring the series to a more definitive conclusion - there's a point where ending things is desirable, and by this book, it felt more than time for this to happen. Instead, there's an open ending with plenty of loose strands. It was also rather disappointing that Herbert kept to the eugenic line and didn't by this late stage make it clear that the human breeding programme that has been central to the books was doomed to failure because of the nature of genetics.

Nonetheless, this book is up to the quality of its predecessors.

Heretics of Dune is still solidly in print - but for entertainment's sake, the cover shown here is  from my 1985 New English Library copy.
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Review by Brian Clegg

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