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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


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