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God Emperor of Dune (SF) - Frank Herbert *****

The fourth book in a series is a test for any author, especially at the time this was written (the 1980s), when trilogies were frequently the limit. Frank Herbert exceeded expectations with God Emperor of Dune, which managed to capture some of the scope and power of the original. Although not quite as effective as Dune itself, Herbert here manages the near impossible of taking a no-longer-human character in the apparently monstrous part-human, part-sandworm Leto and making him both interesting and sympathetic.

For a few pages, the reader suffers a significant disconnect. The action is set more than 2,000 years after the previous book. Yet it's to Herbert's credit that with such an apparently unlovable central character and this disjoint from our old familiar characters, it doesn't take long before the reader is immersed.

There are inevitably some irritations. As always with Herbert you get rather more cod-philosophy and metaphysical musings than are desirable - and its hard to understand the justification for the museum Fremen. But set against this, we really get a feel for the challenges faced by Leto and his need for surprise having mostly lived within the strictures of prescience.

There are lots of details to love, from the identification of one person as 'the Duncan' (as opposed to Duncan) to the various plots and attempts to subvert Leto's vision. Although in some ways predictable, Herbert also manages to shock with the book's ending.

An excellent addition to the series.

God Emperor of Dune is still solidly in print - but for entertainment's sake, the cover shown here is  from my 1982 New English Library copy.

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Review by Brian Clegg


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