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

While not quite up to its predecessor, an interesting step forward by Frank Herbert as he developed the Dune saga. The other titles to date have had one or two clear central characters - here there are far more, few of which it's easy to be wholly supportive of - in fact, the main character is the Bene Gesserit as a body, the manipulative female sect that has played a role throughout the books.

Although this lack of someone to identify with means the reader is slightly more detached from the action than usual, this approach is interesting as it enables Herbert to bring politics, rather than philosophising to the fore (though there is still more than enough of that). In particular we see some Bene Gesserit figures wondering about their own motivation.

There are also the magical aspects that keep the series in science fantasy, rather than science fiction, both in a young girl who is obeyed by sand worms and in something strange that happens to what seems initially to be a background character than brings him front and centre. That interesting thing is cut short - which surely should have been expanded on in the final title in the series, but sadly wasn't.

That aspect of cutting short the last few chapters highlights the weakest aspect of the book. Despite being over 500 pages long in my copy, the ending was clearly written in a rush and delivers far too much in a summary fashion. Nevertheless, this is a worthy addition: as usual, Herbert throws in several new elements and continues to add value to the underlying saga. A solid contribution to the Dune series.

Heretics of Dune is still solidly in print - but for entertainment's sake, the cover shown here is  from my 1986 New English Library copy, on which the artist seems to have modelled his sand worm on a tumble dryer hose.
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Review by Brian Clegg

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