Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Children of Dune, by Frank Herbert

This week I'm taking a look at Children of Dune, the third in the Dune series and I think I can safely say that this is the book that's making me finally give up on the franchise. I swear, I can't count how many times I was about ready to fall asleep while listening to this book or was bored to tears. There are some exciting bits to this book when things actually happen and the universe is still deep and complex, but so much of the time is spent with people sitting around and talking. I just wanted to yell ''DO SOMETHING!!'' at the characters for well over ninety percent of the book that it's almost a surprise when they actually do. I've been warned by friends who have been down this path before that the books just get worse from here, so I think I've found my point to pull out.

Plot-wise Children of Dune actually has some great potential. Paul Muad'Dib Atreides at the end of the last book has disappeared into the desert, leaving his children Leto and Ghanima under the care of his sister Alia who is ruling as regent until Leto comes of age. And there are actually several main plots going on. First of all, the ecological transformation of Arrakis is proceeding at an accelerated pace to the point people can live without stillsuits and people actually drowned, a concept unheard of before. Normally this would be a good thing but apparently the great sand worms, the creatures that actually produce the melange spice necessary for all space travel and only found on Arrakis, are dying off because of the environmental changes. So, that's a pretty big deal, right?

Well on top of that you have corruption seeping through the empire as Alia becomes consumed with power and shows absolutely no signs of being willing to give up the regency and may be trying to supplant her nephew on the throne. And House Corrino, the former rulers of the empire, are involved in their own plot to assassinate Leto and Ghanima and take back command of the empire by force. There are a ton of things going on and yet all these potential plotlines are basically squandered in the book.

The reason for this is this book suffers so much from telling instead of showing it's not even funny. And this is a problem that Dune as a series has had. The first book it was kind of bad, but I felt like there were enough scenes that weren't people standing around talking or people having internal monologues that it managed to hold up pretty well. Especially with its rich backstory. Dune Messiah on the other hand, took a turn for far more introspection and navel-gazing which was frankly pretty darn annoying but I managed to soldier my way through it. With Children of Dune pretty much the entire plot is told to us rather than being shown. The characters spend large amounts of time talking about all the cool political machinations and ambitions going on, Alia's corruption, the changes to Arrakis, but we're never really shown them. Not to an extent I'd like, anyway. There are occasional scenes with action, but most of the time important things are discussed before and after they happen, but when they actually happen it's entirely off screen.

I can't say exactly how much of the book consists of people sitting in caves or other locations talking about things, including interminable statements on religion and politics, but it certainly feels like a good ninety percent of the book. A lot of the time it's two people, but sometimes to change it up it involves three people or just one person talking with themselves. Either way it's a bunch of people standing or sitting around and having conversations about far more interesting things going on. As I said earlier, it makes me want to shout ''DO SOMETHING!!'' and that's really not a good sign in a book.

And you know, I could almost forgive some of the craziness. Stuff like genetic memories, the weird anti-technology bent, and even Leto turning into a sand worm. (Yes. This is legitimate thing.) Like weird and crazy stuff I have seen and accepted before and I'm sure I will accept it again. But this book commits the greatest sin of all, being incredibly boring. With so many potential ideas it feels like a waste of time and effort and gives me no real reason to keep reading, or in this case listening to, the series at all. Honestly you're probably better off just reading the first book and keeping it at that.

- Kalpar

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