Dune Messiah is set up to be the antithesis of Dune. This story is set 15 years after Paul became emperor and it reveals what happens when a messiah rules with religious dogma and wields the fear of a jihad. Naturally, there is an undertow of rebellion formed out of dissidents who became slighted during Paul’s transition to power. Because this book was released a few years after the original Dune, it’s safe to assume that the original epic was only written for Frank Herbert to intellectually deconstruct. Although this book is heavy with political philosophy, Frank Herbert wrapped his musings around very thin plot lines. One consists of Paul’s women conceiving an heir, and the other focuses on sister Alia’s love life. Also, because there was a deep tonal shift in the protagonist and his cohorts, there are many characters from the first book who are unrecognizable or completely absent in this story. Overall, it’s an interesting quick read, and it ends with a set up for the next installment, Children of Dune.
Although the book is heavy with political philosophy, the story is still a hero’s journey and flows wonderfully. Because each character has tremendous depth, it is often hard to figure out where their part in the story will lead them. Even if Frank Herbert tales you their fate, he still does a wonderful job of letting the character’s motives and inner turmoil twist around the emotions towards themselves and the people who fill their lives. Since I watched the movie and TV adaptations I was reluctant to finally read the book; however, because Herbert shows us multiple perspectives of the same scene, uses a unique take on prescience, and relies on inner monologues to push the characterization and plot, watching the story on the screen only revealed a sliver of the whole drama. It was also very interesting how the rising action, climax and the denouement were heavily Shakespearian influence, in particular Henry V and Hamlet. Overall, I found this to be one of my new favorite books and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the above comparisons.