Feb 16, 2010

[Books] Chapterhouse: Dune

Chapterhouse: DuneAll good things must come to an end and this always rings most true to me whenever a great author passes. For years they invest so much of their time into creating the most amazing stories, books that bring us to the farthest reaches of the imagination. It hurts even more when the author is the type who writes novels in trilogies or expanded series. Even if they claim their stories are over, their deaths always make it seem like the story has now been cut short and there's no further opportunity to return to those worlds. Sometimes other authors try to revisit these worlds and reinterpret the old stories but the results are never quite as good as the original.

The 6 books that make up the Dune Chronicles are pretty much the most important books in my life. A lot of my beliefs and principles were shaped while reading these books. This is the last Dune book that Frank Herbert ever wrote and it ends on an odd note. While it's still an ending that is relatively decent, but at the same time you can definitely feel the chasm that stands between you as a reader and the rest of the Dune tale that Herbert intended to write about had he lived longer.

While it's not necessarily the greatest book in the series, it's definitely one of the more shocking and startling.

Chapterhouse: Dune is the sixth and last Dune Chronicle written by Frank Herbert. It continues the story started in Heretics of Dune with the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood hiding on their home planet known only as Chapterhouse while the Honored Matres rage across the Known Universe, destroying everything in their path. The other Bene Gesserit worlds have fallen to their forces and now the Sisterhood can't even venture out to help their isolated sisters. All that protects them is a massive fleet of no-ships masking Chapterhouse from prying eyes and prescient vision - all this just a gamble on a wild plan by Darwi Odrade who is now Mother Superior.

Scytale (Dune)Image via Wikipedia

They hold prisoner Scytale, one of the Tleilaxu Masters. The Sisters hope to obtain from him the secrets of the Tleilaxu axlotl tanks and with it the ability to create artificial spice and gholas. Together with the Master in the grounded no-ship is the ghola of Duncan Idaho and his wife, the now-bonded Honored Matre Murbella. They all hold the secrets to the Sisterhood's future as long as Odrade finds a way to get the valuable information that she needs.

The tone of Chapterhouse is a dark one where the one mighty Bene Gesserit are now prisoners of their own planet. The Honored Matres are savage and seemingly unstoppable and even the Bene Tleilaxu have been driven from their worlds. The great Houses are no more and everything that used to be stable and reliable in the previous books have been thrown out the window. Heck, even Dune is no more, destroyed at the end of Heretics. Given this kind of a universe, I can understand why a lot of fans had a really hard time accepting this aspect of the Dune Universe and the story it had to tell.

Still, I liked Heretics and I certainly appreciated this continuation of that particular story. Sure, it's a bit difficult to accept the Bene Gesserit as the new Atreides however you have to admit that they've always been one of the more interesting factions in the Dune Universe. One can't ignore the fact that they were instrumental in pretty much creating Paul and being the origin of his training as well. At the end of the day, Paul Muab'Dib was in fact the fulfillment of the Bene Gesserit genetic plan, their Kwisatz Haderach.

At times, the story does get a tad preachy (although not as preachy as God Emperor of Dune was) but the trials that the Sisterhood face along with the rest of the Known Universe are valuable ones indeed. The mystery of the plans and designs of the Honored Matres are slowly revealed as Odrade and her allies try to put the pieces together like some elaborate mystery or puzzle. It's a story that certainly keeps one guessing and in time much will be uncovered.

But not everything. And that's the sad aspect of things as punctuated by the death of Frank Herbert.

As the last true Dune book, Chapterhouse: Dune gets 4 Face Dancers out of a possible 5.

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