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Heretics of Dune: Dune Chronicles #5    by Frank Herbert order for
Heretics of Dune
by Frank Herbert
Order:  USA  Can
Macmillan, 2008 (1987)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Heretics of Dune, the fifth in Frank Herbert's original series, takes place fifteen hundred years after the end of the God Emperor's rule. On his death, famine forced humanity to colonize new worlds in the Scattering. Now, many have returned, ruled by their Honored Matres, who share some of the Bene Gesserit talents, but also know how to turn men into sexual slaves (the Bene Gesserit call them whores).

There are several major story threads to follow. On Arrakis (now Rakis) a spirited young girl named Sheeana has emerged (after her community was swallowed by worms). She can control and communicate with the great sandworms (which seem to retain some of Leto's awareness and which Sheeana addresses as Shaitan). After being attack by one priestly faction (while worshipped by another), Sheeana comes under the influence of Reverend Mother Odrade, an Atreides descendant who has some doubts about her order's goals and methods.

Bene Gesserit Mother Superior Taraza (Odrade's childhood friend) tasks old Mentat warrior Miles Teg (Odrade's father, a strategic genius, and a wonderful, honorable character) with ensuring the safety of the latest Duncan Idaho ghola on Gammu, bringing him to full awareness of his past life, and getting him to Rakis. Sharing this responsibility is Reverend Mother Lucilla. After a betrayal by Bene Gesserit dissenters, and attack from without, they make their way to an ancient Harkonnen refuge. They are separated, in another battle. There are captures and rescues. New talents awaken in both Duncan and Teg. They eventually reunite and wend their way to Rakis.

Another key player is Tleilaxu Master Waff, who kills several Honored Matres and replaces them with Face Dancers but has less success when he comes up against Odrade. She handles him skillfully and negotiates an alliance between the Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilax. Readers wonder what have the Bene Tleilax planted in Duncan, and will this ghola survive as so many before him have not? What do the sandworms want from Sheeana and Odrade? And why is Mother Superior Taraza manipulating events - and the Honored Matres - to destroy Rakis?

I enjoy these Dune novels even more in (unabridged) audiobook than in text format, as the author's verbosity (and frequent redundancy of explanation) reinforces ideas in the spoken version, whereas I often find it irritating when reading, and tend to skim. Heretics of Dune is narrated (in fifteen CDs and 18.5 hours) by Simon Vance, Scott Brick and Katherine Kellgren. They do a brilliant job of distinguishing a wide variety of male and female roles (I find having narrators of both sexes a huge improvement over men speaking the female parts), and do justice to the frequent exciting action sequences in the story.

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