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Dune Messiah: Book Two in The Dune Chronicles    by Frank Herbert order for
Dune Messiah
by Frank Herbert
Order:  USA  Can
Audio Renaissance, 2007 (1969)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Dune Messiah opens twelve years after the events of Dune, in which Paul Atreides transformed himself from a hunted fugitive on a desert planet to galactic Emperor. He achieved this by holding hostage the melange produced by the sandworms of Arrakis, on which the interstellar economy depends. But the cost of his victory was the unleashing of a jihad of Arrakis's fanatical Fremen on an unsuspecting universe. Billions died - despite his prescience, Paul could find no path to a future in which this could be avoided.

This new audiobook version (7 CDs, 9 hours) of Dune Messiah is skilfully narrated in a nice variety of voices - by Scott Brick, Euan Morton, Simon Vance, and Katherine Kellgren. Paul's mother Jessica is now absent on Caledon. His consort Princess Irulan desperately wants children, which he refuses to give her, being committed to his Fremen concubine Chani (to whom Irulan has secretly fed contraceptives to prevent her pregnancy). The Princess joins a plot involving the old Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Guild Navigator Edric, and Tleilaxu Face Dancer Scytale. Listeners hear the plotters arguing over their plans early in the audiobook.

The plot involves a Trojan Horse of a gift that Paul will find impossible to refuse. The Bene Tleilax, who are skilled in genetic and medical manipulation, acquired Duncan Idaho's body immediately after his death and grew from it a ghola - an exact replica aside from its metallic eyes and other improvements including the abilities of a Mentat. The ghola calls himself Hayt, and it seems there may be more of the original in him than was planned. Paul's sister Alia, whose hormones are beginning to rage, also finds the new Duncan irresistible.

After a long, leisurely start with a great deal of self-examination and angst from all players, Herbert gives us high drama as the plot is carried out. There's the illegal use of an atomic weapon (a stone burner), various confrontations, deaths - and the births of Paul Muad'Dib's twin children Leto and Ghanima. Through it all, Paul continues to struggle with the pain of seeing too much of what's ahead, and the difficulty of making hard choices to give humanity its best hope for the future. He foresees - but chooses not to forestall - this plot against himself and those he loves.

The audiobook is well done, though I was disappointed when Alia's part was taken by a male narrator, who was often unable to do her role justice. That aside, I highly recommend these audiobook productions of the saga - Dune and Dune Messiah - to SF fans, and hope that Children of Dune will follow soon.

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