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Children of Dune: Dune Chronicles    by Frank Herbert order for
Children of Dune
by Frank Herbert
Order:  USA  Can
Macmillan, 2008 (1976)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Children of Dune follows Dune Messiah and Dune itself as the third in Frank Herbert's spectacular series of six SF classics. This unabridged audiobook (14 CDs and seventeen hours) is skillfully narrated, mainly by Simon Vance and Scott Brick, in a good variety of voices and accents - though as in the previous audiobooks the male voices are more clearly distinguished and come across as more real than the female ones - I often find male narrators speaking the female roles (especially Alia's) in nasal tones irritating.

The second book, Dune Messiah, ended with a blind Paul Atreides following the Fremen custom of walking into the deep desert, soon after the death of his wife Chani and the birth of his twin children Leto and Ghanima. As Children of Dune opens, the twins are physically still children, but with centuries of experience, because of the ancestral personalities within them, caused by spice exposure in the womb. Unfortunately, Alia, called an abomination by many through her childhood, has now truly become one, having succumbed to the lure of one powerful voice within her, that of her maternal grandfather, the evil and very wily Baron Harkonnen, who soon directs her actions and controls the regency.

Paul and Alia's mother Jessica had left Arrakis after Paul's disappearance and presumed death, leaving her grandchildren to the care of Alia and Princess Irulan. As this episode in the Dune Chronicles opens, Jessica returns - at the request of the Bene Gesserit - to find Arrakis a different, greener world, in which the giant sandworms' habitat is diminishing. Jessica is shocked by what she sees in her daughter Alia, and also by her conversations with both twins, who know so much more than children should (a fact that is repeated a few times too many by the author). Leto in particular has developed a degree of prescience, and is aware of threats coming to fruition - including one in which House Corrino members (scheming to reclaim the throne) train two laser tigers to attack and destroy children dressed in Atreides colors.

After a slow start, the action speeds up nicely - with an attack on the twins and a kidnapping by Duncan Idaho ordered by his wife Alia - and we see long laid plans come to fruition - those of House Corrino, of young Leto, and of a mysterious blind Prophet who preaches against the powerful theocracy that has grown around the life of Muad'Dib. A growing number of people on Arrakis believe that this Prophet is Paul Atreides himself, and this mystery pulls us through the story. Ghani agrees to an arranged marriage, planning revenge for the tiger attack. Leto disappears, much as his father did, is captured and escapes, changes to become more than human, finally meets the Prophet in the desert - and launches himself upon the Golden Path that he has foreseen.

Though I didn't enjoy Children of Dune quite as much as Dune itself, I found it more absorbing and intriguing than Dune Messiah, and was fascinated by the ecological underpinnings to the story, by Leto's concern for the planet's environment and by the unintended consquences - the potential eradication of the great sandworms and destruction of the spice source - caused by human meddling with it. All serious fans of SF should read - or listen to - this first Dune trilogy.

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