Top positive review
The Lost Ones return...
Reviewed in the United States on July 2, 2020
Heretics of Dune is further proof that my fifteen year old self was not equipped with the receptivity that the latter Dune books require. Beyond the fact that I remembered very little of it, reading it now is an entirely different, and far more rewarding, experience. For many years I fed off the collective opinion of these latter books, as well as my earlier reading of it, and decided they may not be worth the time. I halted my every whim to return to them. This was a mistake. No, Heretics is not Dune. It's not Dune: Messiah. It's not even God Emperor, but it is one hell of a science-fiction novel. And for mega fans of the series (I will admit to being such) it is more than worthwhile.
Heretics takes place some 1,500 years after the brunt of what we read in God Emperor of Dune, and right out of the gate Herbert hits you with a boatload of tantalizing worldbuilding. This is not the universe we knew when Leto ruled, though his shadow hangs over it still... Lost Ones have begun returning from The Scattering of humankind. With this unknown factor of evolution yet to play their cards, the other forces of the universe are on edge. The Tleilaxu here feature their most prominent role in the series thus far, and we take a much deeper look at the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood (especially as they compare to the new thread of the Honored Matres). We round out our main story bits with Miles Teg, the Sisterhood's most reliable weapon, a fresh Duncan Idaho ghola, and Sheeana, a young girl on Rakis with the ability to control the sandworm Shai-hulud (or is it Shaitan...?).
In true Frank Herbert fashion, the plot is dense and full of complexities that leave me desiring to start from the beginning as soon as I finish. There is always a feeling of more lying just beneath the surface; a feeling I love. He remains a master at mixing a far-future setting with Eastern mysticism and metaphysical psychedelia. The result is perhaps one of the most believable science-fiction worlds out there, and I think this stems from how seriously Frank takes his work. It is amazing how much thought, how many hidden questions and subtle answers he is still injecting into this story.
The Dune universe has a depth and richness that marks Herbert's worldbuilding skills as matched by perhaps only Tolkien himself. The story of Arrakis and the peoples of its universe is one that is endlessly fascinating and complex. In a story that spans millennia, I think back on previous books with a sense of nostalgia bordering on awe; and experience the current story with the sense that there is always more to be revealed. Considering how much I enjoyed God Emperor and Heretics, I am very much looking forward to Chapterhouse after all these years.
"We are not looking at a new state of matter but at a newly recognized relationship between consciousness and matter, which provides a more penetrating insight into the workings of prescience. The oracle shapes a projected inner universe to produce new external probabilities out of forces that are not understood. There is no need to understand these forces before using them to shape the physical universe. Ancient metal workers had no need to understand the molecular and submolecular complexities of their steel, bronze, copper, gold, and tin. They invented mystical powers to describe the unknown while they continued to operate their forges and wield their hammers."