Top positive review
So ends the Dune Saga.
Reviewed in the United States on August 29, 2020
Ah, Frank. You left us too soon.
So ends the Dune Saga. Unfinished, with one planned book remaining. Of course there are the books by his son, Brian, but that's not a can of worms (no pun intended) I need to open here and now. It's a sad thing, when a master cannot complete their opus. I've seen it with Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time, though admittedly Sanderson stepped in and did a better job than I have any reason to expect Brian Herbert did. Can of worms, can of worms...
Chapterhouse: Dune opens shortly after the events that concluded Heretics of Dune. It is not made explicit how many years have passed, but it can't have been more than a decade (and this is quite a short span given how many years passed between books four and five, and between books three and four before it). For this reason, it was very fun to fall into the novel shortly after Heretics. As is typical of Frank, he sets up new and interesting pieces to move around his cosmic chessboard while maintaining the complexities of the series at large, and continuing on with the same ultimate issue of the fifth book: The Honored Matres.
One of the best things that can be said for Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune is that they both dive so, so deeply into the Bene Gesserit, who are in general one of the most fascinating groups I have ever read about. They are an incredible mix of philosophical wisdom, metaphysical insight, moral fitness, and pure discipline. They are that ultimate guiding hand in the background, the universe's teachers ensuring the maturation of humankind. This being the case, we see in the Honored Matres a natural enemy for the Sisterhood. They who thrive in chaos. The wild thing that no one can govern. An unknown entity out of unknown space, remnants of the Scattering of humankind. Throwing these two groups at one another, not to mention the other players still making waves in the Dune universe, makes for some of Frank's most enticing conversations. But it must be said, he was faltering at times, here at the end.
Frank spent a great deal of time dealing with what felt like needless obfuscation in this final entry. The Bene Gesserit have always been a group so far advanced in mental disciplines that you can read the words and feel like you're missing the real meaning. This has actually been something I've always enjoyed about them, because it doesn't feel like nonsense. It feels like a real offshoot of modern humanity, and a believable eventuality of dedicated breeding in a sci-fi universe. Be that as it may, it felt like Frank was shuffling his feet in some areas here. One could site real-life influences for this (Frank gives an absolutely beautiful tribute at the end to his wife Bev who died during the writing of this book), or perhaps it had more to do with my own mental space and mood while reading it, but no matter the reason it is a truth of my experience. Important to note though, I think he wrote a hell of an ending for this one. The problems I had with the earlier portions of the book completely dropped away in the last hundred pages or so, and I was incredibly eager for more. Which, of course, made Frank's death only a year after the publishing of Chapterhouse hurt even worse.
I also want to mention that there were a surprising amount of errors in the kindle version of this book. Grammatical errors, missing letters, misplaced italics. None of the other installments have these issues, so I can only imagine it will be fixed for future readers (especially with so much buzz around the series right now due to Villeneuve's forthcoming adaptation--the very inspiration for my own re-read.)
Problems with this installment aside, facts are facts. Frank Herbert was a master. A giant in the genre who paved the way for so many. I owe a lot to him, and to Dune. It will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. And I look forward to revisiting it for many years to come.