Nate Reads: Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

I’ve been experimenting with what to call this series. Calling it “Nate Reads” is easy enough but I think I need a better name. I can think of that later. For now, let’s talk a bit more about Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert.

Quick Summary of Thoughts

As always go listen to our episode covering this book but I’ll provide a brief summary here. At last the 5th Dune book has arrived and it… well it might be the worst book in terms of overall score. To determine if that’s true, I’m going to regrade the whole lot of them at the end of this post. I think that, despite liking this book more than the first book, it still comes in about 2 points lower than the original. We’ll see.

This book takes place thousands of years after the last book. I’m sure there are other book series that have done something like this, but I haven’t read them. I really like when series do timeskips like this, I don’t know why? Maybe because it feels like things are grander and more… and this word has been ruined but I can’t think of another one… epic. Even a small time-skip like what I’ve seen in Star Wars or Skyrim are appreciated. Being set so far out, Heretics of Dune begins a new (unfinished) trilogy of books that would have (I assume) wrapped up the Dune saga. Or who knows, maybe there was another trilogy after this and Frank would just keep writing forever.

Since we’re so far in the future, every single one of our characters is long dead. Except Duncan Idaho, of course. This book it’s definitely setting something up. This book has new baddies, re-imaginings of old baddies, and the book ends with the utter destruction of the titular Dune planet. On top of that there are new advancements of a lot of new things like the possibility of a super mentat (if that’s what that was?) and super ghola. Big sweeping changes are happening across the board here!

Yet, contradictorily, it also feels like not enough is happening here? It’s weird because this is probably the most action-packed book thus far and presents a ton of new ideas to this universe moreso than any book before it except MAYBE the first book. There are several fights on display (even if he ignores the destruction of Dune, which is kind of a problem) and it feels like there’s lots of plot happening. But it also feels like less stuff is happening? Less than God Emperor? Is that possible? I wonder if it’s because he added a little more action and it’s now obvious just how little is actually going on plot-wise for large swaths of the book? Like an uncanny valley of action that we wouldn’t notice if there were a little less going on action-wise?

There’s also a lot of gross/weird sex stuff. Like a professional child groomer, women forcing themselves on people, and a sex-fight between Duncan’s magic penis and an Honored Matre’s magical color-changing nipples. It’s also presented in the bored not-quite-understanding-human-relations of Frank Herbert. It sucks. I don’t know what else to say. The sex fight is cringe. The professional groomer is gross and Frank’s line about women being unable to commit sexual assault from God Emperor’s of Dune makes the Honored Matre’s and the Bene Gesserit that much more fucked up.


Content/Ideas 15/20

The ideas are about as cleared and developed as this book will allow. The ideas are definitely original. They’re not all ideas that are good or that I personally like but I can’t deny that they’re original. There’s always been some weird sex stuff in Dune and this introduces even weirder sex stuff. Also we’re advancing the clock of the universe by several thousand years and things certainly feel new and different and strange. I know that this will eventually end in nothing being revealed because Frank Herbert dies and his stupid son and that talentless hack KJA come in to finish the series and will never explain any of the ideas that aren’t fleshed out. For example: What was Teg? Why does Duncan have all the memories of all of his lifetimes? Why all this new sex stuff, Frank? Just why? Nothing, it seems, will ultimatley come of this. There is no grand vision that pulls it all together, like Children of Dune did for its trilogy. It just… ends. But that’s not the fault of this book and I think this particular book does a good job presenting original ideas with the intention of fleshing them out further in coming books.

Organization 15/20

This is actually impressively written for Frank. He switches perspectives across the known universe and I never had any problem following the book at all. This is actually very well organized for Dune.

Word Choice 6/20

He sucks at prose. Who would have thought? I think he got better in previous entries and now here we are at a step back. It’s a lot of things. One is that he’s describing sex stuff in more detail and it’s more embarrassing. For another reason, he’s shortening a bunch of words because he thinks that’s how language works over time. It just becomes shorter. It sucked. I can’t be nice about it. Frank has always been weak with prose and this is just more of that.

Personal Preference 11/20

Thumbs in the middle. I liked that it feels like a fresh new universe after the last book. It feels like there’s been a lot of interesting developments and I’m interested in seeing where it’s going. That being said, there’s long stretches of nothing-happening time and there’s a lot of uncomfortable garbage in here too.

Recommendation Strength 6/20

I kind of recommend people just finish God Emperor and stop. I know that it’s not going to conclude the way the author intended. I can’t recommend this to a general audience because this is book 5 of a long-running series AND book 1 in a second trilogy. I can’t really recommend this to genre fans necessarily because this is like previous Dune books but a lot more problematic and not a whole lot happens. I can only really recommend it to the niche audience of weirdos who like Frank Herbert-style hentai or who really want to know how it l ends, despite knowing that it ends with the author dying and two idiots finishing his work. Not a really glowing recommendation here.

TOTAL SCORE 53/100 (55 points is considered average)

Dune: (20/8/6/6/15) = 55 points

Dune Messiah: (15/11/11/11/15) = 63 points

Children of Dune: (15/15/11/20/15) = 76 points

God Emperor of Dune: (15/11/11/15/11) = 63 points

Heretics of Dune = 53 points

Nate Creed

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