01/01/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
pub: Macmillan Audio. Price: $59.95 (US). 15 CDs 18.5 hours. ISBN: 978-1-4272-0316-8) . read by Simon Vance, Scott Brick, Katherine Kellgren.
check out website: http://us.macmillan.com/hereticsofdune
Five thousand years have passed since Paul took over the planet Arrakis and it has been fifteen hundred years since the God Emperor Leto was killed in the waters that had become poisonous to his metamorphised sandworm body. On the God Emperor's death, the Empire collapsed and the people were dispersed amidst the chaos and starvation to distant regions all over the galaxy in a movement referred to as the scattering.
After some time, the planets of the old Empire recovered, likewise Arrakis which had sandworms and spice again. However, the balance of power has changed. The Bene Gesserit are still evident but there are other major power bases including the Tleilaxu, the genetic manipulators of suspicious character, and also the Ixians, the masters of technology. There are lots of other bods and sods loitering with intent including the army of women which I sometimes in error refer to as Fishwives and not Fish Speakers.
Essentially, the plot of 'Heretics Of Dune' is concerned with the destruction of this status quo by people returning from the scattering, powerful people not profligate in charitable intent. The main group of interlopers go by the name of Honored Matres. No mother would wish an innocent young son to meet up with these ladies. Not only are the very adept at fighting, they have special skills in the sexual control of men. Femme fatales with a difference!
A Duncan Idaho ghola (a sort of clone) is being brought up by the Bene Gesserit to fight for them and also control the religious movement on the planet Arrakis, now called Rakis. Meanwhile, the Tleilaxu have plans of conquest but come up against the Honored Matres and, in commensurate with their xenophobic nature, take a dislike to them and also begin to have fears that they might try to join up with the Bene Gesserit, much to their disadvantage.
In order to protect Duncan Idaho, an old soldier is summoned. Miles Teg is an honourable man who does his duty. It's a great pity his actions could indirectly lead to the destruction of Rakis. The Mother Superior of the Bene Gesserit, a woman called Taraza, and also the Reverend Mother Darwi Odrade try to take control of the situation on Rakis where the new prophetess on the block, Sheeana, is causing a disturbance. Ranged against them is Waff of the Tleilaxu who now has the assistance of the Honored Matres to help in achieving his goal of religious domination over the galaxy.
While the Honored Matres think themselves pretty smart in the art of sexual pleasures, during a contest of this nature between Murbella and Duncan Idaho, the latter uses Tleilaxu techniques to overwhelm her in the same discipline. You've got to feel sorry for Duncan, not for his encounters with the delectable Murbella, but for his endless lifetimes. What started as a right-hand man to Paul in the original Dune has expanded into hundreds or even thousands of gholas all experiencing dramatic lives.
Many have said before that there was an element of The Middle East in Frank Herbert's 'Dune' novels. Oil becomes spice and in 'Heretics', it's quite easy to discern a parallel between Sunni Muslims and Shi'ite Muslims in the actions of the Bene Gesserit and the Tleilaxu.
What bothers me about 'Dune' is that all these characters don't have proper jobs to keep themselves occupied, working nine-to-five jobs, and therefore use their spare time causing trouble everywhere they go. Frank Herbert's humans, despite having special powers, are the same as ourselves in that without a job they become too busy and try to create religious and secular empires.
The tempo of the book increases towards a final climax dramatic in its delivery and outcome. Could this be the end of everything? Arrakis has already been changed to Rakis and now could the planet itself be destroyed by these ladies of ill repute, the Honored Matres, ladies whom Teg thinks are beyond redemption? 'Heretics' was written in 1984 and it has stood the test of time very well. Like the others in the 'Dune' series, it has become a classic. The final outcome is for you to discover.
Like the others in the series produced by Macmillan, this audio book is very good. I am sure there are many bookshelves partially filled with their volumes, eagerly waiting for future arrivals. The narrators are old hands, they know the subject well and deliver a polished product. Further proof can be had if you let them speak for themselves. January can be a gloomy month and what better way to brighten it up than listening to a good audio book.
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