Only desperation can overcome their complacency.
For countless centuries the Bene Gesserit served as advisors and arbiters, renowned for their intellect and discipline. Now they struggle simply to survive. In the wake of Dune the Honored Matres have set forth, conquering with a reckless abandon that will eventually destroy them all. But what can the Bene Gesserit do against such raw fury? Their iron discipline grants them a measure of security, but eventually the Honored Matres will find Chapterhouse, home to the last remnants of the worms of Dune. To protect this legacy, the Bene Gesserit must resurrect Teg, the legendary commander who defied the Honored Matres, and paid with his life. But the question remains, what did he do to rouse such anger? Stories abound, but only Teg knows the truth.
The beginning is sharp. Brief scenes provide a minimum of details, interwoven with rich inner dialogue. A quick glimpse of the villains helps to establish the danger, before settling into a quiet scene of a boy and his “mother”.
Complex characters continue to be a cornerstone of the Dune series. The large cast is divided into shifting groups of two and three. Relationships characterize while simultaneously exploring different aspects of the human condition. Topics include the nature of the collective subconscious, how relationships and codependence give rise to social and political systems, the struggle between conformity and individuality, and how subjectivity pervades everything.
Artful references help to maintain an awareness of the story’s diverse threads, while mysteries and secrets between characters provide a measure of tension, but cohesion is an ongoing struggle for this story. The choice to alternate perspective at every chapter helps to manage the large cast, but also prevents any single narrative thread from building towards a proper climax. Instead the constant shift in tone and focus insulate each chapter. The looming threat helps to give some urgency to the philosophical issues, but ultimately it’s in the quiet middle, and subtle introspection of the characters, that this story truly shines.
Fans of the Dune series may find Chapterhouse vaguely unsatisfying at first, but Chaperhouse is its own story, rich in ideas and questions, many of which remain unresolved by the end of the story. But this too may be intentional. One of the themes of the story is the idea that nothing is ever truly complete. Even as audiences reach the end of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, he offers one last challenge, to continue the dialogue, and find our own answers.
Hellbound Heart (Standalone suspense/horror)