God Emperor of Dune (Dune Chronicles #4)

ISBN: 0441294677
ISBN 13: 9780441294671
By: Frank Herbert

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About this book

Centuries have passed on Dune, and the planet is green with life. Leto, the son of Dune's savior, is still alive but far from human, and the fate of all humanity hangs on his awesome sacrifice... "Rich fare...heady stuff." --Los Angeles Times

Reader's Thoughts


Is it philosophical? Well if repeating the same point over and over again is philosophy, then this is about as philosophical as it gets. I'm going to reveal what it's all about, ready? Stagnation is bad. If you enforce stagnation for long enough people will get sick of it. So in order that there will be less stagnation in the future there has to be a lot of it now.That's it. That's the whole book in a nutshell.Leto drags out this same (dubious) argument at every opportunity, which is every couple of pages, because he has designed the empire around this idea. Did I mention that it gets repetitive? One positive thing I will say about the book is that the God Emperor shows us what sacrifices ideological commitment can demand of us. That and some of the characters was what kept me reading this book long after I got the point.


Please, make it stop.


I'm not sure why I keep reading the Dune novels. I don't like them, at least I didn't enjoy the first three . . . . They're not well written (when compared, for instance, to Ondaatje's, Pamuk's, or Marilynne Robinson's works) and they're not nearly as good as Tolken's novels. Reviewers go on and on about how 'philosophical' Herbert's novels are. So as a philosophy student I should love them. But I don't. Maybe they have too much dialogue (blah). Maybe they focus too much on what the emperors/rulers/gods are doing and don't spend enough time on the normal, everyday person. (What's happening on the less privileged planets??)But I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy God Emperor of Dune. Maybe it's because I now know what to expect from Frank Herbert. Maybe . . . . But, unlike most reviewers, I am looking forward to reading Brian Herbert's works. Most reviewers of Brian's novels say he's not as good a writer as his father. But I don't think Frank is an especially good writer. SO TAKE THAT BH HATERS!!

Irving Karchmar

I think that God Emperor Leto II, the man who turned himself into a giant sandworm in order to save humanity, and thereby lived for 3500 years, is my favorite character in fiction, science or otherwise. Of course, a being with that long a life, and with "other memories" going back through the entire history of mankind to the first stirrings of cellular awareness, is a remarkable achievement. His insights are lucid and insightful, and one I remember, about all armies being rape armies, is especially poignant today in the light of all the rape and abuse charges in the US Military. Truly a remarkable part of the best series in sci-fi.

Dave Johnson

when i first read this, i really didnt understand what Herbert said. this was such a departure from his first three books that i thought it was awful. in fact, at the time, i told a friend that i didnt like where Dune was going and that i was going to quit the series after this book. long story short, i didnt quit. and, although i didnt like the book at the time, i reread this book back in '06 and i really liked it. i guess you have to understand what leto went through for his "Golden Path". he had to turn into something hated and worshiped, and he hated that. but because he knew that humanity would be extinguished without his help, he knew that his job was necessary. what i also found intriguing was how well herbert portrayed someone who knew the future. but it wasnt that he knew everything; he had to search the possible futures. and when he found a person whose future was unsearchable, he was pleasantly surprised.with all his books, herbert made amazing characters. in the end, this was a very good book, but only in the context of the next two books (which were my favorite of the dune series).


There is something leaden about this book. Plot-wise, the previous Dune books were driven by crisis brought about by change. God Emperor of Dune centers around stasis - stasis imposed by a tyrant for the supposed good of humankind. Herbert is once again wrestling with some fascinating and complex ideas, but the philosophical pay-off doesn't quite balance the sluggish pace, the almost cartoonish outlandishness of Leto II's physical form, and the tedium of Leto's self-pity and his repeated waxings poetical about his wealth of ancestral memories. Still, if you're into Dune and can withstand the above, worth reading for the odd places Herbert ventures.


It never ceases to amaze me when I re-read Dune, so many new layers in both content, social statement, and economic perspective are revealed. Frank Herbert's third piece in his masterpiece series is not only a fascinating tale of a man who willingly sacrifices his humanity to save what is humankind, it is a tale of the dangers in short-sighted pursuits of purely monetary gains. There are so many layers, I cannot hope to describe them all here. Read the books for yourself, and be aware that Herbert wasn't just telling a story -- he was criticizing human society and our tendency to destroy ourselves with our own short-sightedness.

Dorian D-W

God Emperor of Dune is marginally more inteligable than Children of Dune, its predecessor, but only just. As usual Herbert waxes philosophically about religion, power, and history, though in this installment he adds a generous dollop of hermenuetics to the mix. At several points I questioned Herbert's sanity.Still, there are a number of redeeming points to the novel. As always, Herbert's language is beatiful. The characters are esquisite, and Herbert's philosophies are thought provoking at the very least.But by far the masterpiece of this book is the God Emperor himself, Leto Atreides II. No longer the wandering boy from Children of Dune, Leto II has been walking his Golden Path for 3000 years, and changed almost unrecognizably because of it.Now part sandworm, Leto II bears the hallmarks of his shared memories -- the wisdom of Paul Maud'dib, the calm self-assurence of the Lady Jessica, and even a touch of the grotesque Baron Harkonnen. Who Leto II really is, though, is the lonliest being in the universe. While others squabble around him, plotting and scheming, Leto II must navigate the narrow path through history to ensure the survival of the human race. Only he can recognize the significance and necesity of his actions, however cruel or tyrannical they may seem to others. The ironic humanity of Leto II is what makes this book accessible and a good read.

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)

A deep and unflattering meditation on the human condition and whether near absolute tyranny can free mankind from certain of these trappings, Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune is my favourite novel of what is a monumental series and one of the greatest in all of science fiction.This review offers an excellent and concise summary of what the book does for the story.Be warned however that this novel doesn't offer a smooth silk thread of a plot where characters are affixed colourful and appreciable beads sliding along through well-paced curves and loops to a conclusion. The structure is unorthodox and consists mainly and most significantly of digressions from the eponymous God Emperor, Leto II, whose sacrifice in order to set humanity on the Golden Path his father deferred, has physically and mentally alienated him from it. In something of a reversal of the fate Frazer gives for the Sacred King, the God Emperor suppresses and goads the various factions of his new empire to force the end he desires in order to jolt civilisation out of stagnation.Another reviewer briefly notes how this is a glimpse of 'alien motives' à la Lovecraft, which is a very astute observation. At times Leto thinks of the Golden Path as a necessity for humankind's survival quite independently from the transient viewpoint of his human subjects, almost as an intellectual problem. Rarely do we find gods written about intimately in literature. The pitfalls are obvious. This is why all the facets and complexity Herbert bestows on his eponymous character here such a feat- unparalleled in my view.Numerous, often coy insights into the past that leads to doom if not for his Golden Path are ruminated upon by Leto alongside ambiguities which must be addressed at this late stage in his plans before his own necessary demise. To appreciate these requires a broad view of the complex social dynamics in Herbert's universe and an almost cynical openness to how a technologically advanced species might adapt economically, culturally and politically to the long reign of such a threat as the God Emperor. That Herbert was able to distill such far-reaching machinations and give voice to them through Leto instead of letting the narrative unravel more disconnectedly (but perhaps as effectively) as in Stapledon's and Asimov's work is a feat of daring which still strains credulity as I look back on this work.It isn't that the other characters are particularly flawed compared to the other novels, but their shortcomings and struggles of limited scope, given our view through Leto's eyes, appear to condemn the whole of humanity, past and present, which has accepted, but moreover was found desperately needing Leto's direction.

Simon Mcleish

Originally published on my blog here in January 1999.The fourth Dune novel saw Herbert returning to the series after a considerable gap, both in internal and external chronology. This book is set several thousand years after Leto gained the throne, and he has maintained himself in a position of absolute power in the galaxy, his enforced peace being used to prepare mankind for a future event left unspecified at this point in the series. He has continued to change in response to the sandtrout he accepted as his new skin as a child, and now resembles a small sandworm more than a human being. During his long reign, and through his ancestral memories, he has experienced just about everything the human race has to offer (despite never, in human terms, developing after about his ninth birthday); any way that people manage to act which surprises him is a great pleasure. He takes a particular delight in those who rebel against him, and now in Siona Atreides, a descendant of his sister Ghanima, he has an opponent he can be interested in, for she is also immune to his powers of prescience: his spice-inspired visions of the future cannot predict what she will do. This immunity is really what Leto has been working towards in the breeding programme he took over from the Bene Gesserit sisterhood; it is needed for humanity to be able to withstand the threat he has seen in mankind's future.God Emperor is a scene setter for the final two books in the Dune series, and rather suffers from this (which may explain the lengthy gap before these last two books finally appeared). Leto is not really made different enough from those around him to be truly convincing (he should be a really alien figure), and the novel feels lacking in direction and so never grabs the full attention of the reader.


God Emperor of Dune is the red-headed stepchild of the series. Frank Herbert delves into the mind of a near omniscient god-creature. Many people feel disturbed or bored by this book, calling it the most "dull" of the series. From a philosophical point of view, this is probably the most advanced book in the series. Definitions of humanity and morality are contrasted in very personal ways in this book. Those familiar with Lovecraftian Cthulu mythos could well use this as a textbook to start thinking about "alien" motives and the human concept of "evil".

Melee Farr

I just finished this one and liked it almost as much as the first, which is really saying something. I have to say that Leto disgusted me at first ... gave me the willies just reading about him, kind of like squishing a snail, but by the end of the book, I felt dreadfully sorry for him, and had a reluctant respect for the lonely choices he made. I'd certainly have never made those sacrifices. I have a pile of quotes from the wise Mr. Herbert to add here ....


I LOVE THIS BOOK!!! Leto is my absolute favorite character of the series ! Without giving it away, Leto has acquired a half-humanoid half-sandworm form and the book begins over 3,000 years after Children of Dune, with Leto ruling the entire "known" universe. Leto has acquired tremendous God-like power through the course of his metamorphosis from human to worm. Despite such incredible prescient powers, Leto suffers from some of the same foibles as all humans do, (loneliness, boredom) perhaps even exacerbated by his near immortality. We learn a little more about the Golden Path in this book and can not help but feel sorry for the eternally resurrected Duncan Idaho. A must read if you are a Dune fan.


Useful background book to read if you've ever thought you might like to rule the Universe. It's a really terrible job.


I hated this book the first time I read it. Hated every person in it, did not understand why anyone acted the way they did. Now it's one of my top-ten comfort reads, and I see so much in Leto I want for myself. Dune was the perfect hero book, and then Herbert turned the trope of “boy becomes Messiah and saves the noble people” on its head with Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. In those two volumes, everything assumed and trusted became so much sand, and a son had to destroy his Messiah father’s legacy to save the universe from religious genocide and tyranny. We closed on the boy becoming yet another saviour and had only a vague, hopeful idea of what he intended to do next. Herbert could have left us there, many thought he would when he finished his Dune Trilogy. Instead, he published his most difficult and daring book yet. In Emperor, we discover that the boy’s plan to save humanity from tyranny is... to become the ultimate Tyrant, and Predator of humankind. Yeah, I’m with you. Just say “huh?” and get it over with. I can’t explain without giving plot away. Emperor is a masterpiece of philosophy, and the best book in the series, but I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped somewhere in the middle and stuffed it to the back of your shelf for ten years before you gave it another chance. Who am I to argue? I did.

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