God Emperor of Dune (Dune Chronicles #4)

ISBN: 0441294677
ISBN 13: 9780441294671
By: Frank Herbert

Check Price Now


Currently Reading Dune Fantasy Favorites Fiction Sci Fi Science Fiction Scifi Sf To Read

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

Kyle Holden

A very good read. Herbert's use of dialog and overall language forces the reader not to focus on what the author is saying but what the author is leaving out. I was a little disappointed in the ending; thought it could have had more detail or substance, but overall a very enjoyable read.


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.

Adrian Ciuleanu

Okay, this was my second read of God Emperor of Dune. Honestly, it was quite an useful read because now I understand more precisely what was Leto's goal and the exact purpose of his Golden Path. To make a long story short the Golden Path is nothing more than the survival of the human race. At the end of the old empire (period described in the previous books) the human race has become doomed beyond hope with a corrupt and decadent feudal ruling system, stagnant and with an major addiction to substance ( the spice) that influenced almost all aspects of life (transportation, science, technological advancement, religion, food, etc) across the universe. The Bene Gesserit has foreseen humanity's disaster and they hoped to avoid it with the Kwisatz Haderach, the prescient messiah who will save us all. As we know, they lost control of it and Paul Muad'dib became Emperor on his own. Paul with his ability to see the future also saw the end of humanity and acted on it and he tried to save it with his Jihad. But wiping all resistance to his rule was not enough and something more drastic was needed. Because of Paul's love for his wife and because he still had his thirst for his humanity Paul couldn't make the ultimate sacrifice. Instead his son, Leto did it. Leto transformed himself in to a half man-half sandworm creature that permitted him to guide humanity on the Golden Path journey. The Golden Path acted on several different aspects. First, he needed to free the humanity from the spice addiction, thus during a long period of time he wiped out the sandworms, which wore the only source of spice and could live only in one place: Dune. Upon his foreseen death, Leto would breed a new kind of sandworms, with conscience and more intelligent and also with the ability to live on other planets besides Dune. Second, Leto also begun oppressing humanity like no ruler, (thos the Tyrant nickname) before him. This had also several reasons behind it: he slowly started reducing the spice addiction of humanity, by the end Leto's rule people wore almost free of it and the spice influenced only a few essential aspects of life (ex: space travel) . Also oppressing the people for long enough, he created a longing to be free of him, a desire for freedom (which is basically, the Scattering, in the following books). In particular, by oppressing the ixians and tleilaxu and not destroying them entirely, forced these two factions to be more inventive, creative and eventually it will lead them to discover space travel without the need of spice and the invention of artificial spice. Third, Leto had to be sure that in the future no other will ever posses the power he had possessed and that no person, no matter how prescient, would ever be able to track down all humanity and control like he did. So, he took from the Bene Gesserit their prized breeding plan and with Siona he managed to make a new kind of Atreides, free of the prescience vision. Fourth, with his all-female army, the Fish Speakers, Leto ensured that after he was gone, these women (with their training, discipline and life philosophy) will guaranty humanity's survival and guide them along the right path.God Emperor of Dune might not by so actioned packed like the previous or the following books in the Dune Saga but it is most certainly the center one and the most important one of all.


God Emperor of Dune by author Frank Herbert is a religiopolitical novel disguised (poorly) as science fiction. 3,000 years after the events of Children of Dune, the planet Arrakis has undergone many ecological changes. It is becoming wet and green. The people live in tribal-like communities in relative peace by way of being forced to live the traditions of old, and not only on Arrakis, but around most of the galaxy. All because of the God Emperor's 'Golden Path'. Who is the God Emperor, you may ask. Why, He's only the 3,000 year old son of a Messiah, who has morphed into a giant hallucinogenic producing space-wurm with near omniscient abilities about past, present and future and proclaimed himself the God Emperor of the whole freaking universe, is all. And His name is Leto! Leto has a plan. It's a golden plan. He dominates all of space and time because He's smart -- Super Smart. And He does it all for the sake of humanity. But there are people who really don't like Him and want to assassinate His wurmy ass. This presents a problem. One, He's freaking omniscient, idiots! Kinda' hard to kill someone who knows everything in the entire space-time continuum, don't ya' think? Second, if He dies His golden path dies with Him. Damn. Well, that doesn't stop these forward thinking rebels. They're sick and tired of a tyrant telling them to live the old ways and customs of Dune's past. "Only fools want to live in the past." But wait, Leto is going to awaken the human race to a new level of consciousness! Down with the old customs, in with the new!!!!!!!!!!God Emperor of Dune is little more than 98% liberal drivel, 1% vague and blurry conservatism, a touch of bizarre Gnosticism, and 1% story. Although, I should mention that I know of many readers who have an entirely different take on his political messages. Our interpretations of his writing are obviously very subjective. Anyway, the extreme vast majority of this story is told through innumerable boring conversations Leto has with various servants who are standing in his underground chamber while he hovers on a floating cart that gets mentioned about 1,969 times. Then in the last about 20 pages of the book, something happens. I came away with a few conclusions. First, Frank Herbert was on drugs. Second, Frank Herbert decided to share his overly-common political opinions rather than write an interesting story with deep characters and conflict. Third, I want my own hovering cart. I was sadly disappointed with God Emperor because I loved the first three books in this series. I was about to 1-star this sucker until I realized: wait, this book is about a freaking giant Space-Wurm who is the God Emperor of the entire freaking MULTIVERSE. That's worthy of more stars in and of itself.

Scott Taylor

** spoiler alert ** Just the usual everyday story of man becomes worm, worm rules world, worm meets girl, worm gets betrayed by girl's secret lover. Been there done that! Ok not really, but this is my third reading of the book. It does hold up. The various conversations between the God-Emperor and his subjects were entertaining, as were the excerpts from his 'Stolen Journals.' The path you see the characters tread, as they slowly turn on their master and his tightly controlled world was well mapped. Leto's struggle with his one great weakness, love, was touching. Let me expound on that for a second. Love. Though this book dwells on philosophies and ruling bodies, it has a profound thing to say about the human condition. No matter what we become, how we may develop as a culture or how circumstances around us change, there is always love. Always emotions to cloud our thinking, fire our thoughts and interfere with our best laid plans. This is a central message of Leto and his 'Golden Path' and for that I thank Herbert. Just the same. This time through I found my self wishing that Herbert had more fully fleshed out the world rather than being so narrowly focused on the Ruling Citadel in Arrakis. We could have used more political conspiracy from the earlier Dune books, and a little less Leto pontification. I am reminded of the strength of few words spoken profoundly over the weakness of a rambling diatribe where meaning is lost in a stream of consciousness. The book is not a diatribe, but at times it feels a bit heavy-handed in focus.All that being said, its a book worth reading if you liked the other ones in the series. I 'read' the BBC audiobook version which was narrated, like the others, by Simon Vance and Scott Brick. Excellent work there, and filled with nuances in the reading that convey so much more than mere words can do.Thanks for reading.

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.

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).


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.

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.

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'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.

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.

Paul Darcy

by Frank Herbert, published in 1981.I rarely need to struggle and push myself through a science fiction novel, but on this one by Frank Herbert I had to do just that.Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as bad as all that, just very dense and philosophical - which to some is probably great reading, but to me it felt like wading through dogma and cleverness and knee-high swampwaters.The main character, Leto II the God Emperor, is unquestionably a unique and interesting character in the history of Science Fiction. He is a genetic cross between a great worm of Dune and a man. The novel deals mainly with this character and how he is leading humanity to survival - at least you think he is, or, like others in the novel, maybe his is just insane and needs to be removed.Thousands of years have passed since Paul Atreides lead the Fremen to take over Dune, and incorporated into the God Emperor are all the Atreides line for the past thousands of years. He sees history through the eyes of hundreds, and knows the Golden Path, the path leading to salvation.A really cool idea, with really cool characters, but again - tedious. It fails partly because of the omniscient narrator which has you jumping from one character’s mind to another from paragraph to paragraph - I must say I hate that kind of writing and maybe that has coloured my view of this book.I won’t give away any details because it is in the details that Herbert excels as a novelist and his world is rich and vast and worth the trip. Just be warned, it could be long and arduous one.Oh, I should mention this is the fourth Dune novel by Herbert and the start of his last trilogy written about Dune.Overall I can see the vast canvas Herbert has painted and it is magnificent. I just can’t decide if this particular novel is a master-piece or a piece of something else.You will need to read if for yourself is you want to know what happens to the God Emperor and his Golden Path - if you care to that is.I am divided on this one - just like the God Emperor himself.


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

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *