God Emperor of Dune
| This article concerns one of the|
Dune series of novels
by Frank Herbert
set in the Dune universe
|Children of Dune|
|God Emperor of Dune|
|Heretics of Dune|
|Hunters of Dune|
|Sandworms of Dune|
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3,500 years have passed since Paul Atreides became the messiah of the Fremen and the Emperor of the universe. His son, Leto, seeing a different path than his father, accepted the mantle of godhead from the Fremen and began to transform himself into a monster of the desert, a sandworm, that has dominated the ecology of Dune for millennia. Leto is confident that his Golden Path — a course into the future in which humanity's survival is guaranteed — is now secure and he has started looking for a way out.
The novel, God Emperor of Dune, places us in a very different universe to that of Children of Dune. Leto Atreides II still lives and rules the Empire three thousand years later, owing to his decision in the previous novel, to merge his human body with sandtrout. Leto is now much further along in his journey to becoming a worm, retaining only useless flippers for arms and legs, he moves about on a mechanical wagon; the one physical remnant of humanity Leto has retained is his human face. From the beginning of the novel, our moral viewpoint is played with a fine hand. In Children of Dune, Leto II was a hero, but three thousand years on this view seems far more doubtful. Does Leto still retain his humanity? Does he remain a force for good?
Our action begins with a deadly chase, a band of rebel humans is pursued by a pack of deadly genetically modified wolves; and is being hunted down one by one. As we join the chase only three still survive and almost immediately another is brought down horrifically. The penultimate runner, hampered by an injury, makes a brave stand to try and give the last runner a few more precious minutes. The last runner, a woman on her last reserves, makes the safety of the opposite bank of the Idaho River; from this safety – Siona – looking across at the baying wolves, curses the Emperor of Arrakis, a curse made all the more meaningful, because we learn that she too is an Atreides.
Our sense of right and wrong is further challenged by the behaviour of Duncan Idaho. In order to ease the loneliness of the centuries, Leto has been bringing back Duncan Idaho gholas as a companion and leader for his army. Leto, prewarned by the Spacing Guild, is aware that Duncan has purchased a lasgun from an Ixian, and probably intends to try and assassinate him. Leto Atreides II is not particularly shocked, because we learn that most of the time the ghola Duncan Idahos eventually turn against him, a fact that makes us wonder how corrupt Leto must be to make Duncan Idaho turn against an Atreides.
However, Duncan, despite buying his weapon, has not fully convinced himself of his intentions and seeks further justification to kill Leto. During his meeting with Leto, Duncan acts as if nothing is unnatural, as if it was nothing more than a normal meeting between the two of them. In the midst of the meeting, we learn that the rebels have escaped with some of Leto's personal diaries and a map to his citadel. Leto II lapses into daydreams during the conversation, and Duncan takes this chance to try and kill him. However, Leto reacts faster than any human could, leaping instinctively in the air and crushing Duncan with his body, almost before Duncan gets off a shot. Leto is barely injured, losing only a seemingly unnecesary flipper in the process. The flipper is an important symbol, however, because it used to be one of his legs, and the fact that it was destroyed distances Leto still further from the human that he once was.
Moneo, Leto's chief minister, is called in to arrange the disposal of Duncan. Moneo, we learn, had seen similiar scenes before and is mostly bothered by how it will affect the routine of government. To make our moral quandaries even more confusing we discover that loyal Moneo is the worried father of the rebellious Siona. During their conversation about her, we discover that Siona is in some way vital to Leto's plans.
We have, however, not seen the end of Duncan Idaho. The Tleilaxu were aware of Duncan's plans and send along a new Idaho before the previous version has even died. The latest Duncan is met by two members of Leto's personal guard (called Fish Speakers). They, being used to the arrival of Duncan, tell him as much as he needs to know and as little as Leto wants him to know, to best prepare him for his meeting with the God Emperor. Duncan is unsettled, not only be the fact he learns he has been brought back into a world three thousand years after his own, but also by the Fish Speakers. The fact they are female military offends Duncan's sensibilities, but in addition he can see that they have been heavily conditioned to obey without question, which is opposed to the original Atreides ideal.
The rebels on Arrakis give the encrypted diaries of Leto to the Ixian ambassador in a secret meeting. The Ixian ambassador mocks Siona for her disguise, asking why she bothers when it is well known she is the leader of the rebels. He goes on to mock her 'rebellion' by asking her when she intends to join the God Emperor, since one generation after another the young Atreides have 'played' at being rebels before being called into the loyal service of Leto. But Siona turns the tables on him by threatening blackmail. Also at the end of the meeting Siona unmasks a spy, sending him back to Leto with a message. Ironically, however, the spy is actually her father's, and it is Siona's closest companion, Nayla, who is Leto's true spy.
Moneo and Leto meet again and we learn that the new Duncan is untainted by the Bene Tleilax. In the past, the Bene Tleilax had attempted genetic tampering; to which Leto had responded with violent sanctions. Moneo and Leto discuss Leto's human breeding programme, which he had taken from the Bene Gesserit, much to their disquiet. We also learn that Duncan Idaho has played an important role in this programme and that, in Leto's own words, he rather strangely sees himself as a predator on humanity, a concept that Moneo fails to understand, much to Leto's disappointment. Moneo also raises his fears about his daughter, which Leto sympathises with, but says that she must be tested and that Moneo should trust in his daughter's capabilities.
Later, Leto meets Nayla Nycalliste, his spy in Siona's camp. This is a very disquieting meeting, because we discover that Nayla is a complete fanatic, and utterly devoted to Leto, taking his title of God Emperor utterly literally. He orders her, for unknown reasons, to obey every command of Siona. During their conversation we learn from Nayla that Siona is ready for testing, a fact Leto was unsure of, because she isn't always visible to his prophetic dreams. We do learn, in Leto's favour, that he is not proud of his accomplishment with Nayla, and regrets the necessity of such religious conditioning.
Leto initially meets Duncan in a darkened room so Duncan can gradually become adjusted to him. Leto begins the conversation using Paul Atreides' voice, in order to calm Duncan down. He first tells Duncan that it was a face dancer pretending to be Paul who triggered Duncan's memories, rather than a ghola version. Leto then goes on to confirm the things that the Tleilaxu had told Duncan were true — that he was turning into a worm, that it was three thousand years later, that Leto has brought Duncan back many times, etc. Once he calms Duncan's near hysteria, he changes over to his real voice, and switches on the light so Duncan can see him as he really is. He explains why he has done what he has done; he then reveals that he needs Duncan to command his army. Duncan then gets sidetracked by his chauvinism into asking why Leto has an all female army; Leto gives the short answer that they minimize the level of violence. After having his doubts about the religious mantle Leto has taken on mollified, Duncan swears into Leto's service with the caveat that if he is worse than Baron Vladimir Harkonnen then he will turn against him. It is disquieting to discover that Leto is amused that the Baron is Duncan's measure of true evil.
The next day Moneo and Duncan talk. Duncan returns to the subject of his doubts — the female army and the religion Leto has created. They first discuss Leto's ideas about the value of a female army, that basically unless really well disciplined the male army is essentially rapist and a threat to its own population. Duncan is forced to reluctantly accept these arguments when he examines his own personal experience. During the conversation Duncan learns that Moneo is an Atreides and also a descendant of previous Duncan Idaho gholas, that Leto had taken over the Bene Gesserit breeding programme. Duncan also questions Moneo about the 'god business' and is shocked and pleased that Moneo makes no attempt to defend it and says in point of fact that Leto himself calls it a 'Holy Obscenity.'
We are then introduced to Anteac and Luyseyal, Reverend Mothers, who have come to Arrakis to represent the Bene Gesserit; they are disquieted by their poor accommodation, and thus, lack of favour in the eye of the God Emperor. They learn that the Ixian embassy has been overtaken by face dancers and that an attack is planned on the God Emperor that day and try to warn Leto.
However, the Bene Gesserit do not reach the God Emperor in time and so while the God Emperor is traveling between cities, the Emperor's convoy is attacked by Face Dancers who try to confuse the Fish Speaker guards by imitating Duncan Idaho. Duncan, however, foils their plan by stripping himself of his clothes and the unprepared Face Dancers are unable to copy him, allowing the Fish Speakers to easily slaughter them. The God Emperor tells his guards to hide all evidence of the battle, so the Tleilaxu will think that their attack didn't even inflict a single casualty.
The Ixians send Hwi Noree as their new ambassador to Leto, and he is immediately attracted to her. She is a highly empathic and intelligent woman, who has greatly admired Leto from afar and almost immediately understands him. She is exactly the kind of woman that Leto would have wanted as a mate if he were still truly human. He is aware that she quite obviously is some kind of Ixian trap, since obviously someone must have deliberately created and trained her to be such a perfect fit for him, but he cannot resist the pleasure of her company even so. As such, she is a kind of delicious agony for him because his sexual organs have long since disappeared. Furthermore, he possessed no foreknowledge of her, which meant that somehow the Ixians had managed to hide her existence from his prophetic dreams.
The Bene Gesserit are in the God Emperor's good graces for attempting to warn him of the attack on his convoy and retain in his good`will even though they bring concentrated spice essence with them in the hope of triggering his transition to a worm. In fact, this attempt on his life amuses him because it is so unusual; and so he treats this attack as a gift, offering himself as an oracle as a reward. Of the two Bene Gesserit, Leto is insulted at the naivety of Luylesal but is impressed by the abilities of the other, Anteac, and, semi-jokingly, offers her a job working for him.
Leto decides that Siona has been left independent for long enough and so sends his Fish Speakers to induct her into his service. She does not enter his service willingly and is in fact guarded at all times. Leto intends to breed Siona with Duncan Idaho, and so he arranges for them to go on a trip together expecting that things will happen naturally sooner or later. Siona, angered by this, decides to take Duncan to Goygoa village. This is a cruel decision by Siona, because Duncan is stared at as soon as he arrives in the village and is unpleasantly surprised to be confronted by a young boy, who he learns was fathered by the previous Duncan Idaho. Unable to resist the temptation, he identifies the mother of the child, and immediately see her resemblance to Jessica Atreides. Roomed together by the Fish Speakers, Siona and Duncan swap insults in their irritation at Leto's breeding plans for them both; but decline any further intimacy.
When he returns Duncan is introduced to the Siaynoq, the major religious ceremony of the Fish Speakers during which they celebrate their unique relationship with the God Emperor. Duncan witnesses it firsthand and is stunned by the power of it. During the ceremony Duncan reswears his allegiance to the Atreides, though not directly to Leto. The whole experience does little to ease Duncan's doubts.
Hwi Noree and Leto meet for the second time. Hwi Noree is hurriedly called to audience with Leto. When she arrives, she learns that her embassy had been overrun by face dancers and the only reason she had survived was because they needed the time to perfect their mimicking of her in order to fool the God Emperor. Shocked by this, she wonders why the God Emperor hadn't wiped out the Face Dancers. He answers that they have their uses and that the only political group Leto had ever actually considered destroying were the Bene Gesserit; because they are so near to what they should be, yet so far. Finally he asks her to his bride, though he 'reassures' her that he is incapable of being her physical lover; he tells her that she can have children with a discreet lover if she so wishes.
Duncan and Leto talk again; Duncan is still filled with doubts and confusion, and he doesn't understand the shape of Leto's empire. Leto laughs at this, and says that realising one doesn't know something is the first step to understanding. Leto then explains more about his Empire; he tells Duncan that he has no prisons because breaking the law in his Empire is a religious crime and thus punishable with death, which does not make Duncan feel any better because he realizes that Leto is the leader of a group that is judge, jury, and executioner. At the conclusion of the conversation, Duncan tells Leto that he will not worship him, to which Leto remarks that the Fish Speakers understand that he has special dispensation.
Moneo meets with Leto with news. He first suggests that Anteac is a secret mentat, a skill prohibited in the Empire. Leto agrees, but says that it amuses him. Moneo goes onto say that they have pressured the Bene Tleilaxu into giving him information about Hwi Noree. The Bene Tleilaxu played a role in her birth, by supplying the Ixians with technology to do a cellular restructuring. Leto suggests that it is interesting that Hwi Noree seems the total opposite in character to Malky, the previous Ixian ambassador, with whom Leto once had a close friendship. Malky was crafted by the Ixians as a being of pure cynicism and amorality.
Hwi Noree and Leto talk again. Leto explains the shape of his Empire and what he is trying to produce; he talks about how in human affairs each cycle is a reaction to the previous cycle. He explains what will happen when he goes into the sands and his empire falls apart. Basically, he believes that the process will make humankind more mature, through being confronted by the same desperate experience of the disasters his death will cause. Hwi Noree, unlike Moneo and the Duncans, understands what Leto means, which pleases Leto greatly. At the end of the audience Leto asks her if she has given any thought to his proposal, and she answers that she has chosen to marry him.
Upon leaving Leto, Hwi goes to see Anteac and shares her knowledge of the environment in which she was brought up. Anteac has been conscripted by Leto to lead a Fish Speaker assault on Ix, to wrest the secret of Hwi's secret origins. Anteac is shocked at the knowledge that Hwi is to marry Leto and at the same time annoyed that her order had allowed such a talented woman to pass through their training programme without turning her into a Bene Gesserit.
Later, the city of On rises in rebellion against Leto; Leto is completely surprised, which is interesting in itself. The rebels attack the Ixian embassy, which, because of the threat to Hwi, sends Leto into a rage; he leaps out of his cart, and attacks the rebels. The Fish Speakers, using the confusion and panic his assault causes, wipe out the rebels. Regaining his calm upon discovering Hwi is safe, Leto regrets his intervention because he has created a new dependency among his Fish Speakers; now they know that he awaits in the wings, a seemingly invincible death machine. Leto realizes it will take generations to erase this dependency. Leto also realizes that this attack must have been planned by Malky, hidden away within the Ixian device that protects people from his vision.
The announcement that Leto is marrying Hwi Noree upsets Moneo immensely; he believes the wedding will bring Leto's enemies in alliance against him. Moneo asks Leto for an explanation for why Leto must do this; Leto tells him that it is because of emotions, that Hwi provokes glorious emotions within him that he had long thought he had lost, restoring his sense of humanity. During the conversation we learn more about Moneo's abilities and limits; Leto tries to raise Moneo's level of awareness but ultimately fails. Moneo's idea of himself limits him from being all he could be.
After the frustration of having to deal with Moneo, Leto answers Duncans calls for audience. Duncan, Leto realizes, is suffering from what he call 'Since Syndrome', something which happens to most gholas, but with this one had happened much earlier than ever before. Duncan feels out of sync with this time and place. Duncan is also upset by the news Leto is marrying Hwi, a woman he finds intensely attractive also; Leto orders him not to spend time with her.
Some time later Moneo and Leto discuss Duncan. Leto is irritated that Duncan is courting Hwi Noree. However, Moneo informs him that it is Hwi Noree herself who is initiating the meetings; he says that Hwi feels a great deal of sympathy for Duncan because he is so out of his time and place. But this does not calm Leto because he says Duncan is very clever with women. Leto asks when a new Duncan ghola can be provided by the Tleilaxu; Moneo says that the Tleilaxu claim they are having problems and that it will be a year. In response, Leto orders that his marriage to Hwi be hurried along.
Leto meets with Siona to assess her readiness for the testing. They talk about many subjects, including his worm body, and the state of his Empire. She points out that his position is much weaker now, because of his reaction to the attack on the Ixian embassy, people now realize that he is vulnerable to attacks on the people he loves. She goes on to question his right to rule which is the root of her rebelliousness. His response is that he rules by right of loneliness and sacrifice. This puts Siona on the defensive, because she had never considered that Leto might have any rights as a consequence of his uniqueness.
Moneo and Duncan talk. Moneo tries to get Duncan to call off his pursuit of Hwi Noree. The conversation becomes very heated and Duncan says a number of critical things about the God Emperor, within the hearing of Fish Speakers. When Duncan finally returns to his room he finds Hwi waiting for him. She had been told of his latest outbursts by some sympathetic Fish Speakers and had rushed to calm him down. However, things do not get any calmer. Hwi says that she was produced to seduce the God Emperor, to seduce an Atreides, and that he, Duncan, is as much the Atreides ideal as any. In the heat of the emotional interchange, Hwi Noree and Duncan have passionate sex. But to Duncan's great disappointment she tells him afterwards that she's still going to marry the God Emperor. When Duncan asks why, she says it is because he has the greatest needs of the two of them, the greatest need in all the Empire.
Siona is tested in the deep desert by Leto. She is forced to drink Spice Essence from Leto's body which sends her into a spice trance and into prophetic dreaming. In her dreams she sees Arafel, she sees the various possibilities in the human future, and more importantly how in all futures visible to prescient vision, humans are hunted and killed to the last person by deadly, evolving machines; it is implied later that these machines were built by the Ixians. The solution, Leto shows her, is that humans need to escape the prescient trap; which is where Siona's own genes (which render her invisible and unpredictable by prescience) come in, and also the no-ships and the repression of peoples in the Old Empire. All these things make up Leto's Golden Path, which she realizes is the only way out.
Duncan and Moneo meet. Duncan wants to know where Leto is, Moneo explains he is in the desert with his daughter. Duncan is also upset when he discovered that the some of the Fish Speakers are lesbians. Moneo's grows impatient at Duncan's 'puerile' questions and treats him in an offhand way. The conversation goes from bad to worse and he accuses Duncan of not having the courage to fulfill Leto's expectations, Duncan is enraged by Moneo comments and attempts to strike him a blow; but, to his utter surprise, Moneo not only avoids the blow, but with amazing quickness hurls Idaho to the floor. Idaho looks up in shock, 'How?' is all he can say; and the angry Moneo utters words he later regrets 'Leto has been breeding us for generations. You're just an older model.' Duncan upset beyond words, retires to his rooms in shock.
After a day of contemplation, Duncan's soul searching is interrupted by a Fish Speaker relaying Moneo's requests for Duncan's presence, Duncan is uninterested until he is told Hwi is there. On his arrival it is clear that they have been discussing him before he arrives. They are both worried by the fact that the warrior Duncan arrives without his knife. Moneo apologises for his actions and words in front of Hwi Noree, Duncan takes this well and apologises himself; Duncan experiences a weird feeling that only Moneo, Hwi, and himself are the only real humans in existence. Duncan asks about Siona's experience in the desert, Moneo explains his experience and explains that the reason he serves Leto so faithfully is that after seeing the prophetic visions he is relieved that he never had to make the decision Leto made to become a worm and is free just to serve. Duncan seems unconvinced by this argument and indeed flies into a rage at the fact that he and Hwi cannot see each other, this exasperates Hwi and Moneo; but as Duncan leaves we realize that for once his actions do not reflect his true feelings, and that he had deliberately made himself pathetic for Hwi's sake, so that she can be happier in her choice to put Leto first.
Duncan and Moneo meet later; and we discover Moneo's relief at his daughter's survival. To Moneo's surprise, Duncan asks a very un-Duncan question: 'What was it the other Duncan Idaho's didn't learn?', Moneo answers him that they did not learn how to trust. Duncan his shocked by this comment in turn, since he has always considers himself to be a man who trusts others; Moneo responds that the circle of his fellowship is too limited — it includes only fellow warriors and women who complement his sense of himself. After this conversation Moneo decides to try and save Duncan by sending him and Siona away to Tuono Vilage, for the duration of the wedding.
When Leto learns of this, he is amused that Moneo is attempting to save Idaho and changes the location of his wedding to Tuono. Malky has been captured by the Fish Speakers, though Anteac died capturing him. When Leto moved against Ixians, Bene Gesserit and Bene Tleilaxu struck just before in order to steal the secret of the device, the secret of the Ixian device has been scattered far and wide. Malky is escorted into Leto's presence, Malky and Leto talk about old and new times. At the end of this conversation, Moneo does what Leto cannot and kills Leto's friend at Leto's behest. Leto and his convoy set off to Tuono village.
Duncan and Siona talk at Tuono village after a difficult start; and realize that they both still believe that the God Emperor needs to be killed, and overthrown. They both realize that he can be killed by water and hatch a desperate plan to kill the God Emperor. Idaho climbs a high cliff by himself without ropes, using the experience he learned in his youth. From there he lowers a rope down for Siona and Nayla. From the cliff they await the arrival of Leto's convoy. When the convoy does arrive, Siona orders Nayla to fire her lasgun at the bridge and Nayla, having been directly ordered by Leto to obey Siona's every order, obeys, fully expecting it to be religious test of Leto's. The shot shatters the bridge, and Leto is hurled into the water. He escapes to the shore, but, as his death is nigh, the sandtrout desert his dying body into the sands, leading to the fulfillment of his prophecy about the resurgence of sandworms on Arrakis. Hwi Noree is accidentally killed by the blast sitting as she was in the same carriage. Duncan is distraught, and kills the utterly shocked Nayla. Leto leaves Duncan and Siona stewardship of his Empire by telling them where he has hidden his spice reserves before he breathes his last.