Chapterhouse: Dune-Dune 06-3.5/5

By Frank Herbert

Only desperation can overcome their complacency.

Dune 6 Chapterhouse Dune Cover

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.

+Strong (sometimes ambiguous) Ideas
+Strong Dialogue
+Strong, Self-Contained Scenes
*Complex Characters (sometimes under-utilized)
-Weak Main Plot


Next Time…
Hellbound Heart (Standalone suspense/horror)

11 thoughts on “Chapterhouse: Dune-Dune 06-3.5/5

  1. Interesting post! This is my favorite book in the Dune series, and I’m ridiculously devoted to Herbert.

    I agree that many characters were underutilized, but I’m not so quick to agree about the weak plot. To me, these elements are interdependent. Maybe it’s an effect of having read this book too many times, but I’ve come to see the Bene Gesserit themselves as the main character (singular), and the friction between sisters (including Teg, as an agent of the sisters) as internal conflict that finds its ultimate resolution beautifully. That’s why the underutilization never really bothered me, because the point comes across as part of something Bigger. Just my opinion, though! I look forward to reading more of your reviews. 😀

  2. Together with the Chronicles of Amber, the Dune series has been sitting on my to read list for way too long. For some strange reason I keep forgetting the classics. It’s great that reviews like this manage to re-ignite my memory lol. Great post, and looking forward to finally get to reading this one at some point 😊

  3. Pingback: Heretics of Dune-Dune 05-3/5 | Write Thoughts

    • It’s definitely a powerful series, and an interesting study. I think it’s one of the stronger examples of a series that I suspect was never originally intended to go beyond one volume, but in spite of that continued to go strong for some time.
      It’s interesting how each volume saw one of the main factions either join forces with the protagonist or be so thoroughly defeated that they would never rise again. By the time Heretics & Chapterhouse roll around there really aren’t many powers left to oppose each other, which is why I think those two seem to struggle more than most with creating conflict and tension.
      Definitely one of the stronger series I’ve encountered.

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