Frank Herbert

Dune Messiah

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Dune Messiah Summary

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Dune Messiah (1969) by Frank Herbert is the second in a series of six Dune novels. It follows Paul “Muad’Dib” Atreides in his twelfth year as emperor and Fremen messiah. Embroiled in conspiracies and the controversy over who will bear his heir, Paul must balance his political, religious, and personal attachments on an alien, desert planet.

Responsible for the deaths of 61 billion people, Paul has used his jihad in the twelve years of his reign to conquer a majority of the known universe. While this pains him, Paul is prescient, and he has seen visions of possible futures. He knows that his actions are setting humanity on the correct course.

Because Paul has refused to impregnate his wife, Princess Irulan, a group of conspirators has gathered to plot Paul’s overthrow in the interest of the carefully managed Atreides gene pool. The conspirators include the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood to which Paul’s wife belongs, Space Guild, and Tleixlu. The group enlists Princess Irulan to assist them.

Paul does not touch his wife, instead, focusing his attention on his beloved concubine, Chani. Unbeknownst to Chani, Irulan has been secreting contraceptives into her food and drink. Aware of Irulan’s deception, Paul chooses to overlook it as he has seen Chani die in childbirth in a prescient vision.

Guild Navigator Edric, one of the conspirators, is also an oracle and successfully shields the group’s plot from Paul’s visions. Edric gifts Paul with a ghola, or a clone of sorts, made from the remnants of his dead friend, Duncan Idaho. The conspirators have conditioned the ghola, known as “Hayt” to weaken Paul’s ability to rule. The ghola has very little memory of his life before death. Hayt is also meant to romance Paul’s sister, Alia, in an attempt to distract her. Paul’s acceptance of the gift tests his alliance with the Fremen, who believe ghola technology is unclean.

On the ship that Edric arrives on, Paul finds Mohiam, Irulan’s former teacher, and he imprisons her.

Chani starts a diet touted by the Fremen to increase fertility. Because Irulan is imprisoned, she can no longer give Chani the contraceptives, and Chani becomes pregnant. When Irulan tells Mohiam that Chani is pregnant, Mohiam tells her to kill the baby.

Paul meets with Oethym, a former death commando, who tells Paul that the Fremen are conspiring against him and offers his servant dwarf, Bijaz. Bijaz can record faces and names, and Oethym claims he will be able to give Paul information that will quash the Fremen conspiracy. Paul reluctantly takes the dwarf, sending soldiers to confront the conspirators.

As Paul is leaving Oethym’s home, someone sets off an atomic bomb, blinding Paul. Because of his prescient abilities, he is still able to see clearly but is rendered unable to change his destiny.

Paul, knowing that Chani will die in childbirth, proposes to Mohiam that Chani bear his heir and then they will artificially inseminate Irulan so she may continue the line.

Hayt is tasked with interviewing Bijaz, but Bijaz, secretly working for Tleilaxu, hypnotizes Hayt. Bijaz wants Hayt to offer Paul a trade when Chani dies. In return for giving up the empire and exiling himself, Chani will be reborn as a ghola and Idaho’s memories will return to him. Should it be necessary, Bijaz also wants Hayt to kill Paul.

Chani dies during childbirth, triggering Hayt’s programming. He is compelled to kill Paul, but Idaho’s love for Paul causes his ghola body to give him back his human consciousness and memories. Paul, meanwhile, is now completely blind having lost his second sight due to emotional distress.

Chani has borne twins that are pre-born, meaning they have arrived in the world with all of their ancestral memories.

Paul refuses Scytale’s offer to make Chani a ghola fearing that she will become a Tleilaxu pawn. Skytale threatens the twins with a knife and blinded, Paul manages to kill him with a thrown dagger.

Paul names his twins Leto and Ghanima, putting them in Alia’s care. It is a Fremen tradition to send blind men off into the desert, and Paul chooses this path, ensuring that his children will remain in the Fremen’s favor and will inherit the throne.

Princess Irulan, having learned of Paul’s probable death, states that she has loved him all along and only just realized it. She promises to teach the twins and shun her sisterhood, effectively ending the Atreides line.

Alia has the other conspirators executed and, distraught over her brother, leans on her romantic interest, Idaho.

The hugely popular Dune franchise started with the first novel, Dune, in 1965. The book won the 1966 Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. The novel was adapted into a film in 1984 and a miniseries in 2000. After his death, Herbert’s son coauthored a prequel trilogy with Kevin J. Anderson based on some of Frank Herbert’s notes.