Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert; G.P. Putman’s Sons, New York.

While waiting for the cinematic spectacle of Dune, we decided that a bit of exploratory work was in order, so we attended to Frank Herbert’s world –– nay, universes –– of Dune. That was no small feat, as it is a trek into Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, and finally, last bot not least (like most of the others, it weighs in at over 400 pages), Heretics of Dune. It can be said that Middle Earth is a grain of sand compared with Herbert’s creation, at least in its physical dimensions.

The Dune series is not escapist fiction. Herbert has some very sensible things to say about the abuses of politics, religion, and power; about the importance of tradition and respect; about many of the values that concern people here on Earth today, not merely on the planet Arrakis at some vague point in the future. Throughout the books Herbert presents the horrors of drug addiction (some “new-wave” SF writers treat drugs as a variation of milk). In Heretics of Dune he traces the perversion of love into sex into recreation into ashes. Describing a group of sex-and­ power revolutionaries, Herbert writes: “Even when they wallowed in the performance of something that once had meant gratification, they would have to reach for new extremes just to touch the edges of their own memories.” A disturbing question presents itself: Which has had a bigger effect on the general reading public: Heretics of Dune or the Vanessa Williams issue of Penthouse? Reflexive critics of SF ought to do a bit of sense searching. (SM)