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Frank Herbert's seventh Dune novel

Dune is Frank Herbert's bestselling SF novel, which was followed by another five books. Although some felt that the sequels did not match-up with the first book, others came to the conclusion that his latter books got deeper and deeper, and are much better. Almost everyone who has read all the books, will agree with me, that of all the books in the series, the sixth book gives the strongest suggestion that the story is not yet finished, because it ends with a real cliffhanger.

This page is about ideas with respect to the seventh book that Frank Herbert might have written would he not have died. It is not about Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, the two books by Brain Herbert (the son of Frank Herbert) and Kevin Anderson. Most of this page was written long before Brain and Kevin started to write their Dune novels. So far, I did not read any of their novels, so I am not in the position to make any judgement about these. I am not sure whether I am going to read the two books, but if I do, it will only to look for any inconsistencies that they have introduced. Although the say that their books are based on the notes that Frank Herbert left behind, I am afraid that they have introduced elements from their own prequels. (Read more on this.) I still hope that one day they will publish the Dune 7 outline and notes that Frank Herbert wrote and stored on two 3.5" floppies. I am simply not interested in their "interpretation" of those notes, independently of whether they have written a great novel. I simply want to study those notes myself, also realizing that the final novel that Frank Herbert would have written would probably have deviated from those notes on some essential points.

Spoiler warning: This and related pages contain materials which could
spoil your fun of reading the books, and figuring out things by yourself.

What follows are my personal thoughts on the subject. In order to write an interesting plot, an author takes great care in revealing the facts bits by bits. Only a careful rereading of a book can result in a good overview of the facts. I have spend considerable time to study the last books, and although I have tried to avoid speculation, I cannot deny that what follows does contain my own interpretations. I am always open to ideas from others, so feel free to email me. I would like to acknowledge the following people for sharing their ideas and sending me their comments:

Did Frank Herbert intend to write a seventh Dune book?

I have always believed that last two books that Frank Herbert wrote before his death were going to be part of a trilogy, and that he already had written down the global outline of the third book of that trilogy. Although not everybody agrees on the issue whether he was going to write more books, almost everybody feels that no one can replace him in doing so. For a long time it was the firm belief of his son, Brian Herbert, that we should allow the completed works speak for themselves. Or to quote Herbert from the books himself:

Some people believe that there was not going to be another book, as they have come to the conclusion that Daniel and Marty at the end of the last book, are Frank and Beverly in disguise, especially from reading the last sentence of the book, where Daniel says:

And although this interpretation is strengthed by the Eulogy for Beverly by Frank in the back of the book, it would not surprise me, that he has put this in, with the thought in mind that he might not be able to finish his last book in the series. The death of Beverly might have been too much for him.

The definite answer on this issue was given in the official Dune books web site, where it said (now removed):

The Dune Chronicals

Looking at how the Dune series is spread out over time, we see that the first three books play in the same time frame, each separated by only few decennia at most. The fourth book however takes place about 3500 years after the first three books. And the fifth book takes place about 1500 years after that. The sixth book follows shortly after the fifth. In a sense, the last two books are the closest together with respect to the story line. Supposing the seventh book would follow the sixth closely, the series can be seen as two trilogies with one central book to connected them. This results in the following structure:
  1. Dune
  2. Dune Messiah
  3. Children of Dune
  4. God Emperor of Dune
  5. The heretics of Dune
  6. Chapterhouse: Dune
  7. ... Dune ...
Alternatively, the seventh book could have been placed in the far future, maybe another 2000 years later. But there is reason to believe that Herbert had three book closely following each other in mind, when he started writing the fifth book.

Duncan and Sheeana

Although they are not in the center of action, I still believe that the two central persons in the last two books are Duncan Idaho and Sheeana Burgh. All the others, how important they may appear, are not at the core of the story. Both of them are 'created' by Leto II, the Tyrant. Sheeana is long awaited sandrider predicted by the Tyrant, who can 'speak' with the worms, in which there is a pearl of consciousness of the Tyrant. And as Odrade expressed it: "He didn't predict events, he created them." Because the people who went into the Scattering took with them their believe in the Tyrant, she is destined to become a focal point of religious power. The Bene Gesserit who realized this all to well, planned to use Sheeana to regain religious control of much of the known universe.

It was also the Tyrant, who by making a ghola of original Duncan Idaho over and over, assigned such an importance to him, that he would be made into a ghola over and over again. The Bene Gesserit plan was to bring them together (breed them), and through the loyalty of Idaho to the Atreides (now the Bene Gesserit), control Sheeana.

But their attempt in controlling history, as they wanted to do before when creating the Kwisatz Haderach, failed again. Finally, at the end of Chapterhouse: Dune, Duncan Idaho and Sheeana are together outside the control of the Bene Gesserit. In my opinion, the seventh book should continue their story, with Sheeana being the main character. It is after they have escaped that Murbella realizes that Sheeana will instrumental in the next step of the universe and sees her in the line of Muad'Dib, the Tyrant, and the combined Honored Matres and Bene Gesserit, resulting in "The bitter medicine of a Sheeana future".

Murbella

At the end of Chapterhouse: Dune, Murbella is left behind on Chapterhouse, as being the joined head of both the Bene Gesserit and the Honoured Matres, who outnumber the Bene Gesserit at least tenthousand times. Although it will not be an easy merge, I think they will merge at the end, and there is not much of a story in this. Other things, which might be interesting, are the children of Murbella and Duncan Idaho. Will they share his abilities to see the net? And maybe have his memories? (It still surprises me that the Bene Gesserit did not manage to get at least one cell from Duncan before he disappeared with Sheeana.) Murbella, when thinking about Duncan's escape, remark: 'He thinks he's escaped!'. I wonder whether one of their children going to be able to contact Duncan again through the latent net awareness.

It is also likely they will create another ghola (clone) from Teg, as analysis of the last battles might give significant proof that he did have special abilities. The BG are clever enough to figure out that Teg did fool them, although they missed it during the heat of the battle. To breed Teg with one of Duncan's children is also something I would try in the long run.

Another interesting story-line might be on how they find out about Daniel and Marty, and all the other kind of powers from the Scattering. There is reason to believe, in my opinion, that it were Daniel and Marty (or others of their kind) who send the Honoured Matres back to the Old Empire. But for what reason?

But most clearly, Murbella is aware of the bitter medicine of a Sheeana future, and one of her goals should be to prepare the Bene Gesserit for this medicine, which might proof to be a bigger challenge than merging the two sisterhoods together.

Daniel and Marty, the free Face Dancers

Daniel and Marty are two New Face Dancers, who by gathering enough memories and experiences of other people ("taking personas" as Daniel expresses it), became free individuals, masters of their own. For this reason Paul Wouters came up with the phrase 'Master Face Dancers'. Note that also the New Face Dancer that replaced Tuek in Heretics of Dune starts to act on his own, and was slipping out of control of the Bene Tleilax.

From the books it is not clear whether they were made by the original Bene Tleilax or by any from the Scattering, but it is clear that they share the ability of New Face Dancers, made by the original Bene Tleilax. Realizing that the Scattering is probably at least tenthousand times bigger than the Old Empire, it is rather likely that they were created by some Bene Tleilax offspring in the Scattering.

Although Daniel and Marty seem to live in a simple garden, they must be rather powerful, because they seem to control some number of planets, because Marty is saying that she already had picked a planet for no-ship with which Duncan and Sheeana escaped. They also state that they have studied (and controlled) both Tleilax masters and Bene Gesserit reverend mothers. They have the ability to see from a far distance, and to manipulate no-ships in folded space, or at least Daniel does. These additional abilities must allow them to effectively control big groups of people. They also seem to have an extended knowledge of all kinds of technology ranging from miniature Holtzmann generators to Futars.

It is not clear, how many of these Master Face Dancers there are, and how much of the people in the Scattering they control. Also, it is not clear what their goals are. Do they want to control the Old Empire? Did they send the Honoured Matres back into the Old Empire, and if so, why? Did they create the Futars? What is their relationship to the handlers of the Futars, which also seem to be some kind of Face Dancers as well.

Sheeana Burgh

Sheeana Burgh is definitely a very interesting person. She is one of those wild things that happen, a unique independent personality, with great charisma. She has some of the originality of an artist, which has been suppressed a long time by the Bene Gesserit. Soon she became the object of worship. The Bene Gesserit soon realized her ability and did everything to include her in their sisterhood. Although she became a reverent mother very early in her life (the youngest ever), she remained an independent person, creating strange pieces of art in her Desert Watch, and teaching men sexual techniques to enslave women. It is not so strange that she would finally try to escape the Bene Gesserit and go her own way. In the 43th chapter of Chapterhouse: Dune we read:

It is Murbella who realizes the "Bitter medicine of a Sheeana future". From this it is not clear whether Sheeana herself will be the bitter medicine or that it will be something that comes into being because of her acts, just like the Jihad that occured when Paul became the Messiah. It is not clear to me, how she will be this bitter medicine? Will she become a worm, just like the Tyrant? She did consider this option in Chapterhouse: Dune. But she did not have to flee to do this, or would she, as the worms had been destroyed before? What would be consequences of this? She also does not need to become a worm to live 3500 years, because we know that Reverend Mothers are able to stop their aging. She also took the Van Gogh painting Thatched Cottage in Cordeville with her.

There is also a certain parallel between Siona (from God Emperor of Dune) and Sheeana.

Duncan Idaho

It is hinted (in a chapter in Dune Heretics, where Waff meets with the Honoured Matres), that they used some revelations from the Bene Tleilaxu from the Scattering, in the making of the last Duncan Idaho ghola. (It is clear that they did not trust their brothers from the Scattering much.) Is this the reason why the Duncan Idaho ghola has similar abilities with respect to seeing the net? Duncan was made from cells of the original Duncan Idaho and other Duncan Idaho gholas. He says that he does not have cells from all previous gholas, but he claims to have memories of almost all of them after he became sexual bonded with Murbella. There is something strange in his cells, which the Bene Gesserit cannot explain: not all of his cells have the mark of Siona. (Could it be that the added some New Face Dancers abilities to his cells?) It is clear that the Bene Tleilaxu did imprint him with their whistling language, so that they could control him. They also gave him a sexual imprint, with a command to kill the first Bene Gesserit who would try to imprint him. (Was he intended to be the Theilaxu instrument for killing Sheeana?) They also improved his prana-bindu reflexes, and made them even better than most of the other people.

The question is how Duncan will evolve. Will he learn to master his new skills, which he has just started to develop? Does he have the same abilities as the Master Face Dancers to control the net? Will he work together with Sheeana, or go his own way? Did he only join forces with Sheeana, so that he could escape, or is he really attracted to her?

Scytale

There are several sub-plots in the last two books that are kind of left open at the end of Chapterhouse: Dune. This Jewish family with the wild Reverend Mother is one, but an even clearer one is Scytale. Somehow I get the feeling that the story would not have been much different without him. But I have to admit that there would be a lot less (in a literary sense) without them. Herbert does create some additional suspense through this character, but it is more of a decoy (with nothing behind) then anything substantial. Also, his most important card, the cells of Paul, Stilgar, and all the others, which he carried inside his chest, has not been played yet.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if some of the old characters would be recreated. They will be reawakened in a very different world. I think the cells were of great interest for the Bene Gesserit to recover some of the 'blood lines' they had lost. I doubt whether any of the recreated characters would be able to play an important role again, except maybe for Leto II if his cells would be modified like Duncan's. They idea of all the worms becoming a collective consciousness controlling the 'net' would be a really stunning thing. Yet, I feel that this type of story-line would be a little to simple for Frank Herbert.

The Golden Path

The Golden Path is one of the central themes of the fourth book of the series, but plays an important role in most of the books. The Golden Path is the path (in history) that will ensure the ongoing existence of the human race. It is that path which prevents stagnation of the human race. When Leto II died at the end of the fourth book he considered it to be established. It was established through the Scattering, and the fact that the off-spring of Siona were invisible for prescience. The goal of Leto II was that never in history again one person would be able to control all humankind. Or that the "seeking machines", as mentioned in The God Emperor of Dune, would be able to find all of humankind to destroy them.

However, in the last two books it turns out that there are some people who can see no-ships, and who do control large amount people. First of all there is Miles Teg who can see the no-ships. Then there is Duncan Idaho with his strange abilities. And last but not least, Daniel and Marty, who could control large amounts of people through there control over the 'net'. (large indeed, if it were them who send the Honoured Matres back into the Old Empire.)

Although, Sheeana, Duncan, Teg, and the others escape the grip of Daniel and Marty, some doubt has been raised whether the Golden Path is still save.

Possible titles

Here are some possible titles for the seventh book: (This list should not be taken very seriously, but any additional suggestions are welcome.)


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