Edition: New English Library, 1982
Review number: 190
The fourth Dune novel saw Herbert returning to the series after a considerable gap, both in internal and external chronology. This book is set several thousand years after Leto gained the throne, and he has maintained himself in a position of absolute power in the galaxy, his enforced peace being used to prepare mankind for a future event left unspecified at this point in the series. He has continued to change in response to the sandtrout he accepted as his new skin as a child, and now resembles a small sandworm more than a human being. During his long reign, and through his ancestral memories, he has experienced just about everything the human race has to offer (despite never, in human terms, developing after about his ninth birthday); any way that people manage to act which surprises him is a great pleasure. He takes a particular delight in those who rebel against him, and now in Siona Atreides, a descendant of his sister Ghanima, he has an opponent he can be interested in, for she is also immune to his powers of prescience: his spice-inspired visions of the future cannot predict what she will do. This immunity is really what Leto has been working towards in the breeding programme he took over from the Bene Gesserit sisterhood; it is needed for humanity to be able to withstand the threat he has seen in mankind's future.
God Emperor is a scene setter for the final two books in the Dune series, and rather suffers from this (which may explain the lengthy gap before these last two books finally appeared). Leto is not really made different enough from those around him to be truly convincing (he should be a really alien figure), and the novel feels lacking in direction and so never grabs the full attention of the reader.