(pb; 1969: second book in the Dune Chronicles)
Twelve years have passed since the battle of Arrakeen (Arrakis), the climactic battle in Dune. Paul Atreides, now called Paul Muad'dib (among other things), rules the Fremen empire through a political marriage to Irulan Corrino (daughter of deposed Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV) – she's a “Princess Consort,” not an Empress – and his tight control of the spice.
Paul's empire is a troubled one, largely because of political infighting between the Bene Gesserit (still smarting from their Kwisatz Haderach backfire), the Spice Guild (who resent Paul's control over the spice, which allows them to travel through, or “fold,” space), and the Tleilaxians (who can change physical form, and manipulate genetic technology).
And now the aforementioned political groups have secretly come together, with the aid of a certain Princess Consort.
A more personal issue haunts Paul. His beloved Fremen consort, Chani, who fought beside him in Dune, is unable to bear the children they want. They are not the only ones who want children; so does Irulan, whose desire is purely political, untempered by love.
Cruel, heart-breaking ironies and intentions dictate the tone and events of Dune Messiah, which is notably shorter than its source novel. The intellectual warmth is still there, with familiar characters mingling with new characters in an interesting fashion. (One of the most fascinating characters is Hayt, a Tleilaxu ghola – a cyborg made from the original flesh and memories of its source person, in this case loyal Atreides follower Duncan Idaho – who's been sent to destroy Paul.)
This is a worthwhile read, followed by Children of Dune.