It made me think about what makes me go on reading and why I may actually give up on this book half-way, even though it is fluently and carefully written with many beautifully descriptive passages, and is set in a period that greatly interests me (late sixth century) and full of fascinating side details.
I'd noticed in the previous two books that Herbert's characterisation often seemed a bit erratic. People would suddenly change their minds on things and go rushing off to do the exact opposite of what they had previously said they would do. Which is something that people do, admittedly, but it's often quite annoying when they do it in real life, and even more so in fiction. In this novel, this is taken to extremes. I think Herbert may be a woman who really believes 'all men are rapists' and writes male characters accordingly. I can cope with unlikeable content and upsetting events (up to a point) - but only if there are likeable characters to engage with. When all the male characters are liable to think 'hmm, now for a spot of rape!' as a brief time out from their daily routine - and almost all the female characters are intriguing to do down the other female characters - the whole thing becomes unreadably unpleasant.
Plus, this is a period where very little information survives, so I'm fairly sure that at least some of the religion and beliefs are made-up rather than real. Choosing to make up such an extreme and nasty take on the sources makes me wonder about the accuracy of the whole thing.
I don't really believe in a world where people are randomly horrible to each other *all the time* - and it doesn't make me want to read about it, no matter how well written or researched. Humph.