Monday, September 18, 2017

Fate Was Sometimes Inscrutable: Dune Club, Session 10

No woman, no man, no child ever was deeply intimate with my father.
  • The epigraph which begins this chapter is about Count Fenring, who is said to have "refused to kill a man even though it was within his capabilities and my father commanded it."  Irulan ends this epigraph by saying "I will relate this presently," and it's been long enough since my last read of the novel that I can't remember who Fenring refused to kill, or if we ever even find out.  He's a fascinating character, especially considering how little time we spend with him in the novel.  
  • Nobody beats Emperor Shaddam IV for being a great "off-screen" character, though, unless maybe it's Irulan herself.  (Granted, she does become a major on-screen player in the sequels.)
  • There is a leap forward in time of several years here, and he find out about it -- and about the rise on Arrakis of a new religious figure, "Muad' Dib" -- via the Harkonnens.  Earlier in the novel, we were finding out about dangers to the Atreides via the Harkonnens; now we are learning about the (as-yet unknown) resurgence of the Atreides via the Harkonnens.
  • The Baron upbraids Feyd-Rautha for unsuccessfully attempting to assassinate him, which is a lot of fun; he's also disdainful of his nephew's lack of finesse and subtlety.  "And as he had done many times since that terrible day on Arrakis," Herbert writes, "he found himself regretting the loss of Piter, the Mentat.  There'd been a man of delicate, devilish subtlety.  It hadn't saved him, though.  Again, the Baron shook his head.  Fate was sometimes inscrutable."  Paul, of course, would be able to give his grandfather some counsel on this subject.  Herbert, here, is accomplishing some significant tasks: he's allowing us to be somewhat admiring of (and sympathetic toward) for the Baron AND his nephew.  He's pulled that off elsewhere in the novel, too, and it is striking.  I think we naturally do that for any POV character; the mere process of aligning ourselves to another person's mind (even a fake person's) pushes us in that direction.
The Illustrated Dune p. 371 (art by John Schoenherr)


Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense.
  • Hawat thinks of the Old Duke (Leto's father) as a man "who could express an entire snetence in the way he accented a single word."  We meet a version of that Old Duke in Brian Herbert's prequels, but my suspicion is that he is woefully inadequate, because Herbert Jr. and his co-author Kevin J. Anderson lack the, uh, finesse and subtlety to create a character equal to what Herbert Sr. describes via Hawat.  Granted, it'd be a difficult task even for great writers; which makes me wonder why mediocre ones would even consider trying such a thing.
  • We also learn via Hawat the reason for Shaddam's turning against the Atreides: that the Atreides warriors were too capable, and might eventually prove to be a match for the Sardaukar, especially if supplemented by the Fremen on Arrakis.  I'm not sure this actually makes sense, though.  If that's the case, why would Shaddam put the Atreides in a position to align themselves with the Fremen?  This is either faulty reading on my part, illogical writing on Herbert's part, or poor Mentatting on Hawat's part.  I choose the latter!
There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe.
  • We pick up after an interim of a couple years with an older Paul who seems to be on the precipice of being utterly unmoored by his prescience.  He has to keep asking himself if things he remembers have even happened yet (his son Leto II, his sister, finding and enshrining his father's skull).  This stuff is trippy and wonderful.
  • Chani is a badass: "I am no longer a child hunting scorpions in the sietch by the light of a handglobe, Usul.  I do not play games."  God damn right!
  • We briefly hear tell of a character (captain of the Fedaykin) called Chatt the Leaper.  I am torn as to which reference I should make: to Batroc the Leaper or to Leaping Lanny Poffo
  • A large portion of this chapter is given over to Paul preparing to finally call and ride his own worm for the first time.  Good stuff.
The Illustrated Dune p. 387 (art by John Schoenherr)

"Control the coinage and the courts -- let the rabble have the rest."
  • This epigraph is cited as coming from something called "Muad'Dib's Secret Message to the Landsraad," which is an intriguing notion.  Has that message already gone out at this point in the story, or does it come later?
  • "My brother's ghanima is annoyed with me," Alia says of Harah ("ghanima" meaning roughly "something acquired in battle").   Don't you be insulting harah, you abomination, you!
  • We are meeting Alia for the first time in this chapter.  I love Alia, who is surely one of the weirdest children in all of literature.
  • The relationship between Alia and Harah is fascinating: the adult frightened by but utterly loyal to (and loving of) the "child," the "child" openly mocking of but utterly (in truth) respecting of the adult who is a child in comparison to herself.  Cool stuff, through and through.
  • Alia can actually remember becoming conscious: "One day I woke up," she says simply.  Then, much less simply, "It was like waking from sleep except that I could not remember going to sleep.  I was in a warm, dark place.  And I was frightened."  She will not actually be born for some time to come, and has already been conceived; but what Alia remembers is essentially the spark of life being struck, resulting in her.  This is so alien a concept that it is difficult to dwell upon, and yet, we all can relate to it, because there must, theoretically, have been an equivalent (though much less intense) (and not at all conscious) moment in all of our lives.  One moment, we weren't; the next moment, we were.  Impossible to imagine, yet equally impossible to deny.  So what must such a moment be like if you can remember it?
  • " 'La, la, la, the woman cried,' said Harah."  Why does this sentence haunt me?
  • We briefly meet one of Stilgar's wives, Tharthar, who has a most excellent name.
Apologies for the cursory overview this time, but it was either that or put out nothing.  And doggone it, I didn't want to put out nothing!  For the record, I am still hugely enjoying this reread, which reveals aspects of the novel I'd never considered before (or had forgotten).  It really is a treasure of a novel.
Speaking of which...
  • "We must take care that we do not ascribe undue importance to chance in the affairs of men.  Just as the human mind is a kind of cause-and-effect generator, so is the indeterminacy of action and reaction a concomitant force tending away from predictability.  Hence the ramifications, because consciousness is similar like a big box, so you've got, say, an animal in this box.  Who wants another beer? -- from 'Mauve'Bib: The Incoherent Ramblings," compiled by the Princess Serutan" -- Pretty good Herbert pastiche Weiner was putting forth for a couple of sentences there.
  • The scene in which Flip-Rotha battles in the insult-gladiator pit is pretty damn lame.  Not much actual comedy here, either, since it is told from the POV of the Baron and Peter the Mantan (the Piter analogue still being alive here, he more or less takes the place of Count Fenring).
  • "Yet there are many who would pay much to know a little of such nothings."
  • "Assol, go with Harrumf to your new quarters."
  • " 'Here too is his mother, Jazzica of the Weirdness,' Spilgard continued.  'To those who ask why I have named her thus, let them get themselves a load of this.' "
  • "Mercy Bocuse! Jazzica thought with a shock."
  • " 'When you talk like that, Assol, I grow frightened,' she said."
  • "They call him Mauve'Bib.  It means, 'One who wears a purple napkin.' "
  • "Hootch leaders had come from erg and eek, from dork and freen, from every point of the Great Blab."
Only two more of these posts to go!  I haven't decided yet if I will continue on with the other Dune books.  I'd like to, but I'm not sure the posts are of sufficient quality to actually justify it.  Plus, frankly, I'm yearning to get back to my Star Trek project.
I think I will tackle Dune Messiah at some point after this, but not for a while, and probably in a single post rather than a series of them.
We shall see!


  1. Crikey, I missed an entry - going to have to go back and catch up.

    This whole thing is making me itch for a reread, though. I hate to leave the same comment over and over ("I have to read all of these") but really it's the dominant thing in mind when I read these.

    "there are many who would pay much to know a little of such nothings."

    That's almost brilliant! What a bizarre thing this DOON parody is. Nice find.

    1. "Doon" is frequently at its best when Weiner is having fun twisting the English language in Herbertesque fashion. Herbert does some great writing in "Dune," but he's definitely parodyable.

  2. With regard to the Baron and Feyd, this chapter makes clear that Hawat is playing them off, with the clear aim of bringing the Harkonnen's down.

    I don't agree that the Emperor was apprised of the capabilities of the Fremen. The Fremen's fighting abilities (and numbers) were a secret discovered by Hawat and Leto, and they obviously considered that recruiting the Fremen was their 'ace up the sleeve' in defending themselves against the expected counter-attack from the Emperor and Harkonnens. Hawat's advice to the Baron about the Fremen shows that that information was not previously available.

    1. The more I think about Shaddam's manipulation of the Atreides, the more certain I am that it makes no sense. I can understand the Emperor wanting to destroy the Atreides; or I can understand him wanting to place them in charge of Arrakis. I'm not sure I can understand him wanting to accomplish the former by doing the latter. I'm not sure the Guild would have permitted it, for that matter. Wouldn't they be vehemently opposed to any action they think could upset the balance on Arrakis?

      Also, in order for the Harkonnens to be able to get away with destroying the Atreides, it almost requires the Atreides to declare kanly first. How could a wild-card variable like that be factored into anyone's thinking?

      I can live with it, but I'm not sure it makes sense. Maybe I just missed something! It certainly wouldn't be unprecedented.

  3. I should also say that the refusal by Fenring to kill a man does take place in this novel, and you'll know it when you see it.

    1. I sure did! I'd totally forgotten about that part when I read it in the final chapter. What a great moment! A great chapter all around.