Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Things We Do in the Name of Humanity: Dune Club, Session 9

Apologies for the tardiness on this one!  I will explain it away in two bulletpoints:
  • My reading time got subsumed by seeing the new movie version of It last week (twice).
  • My writing time got subsumed by having to work on Sunday (one of my normal days off).
These things happen!  I didn't have to deal with a hurricane, so you'll hear no complaints from me regarding distruption-of-routine issues.  Just wanted to make it plain that it wasn't due purely to being a lazy, water-fat outworlder.
The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.
Yeah?  What, then, is the act of progress?
A large topic, and one that is outside the intent of this series of posts, so we'll just drop that there and let it lie.

Given that time really is at a premium this week, we're once again going to resort to a running-commentary approach.  Which is fine; not sure why I feel the need to apologize for it, because done well, it's just as good as any other type of approach.
Anyways, here come the bulletpoints again!
  • In this chapter, we meet Count and Lady Fenring.  Confession time: I've always kind of hated Count Fenring.  His incessant "Um-m-m-m-ah-m-m-m" vocalizations are just torture to look at on the page, and to mentally sound out.  (To say nothing of how this translates in audiobook format.)  But holy freakin' crap, guys, once again I've committed the sin of misreading things.  A couple of sentences that I guess I never noticed before jumped out at me this time.  " 'The pressure's on,' the Count hummed to his lady in their secret language.  'The Baron is just beginning to see the price he really paid to rid himself of the Duke Leto.' "  Notice in the second sentence that there is no hemming or hawing.  Does this mean that elsewhere, when Fenring is delivering those "Um-m-m-m-ah-m-m-m"s and such, that he's actually speaking (simultaneously) in a code so as to impart additional information to Margot?!?  If so, this changes everything about how I view the Count.  I will have to track this as we progress.
  • Holy crow, this is exactly what is going on!  The Lady Fenring leaves so that the Count and the Baron can speak privately, and Fenring's speech becomes straightforward and unencumbered.  Wow!  How did I not realize this?!?
  • Hmm.  Well, it comes back at a certain point during their conversation, so I'm not entirely sure I've hit the mark with this.
  • The arena scene with Feyd-Rautha is a great scene.  I love how we find out that the whole thing is engineered to be a sham intended to make Feyd look stronger by appearing to be in legitimate peril, only for Feyd himself to find out that the peril may be very real.
  • "The things we do in the name of humanity," the Count says after speaking to his wife of their plans to seduce Feyd and implant in him prana-bindu phrases which can be used to "bend" him later, once he is the new Baron.  Feyd, in turn, will be implanting a child in Lady Fenring.
  • The chapter does a marvelous job of confirming that Feyd is truly a man to be reckoned with, not merely for the Baron but for the Emperor.  This, obviously, marks him as a man with whom Paul will eventually have to conquer, but the fact that such a formidable adversary to House Corrino exists already adds a terrific layer of bonus intrigue.
The Illustrated Dune p. 334 (illustration by John Schoenherr)

Muad'Dib tells us in "A Time of Reflection" that his first collisions with Arrakeen necessities were the true beginnings of his education.
  • Why is such a big deal made out of a "coffee service" in Fremen culture?
  • Harah, Jamis's widow, is a character I've always been drawn to.  When I'm given free reign to produce a Dune series for HBO, she's going to be one of everyone's favorites.
  • I like the fact that Herbert takes pains to make sure we know how incredibly fucking smelly a sietch is.  Just assholes and armpits and crotch and bad breath, with a light dusting of spice over the top of it.  "Paul saw that he had already suppressed the odorous assault on his senses," and I suspect Paul is more capable in that regard than I would be.  But it also makes sense; if you became accustomed to that environment (or grew up in it), you'd likely have no problem with it at all.
  • The chapter ends with Jamis's sons -- both of whom carry crysknives on their hips -- showing up at Paul's new residence.  There is no immediate violence, but the potential for it seems implied.
The hands move, the lips move--
  • As Jessica awaits the beginning of her ritual with the Reverend mother, she sees Paul arriving, accompanied by the two "sons of Jamis who are now the sons of Usul."  Stilgar says, "They take their escort duties seriously," and we realize that far from there being any off-page violence, Kaleff and Orlop came to Paul immediately to pledge their loyalty and take up their positions.  A wonderful misdirect from Herbert.
  • The bulk of the chapter is devoted to Jessica taking the Water of Life and becoming a Reverend Mother.  It's trippy stuff, but great, and the best moment in it comes when Jessica begins to merge consciousness with Reverend Mother Ramallo, whom Jessica thinks of as "the old Reverend Mother."  But, Herbert tells us, "Jessica saw that the Reverend Mother didn't think of herself as old.  An image unfolded before the mutual mind's eye: a young girl with a dancing spirit and tender humor.  Within the mutual awareness, the young girl said, 'Yes, that is how I am.' "  Marvelous!
The Illustrated Dune p. 355 (illustration by John Schoenherr)

  • The presence of an embryonic Alia complicates matters greatly, and sets up one of the best character arcs in the entire series.
  • Jessica experiences a sense of the Fremen history, learning that "the Fremen culture was far older than she had suspected," and by no means limited to Arrakis.  The Fremen existed in a manner similar to what they are prior to even arriving on Arrakis.  This is a big gulp of background detail Herbert gives us here.
  • The chapter ends with Chani getting high as shit and divulging to Paul a thing he basically already knows: that when the Fremen engage in their Water of Life-fueled orgy, the drug imparts to them a limited prescience.  So to end the second book of the novel, Herbert delivers to us a hugely touching scene in which Paul and Chani begin their romance by realizing in tandem that they have already lived it, many, many times.  Ladies and gentlemen, imagination at its finest!
No time for National Lampoon's Doon this week, Dr. Jones!  We'll rejoin the action on Arruckus when next we convene.


  1. I'll just leave this here...


    1. I enjoyed some of their books to some degree, but yeah, that's about right.

  2. I've always loved Count Fenring, and the chapters on Giedi Prime are fantastic. One of my particular hates for the Lynch movie involves the way it transforms the Baron into a gibbering buffoon.

    I don't necessarily share your high regard for Feyd. Although no fool, I consider that he is pretty obviously a chess piece being moved around by both the Baron and Thufir Hawat. See the later chapter where it is pretty clear Hawat is playing them both against each other.

    1. I can live with the Baron being what he is in the Lynch movie, because it's at least memorable. Overblown (to say the least), but memorable. The SciFi miniseries is closer to the novel, but the budgetary limitations and arch faux-Shakespearean affectations really put me off (or did the last time I watched it, at least).

      Regarding Feyd, he IS a chess piece to some extent, for sure; but I think he's figured out he's a chess piece by a certain point, and becomes that much more dangerous. Of course, he has no idea that even then, he's still unwittingly in thrall to the Bene Gesserit. But that's no surprise; they are meant to be seen as the most capable force in the entire novel. Paul is an exception to that, except, in a way, he himself IS Bene Gesserit.