Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Universe Would Not Turn Backward: Reading "Children of Dune" (part 1)

Say, y'all, remember Dune Club?
  
Well, it seems as if the artist formerly known as Comic Book Girl 19 is perhaps not going to do a third round of it, or at least not any time soon.  I myself want to continue to read through Frank Herbert's novels, though, so the time has come to tackle the third in the series, Children of Dune.




Rather than divvy the reading up into separate posts, I think I'll just lump it all into a single entry.  I'll be writing it diary-fashion, and this time I'll provide dates for when the actual reading (and blogging) was done.  Why?  Well, why not?

The structure will be something like this: I'll use asterisks to delineate between chapters.  As with the first two novels, Herbert provides no chapter numbers, so in order to help us keep track of where in the novel we are, I'll begin each section by quoting the epigraph that opens the chapter.
  
From there, we'll just see what happens.  I suspect this post will not be as in-depth as some of the ones for the first two novels were, but who can say?  Muad'Dib could, but he's dead and gone.

Isn't he...?

*****

     Muad'Dib's teachings have become the playground of scholastics, of the superstitious and the corrupt.  He taught a balanced way of life, a philosophy with which a human can meet problems arising from an ever-changing universe.  He said humankind is still evolving, in a process which will never end.  He said this evolution moves on changing principles which are known only to eternity.  How can corrupted reasoning play with such an essence?

Words of the Mentat
    Duncan Idaho


This opening chapter is entirely concerned with a late-night visit Stilgar makes in the sleeping chambers of Leto and Ghanima, the nine-year-old children who were left behind at the end of Dune Messiah.  Stilgar is here to check on the twins and ensure their safety, but he has troubling thoughts while there: that he could, with "two simple thrusts" of his knife, end their lives, and perhaps end untold suffering which is still taking place around the galaxy as a result of the Jihad and the Fremen reverence for Mud'Dib.

"He fingered the crysknife at his waist, thinking of the past it symbolized, thinking that more than once he had sympathized with rebels whose abortive uprisings had been crushed by his own orders.  Confusion washed through his mind and he wished he knew how to obliterate it, returning to the simplicities represented by the knife.  But the universe would not turn backward.  It was a great engine projected upon the grey void of nonexistence.  His knife, if it brought the deaths of the twins, would only reverberate against that void, weaving new complexities to echo through human history, creating new surges of chaos, inviting humankind to attempt other forms of order and disorder."

Stilgar, then, is trapped.  Part of him knows that killing the twins would be the right thing to do; that it would spare much misery.  It would create other miseries, however, and the net result would be like mopping a floor with dirty water: you are not cleaning the floor, you are merely moving the filth around.

Naturally, Stilgar decides inaction is the only course of action.

"Stilgar removed his hand from the knife.  His fingers tingled with remembrance of it.  But the blade which once had glistened in a sandworm's gaping mouth remained in its sheath.  Stilgar knew he would not draw this blade now to kill the twins.  He had reached a decision.  Better to retain that one old virtue which he still cherished: loyalty.  Better the complexities one thought he knew than the complexities which defied understanding.  Better the now than the future of a dream.  The bitter taste in his mouth told Stilgar how empty and revolting some dreams could be."

I empathize with Stilgar here.  He is ultimately choosing to follow his heart; and while he knows his decision will not satisfy all which needs satisfying, he also knows that that is an impossibility.  He is opting, then, to control that which he can control.

He is letting go and letting God.

One mild gripe about this chapter: while looking at young Leto, Stilgar reflects upon how he never knew the Atreides grandfather for whom the boy was named.  However, Stilgar does meet Leto during one scene in Dune; Stilgar memorably spits upon a conference table as a gesture of respect, and Duncan Idaho has to quickly explain the significance of the action to forestall violence.  So what's going on here?  Did Frank Herbert forget that Stilgar had met Leto?  Or does Stilgar mean that he did not have enough familiarity with Leto to say that he knew him?  My gut says it's the former, but my mind has a difficult time believing or accepting it; so we'll say Stilgar feels he had no substantive knowledge of Leto, because he did, after all, only interact with him for a few minutes.

*****

CHALLENGE:  "Have you seen The Preacher?"
RESPONSE:  "I have seen a sandworm."
CHALLENGE:  "What about that sandworm?"
RESPONSE:  "It gives us the air we breathe."
CHALLENGE:  "Then why do we destroy its land?"
RESPONSE:  "Because Shai Hulud [sandworm deified] orders it."
  
—Riddles of Arrakis
    by Harq al-Ada

  
The epigraph to this section returns to the notion that destroying the sandworms is effectively destroying Arrakis, or at least the spice which makes Arrakis important.  Without the spice to ensure the continued power of the Fremen and their Jihad, this iteration of the Empire would collapse.  These concerns are, obviously, central to at least the first three Dune novels.
  
Stilgar's inner conflict from the previous chapter mirrors the large-scale tension inherent in the problem of Dune's ecological transformation.  This, in turn, is mirrored by the change in terminology in which Dune is increasingly known not by that name, but as Arrakis.  That makes it noteworthy that the epigraph is attributed to Riddles of Arrakis and not Riddles of Dune.
  
The actual chapter introduces us to Leto and Ghanima, who are instantly compelling characters.  They verbally spar a bit with Harah, and everyone is tense over the impending arrival of the Lady Jessica.  ("So today we have a grandmother," Ghanima says, a phrasing which speaks to Jessica's years-long absence.)  Jessica is said to have returned to her Bene Gesserit loyalties in her years back on Caladan, and nobody seems quite certain of her motivations in visiting.  Alia is especially concerned that the twins be wary of her; and there's something in her concern which is mildly reminiscent of Jessica's own concern for Paul in the beginning of Dune, when the Reverend Mother Mohiam pays him a visit.  
  
Mostly, though, the focus on Alia here comes in the form of the twins attempting to parse whether or not she has truly becomes possessed in the manner of Abomination.  They speculate as to how it happened, if it happened; and wonder how they -- who, too, must be Abominations thanks to having been born in much the same manner as Alia -- have avoided a similar fate.
  
The adult Alia continues to pop for me even more strongly than she did when I read these books as a youngster; and so far, the same seems likely to be true of both Leto and Ghanima.  I remember always especially liking Ghani; I'll be curious to see how that tracks on this reread.
  
This chapter contains another bit which brought a question to my mind.  It opens thus: "As was the Fremen custom, the Atreides twins arose an hour before dawn."  Now, wait; am I wrong about this, or do the Fremen not sleep during the day and conduct their waking lives at night, away from the destructive force of the sun?  I might be misremembering.  Or perhaps the idea is that since Dune Arrakis is increasingly a water-rich planet, there is no longer any real need for Fremen to sleep during the day.  Even if that's so, wouldn't it be so new a development that one could hardly say Fremen "custom" was to arise an hour before dawn?
  
*****
  
The sietch at the desert's rim
Was Liet's, was Kynes's,
Was Stilgar's, was Muad'Dib's
And, once more, was Stilgar's.
The Naibs one by one sleep in the sand,
but the sietch endures.

                           —from a Fremen song


The epigraph obviously speaks to the notion that a continuity of civilization is more important than any single member of that civilization.

The chapter finds Alia fretting over Jessica's impending arrival, wondering why she has chosen this particular time to return to Arrakis.  She also finds herself pulled between two conflicting states: the desire "to be as others were," "blind in that safest of all blindnesses, living only the hypnoidal half-life into which birth-shock precipitated most humans."  Instead, she must contend with "that eons-deep awareness inflicted by her mother's spice addiction," and she returns to this reality out of necessity; the tempting dream of non-awareness can never, for her, be fulfilled.

I found myself relating to Alia during this chapter.  She is in many ways a profoundly tragic character, one whose fate was sealed literally even before she was born.  If ever a girl never had a chance, here she is.

She also reflects in this chapter upon her conflicted feelings for her mother.  "Alia saw nothing strange in loving and hating her mother simultaneously.  It was a necessity, a required balance without room for guilt or blame.  Where could loving or hating stop?  Was one to blame the Bene Gesserit because they set the Lady Jessica upon a certain course?  Guilt and blame grew diffuse when memory covered millennia."

Frank Herbert is occasionally so good at portraying the essential alienness of the shared-memory realities of Alia (and Paul, and Leto II, and Ghanima) that it is stunning.  Here, Alia is seeing Jessica less as an individual than as an inevitable outgrowth of almost literally the entire forward rush of all human history.  Jessica is merely acting out a more or less predetermined role; she is not, as Alia (more or less) is, aware of the specifics of that role, but this does not make her capable of stepping beyond it.  That being the case, how can Alia -- anyone, really, but especially Alia -- hold her actions against her, no matter what those actions end up being?  And yet, there is a conflicting pull toward individualism inside Alia; these are possibly spurred on by her possessing memories of her Harkonnen grandfather, and are therefore the product of Abomination.  And yet, is that not an understandable impulse?  To view things individualistically rather than in such broad terms?

It's a real pickle.

"She shook her head in wonderment at her wandering thoughts.  What good was served by calling up old lifetimes and rubbing their mistakes together?  This was a new lifetime."

But what can that mean to one whose memories span a multitude of lives?

*****

melange (me'-lange also ma,lanj) n-s, origin uncertain (thought to derive from ancient Terran French): a. mixture of spices; b. spice of Arrakis (Dune) with geriatric properties first noted by Yanshuph Ashkoko, royal chemist in reign of Shakkad the Wise; Arrakeen melange, found only in deepest desert sands of Arrakis, linked to prophetic visions of Paul Muad'Dib (Atreides), first Fremen Mahdi; also employed by Spacing Guild Navigators and the Bene Gesserit.

—Dictionary Royal
    fifth edition


A couple of interesting things occurred to me while I was transcribing that epigraph (which, when I read it, I expected to say nothing about).

First, how would the word "melange" be merely thought to derive from French?  That implies that the French language is entirely lost in the time during which the Dictionary Royal was written, and likely within the time Children of Dune is taking place as well.  It's mind-blowing to imagine a human history so far flung that French could be merely a rumored language; again, Herbert excels at scope.

Second, the designation of Paul Muad'Dib as the "first Fremen Mahdi."  This, of course, implies that he was not the last.

And hey, actually, here's a third: the Dictionary Royal must be written in an incredibly distant future in order for there to be a need to specify exactly who Paul Muad'Dib was and what he did.  The mind reels anew!

This brief chapter takes place on Salusa Secundus and involves the training of two Laza tigers, genetically-enhanced big cats who have been trained to hunt and kill Leto and Ghanima.  Here, they are loosed upon two children of equivalent size and appearance who have been put in that planet's desert for the sole purpose of being killed to test the tigers' progress.

*****

     The Fremen must return to his original faith, to his genius in forming human communities; he must return to the past, where that lesson of survival was learned in the struggle with Arrakis.  The only business of the Fremen should be that of opening his soul to the inner teachings.  The worlds of the Imperium, the Landsraad and the CHOAM Confederacy have no message to give him.  They will only rob him of his soul.

—The Preacher at Arrakeen


The epigraph returns to the notion of individuals being less important than overall society.  A Fremen person is irrelevant in relation to the Fremen people.  If we accept this as truth, then we must conclude that what is good for a Fremen person is only worthy if it is also good for the Fremen people.

I continue to be amazed by the extent to which the sequels to Dune stand that first novel utterly on its head, but without diminishing its power.  This, of course, is because the outcomes which are set into motion in Dune Messiah and expanded upon in Children of Dune are baked into the first novel; they are masked, but present.  And among those is the idea that if one is born into Fremen society, one must remain a Fremen in order to further that society.  The dream of a water-rich Arrakis is the dream of a destroyed Arrakis.

The implication is that the attainment and satisfaction of purpose is anathema; one must constantly seek but never find; at least, if one is a Fremen this is true.  And why must one take part in this cycle of never-ending unfulfillment?  For the betterment of all humanity.  It is the attainment of humanity's overall purpose which is the true goal; the fulfillment of that which humanity exists to become.

What that is, none can say.  But if evolution pushes us toward it, we must each face our individual responsibility toward remaining on that course.

Fascinating concepts!  I'm not entirely sure I believe in them (I would say I myself tend more toward the belief that after we achieve a sufficient degree of wisdom and intelligence, we can and should direct our own evolution, both as a species and as individuals), but when presented by a master such as Frank Herbert, I am more than willing to engage with them.

In this chapter, we are with Jessica as she arrives on the planet's surface.  There's a great bit where she looks to her left and sees, far across the plain, the enormous fortress Paul had built for himself.  "It was the largest integrated single construction ever to rise from the hand of man.  Entire cities could have been housed within its walls and room to spare.  Now it housed the most powerful governing force in the Imperium."  That's such an awesome image that my mind can't really even conjure it.  Not all are as impressed by it as I, though:
  
"That place must go, Jessica thought."  This made me laugh, because it's written and presented in a dryly humorous manner.  But it's also a terrifying thought.  Here is Jessica, a powerful woman who wields the ability to help shape the course of human events, looking upon what is apparently the most significant architectural achievement of all time; and she thinks it must be torn down.  To even be able to entertain serious thought of such an act marks one as being formidable to a terrifying degree.

Speaking of terror, not long after she arrives, Jessica witnesses a pre-planned (by Gurney and Stilgar) action in which agents sweep through the thronged masses of onlookers, subduing and/or capturing perceived threats.  It is a remarkable act of violence, but seemingly a needed and acceptable one, depending on one's point of view.

The chapter ends with Jessica deciding to try buying the loyalty of a man she encounters named Javid, who is clearly a danger.  So why not make him a danger to others, working for her?

*****

     I give you the desert chameleon, whose ability to blend itself into the background tells you all you need to know about the roots of ecology and the foundations of a personal identity.

—Book of Diatribes
    from the Hayt Chronicle


I'm not sure I have anything to say about that epigraph, so we'll move on to the chapter proper.  In it, Let and Ghanima sit in the desert as First Moon begins to rise.  Leto's thoughts are troubled; he is trying to decide how to tell Ghani what has happened to him (a thing we are not yet privy to) when the very notion of having to tell her anything is alien, because what could she possibly not already know?  And yet, such a thing has arisen.

This is, in microcosm, an exploration of the idea that even with the needs of humanity being for its individual components to take part in the long, massive march toward whatever its endpoint is, there may occasionally also be a need for an individual to take individual action so as to bring about some desired result.  Leto and Ghanima are in some ways a closed community consisting of two individuals (who both contain multitudes); for Leto to break away from that community in any way is a revolutionary act.

Herbert does his customarily fine job of presenting the reality of their unique community from within it.  Leto finds himself playing an ancient song, one older and more obscure even than any Gurney ever knew of.  It is just as known to Ghani as it is to Leto; what she cannot and does not know is why he chose it.  Knowing a thing does not imply knowing the motivation behind a thing.

"Within his head were wars, uncounted lives parceling out their ancient memories: violent accidents, love's languor, the colors of many places and many faces . . . the buried sorrows and leaping joys of multitudes.  He heard elegies to springs on planets which no longer existed, green dances and firelight, wails and halloos, a harvest of conversations without number."

Leto is humanity -- the whole of humanity -- contemplating itself.

He finds himself wondering why he does such a thing, and Ghanima, not asked the question but simply already upon the same wavelength, says, "You know why you torment yourself this way."

He does know, and he decides he must tell his sister the missing parts that she herself does not know.

Leto has come to a full understanding of the relationship between sandtrout, sandworms, and spice; to a full understanding of Dune's ecology, and what the rapid alteration of that ecology is going to mean for both the planet and the universe.  "No more spice," he sums up simply.  This is the impending end of human civilization as they know it.

"It's the thing Alia knows," he says.  "It's why she gloats."  Her Abomination is helping to push this cataclysm toward actualization.

Oh!  And I almost forgot to mention that at one point in this chapter, Leto and Ghani speak a brief bit of French to each other; it is an ancient language they use sometimes, presumably as unbreakable code.  That makes sense; if literally nobody in the universe remembers that language, that's a solid code.

*****

     The Universe is God's.  It is one thing, a wholeness against which all separations may be identified.  Transient life, even that self-aware and reasoning life which we call sentient, holds only fragile trusteeship on any portion of the wholeness.

—Commentaries from the C.E.T.
    (Commission of Ecumenical Translators)


Yep, that's pretty much in keeping with what we've been talking about.

This chapter is barely more than a page and consists of Jessica talking to Gurney about a discovery he has made: when some of his prisoners speak the word "Jacurutu," they died of heart failure.  Weird!

*****

     And I beheld another beast coming up out of the sand, and he had two horns like a lamb, but his mouth was fanged and fiery as the dragon and his body shimmered and burned with great heat while it did hiss like the serpent.

—Revised Orange Catholic Bible


I'm not entirely sure what to make of that epigraph.  I don't think it's referring to a sandworm.  Is it possible the "Revised" O.C. Bible is revised at some point later on, and this is a coded representation of something we've yet to encounter?  It feels like I'm way off-base with this one, which, okay.

The chapter opens thus: "He called himself The Preacher, and there had come to be an awesome fear among many on Arrakis that he might be Muad'Dib returned from the desert, not dead at all."

The juxtaposition of the epigraph with the next sentence links the emergence of this beast from the sand with the arrival of The Preacher in Arrakeen.  Whether this is purposeful on Herbert's part need not be debated; of course it is.  What purpose he had in doing so is not immediately clear, but, again, okay.

The chapter itself is a recounting of The Preacher's first public appearance, as it were.  It is a flashback chapter, which doesn't happen often in these books (has it EVER happened?), and there's possibly significance to be found in the notion that our first encounter with this character is literally an echo of the past (in relation to the rest of the novel's main narrative).

As I read this, I could not remember for sure whether The Preacher is in fact Muad'Dib; I thought I knew, but there was some doubt in the back of my mind.  So, yes, I flipped to the end to find out.  I do not normally condone such things, but shit-fire, man, I've read this book probably half a dozen times; so it's not cheating so much as it's shoring up a faulty memory.

*****

     It is commonly reported, my dear Georad, that there exists great natural virtue in the melange experience.  Perhaps this is true.  There remain within me, however, profound doubts that every use of melange always brings virtue.  Meseems that certain persons have corrupted the use of melange in defiance of God.  In the words of the Ecumenon, they have disfigured the soul.  They skim the surface of melange and believe thereby to attain grace.  They deride their fellows, do great harm to godliness, and they distort the meaning of this abundant gift maliciously, surely a mutilation beyond the power of man to restore.  To be truly at one with the virtue of the spice, uncorrupted in all ways, full of godly honor, a man must permit his deeds and his words to agree.  When your actions describe a system of evil consequences, you should be judged by those consequences and not by your explanations.  It is thus that we should judge Muad'Dib.

—The Pedant Heresy


I was engaged by that "When your actions describe a system of evil consequences, you should be judged by those consequences and not by your explanations" bit.  That seems meme-worthy.

The overall import of this epigraph is somewhat lost on me, though.  The title of its source should be examined: The Pedant Heresy.  What does that imply?  Is there heretical pedantry within the words, or is the book itself -- and therefore this excerpt from it -- an indictment of heretical pedantry?

I'm not sure I have the ability to make a determination on that, so I think we'll move on.  But not without awarding bonus points for use of the word "meseems."

The chapter itself is a scene on Salusa Secundus, in which the Princess Wensicia (one of Shaddam's daughters) has a meeting with her Sardaukar Bashar Aide, Tyekanik.  This happens in the immediate aftermath of the training exercise with the Laza cats, and Wensicia has the cats' trainer killed due to the amount of knowledge he has on the Corrino plot against the Atreides.  Tyekanik frets -- somewhat insubordinately -- that if such a man as the Levenbrech can be dispatched, then it must mean he, too, is expendable.  Wensicia more or less just shrugs at him suggestively.

*****

     Either we abandon the long-honored Theory of Relativity, or we cease to believe that we can engage in continued accurate prediction of the future.  Indeed, knowing the future raises a host of questions which cannot be answered under conventional assumptions unless one first projects an Observer outside of Time and, second, nullifies all movement.  If you accept the Theory of Relativity, it can be shown that Time and the Observer must stand still in relationship to each or inaccuracies will intervene.  This would seem to say that it is impossible to engage in accurate prediction of the future.  How, then, do we explain the continued seeking after this visionary goal by respected scientists?  How, then, do we explain Muad'Dib?

—Lectures on Prescience
    By Harq al-Ada


The Theory of Relativity, like many things, makes my brain hurt.  So, then, does this epigraph.

The chapter before which it appears is excellent, depicting a private meeting between Jessica and Ghanima, during which the girl's grandmother marvels at her ability to produce insight from seemingly no clues.  For example, Jessica inwardly recites the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear in order to steel her nerves a bit.  "It helps at times," Ghanima says as she watches her grandmother.  "The Litany, I mean."  That Ghani would know what Jessica was thinking in such a moment is unsettling; but, of course, the girl has many memories upon which to draw.

Jessica makes a decision:

"On impulse, Jessica put aside her ingrained emotional masks, knowing them to be of little use here, barriers to communication.  Not since those loving moments with her Duke had she lowered these barriers, and she found the action both relief and pain.  There remained facts which no curse or prayer or litany could wash from existence.  Flight would not leave such facts behind.  They could not be ignored.  Elements of Paul's vision had been rearranged and the times had caught up with his children.  They were a magnet in the void; evil and all the sad misuses of power collected around them."

This leads to a mutual recognition between them.

"Thoughts spoken without words passed between them.  Jessica: I wish you to see my fear.  Ghanima: Now I know you love me.  It was a swift moment of utter trust."

I mean, how great is that?  This dadgum Frank Herbert did alright sometimes, guys.

Jessica expresses to Ghani that because she is unable to test her granddaughter's humanity in the way Mohiam once tested Paul's (Ghanima and Leto both have Paul's memories of the incident, and thus have a cheatsheet for that particular test), she must assume the girl is human.  She isn't sure of Leto, and fears he may be Abomination, despite Ghanima's assurances that he is not.  Jessica finds herself further along in her resolve to do what she has come here to do: to separate the twins so that Leto can be trained in the ways of the Sisterhood, and thereby avoid Abomination.

"We are one life reaching out into a dark future," she thinks.  "We are one blood."

*****

     I hear the wind blowing across the desert and I see the moons of a winter night rising like great ships in the void.  To them I make my vow: I will be resolute and make an art of government; I will balance my inherited past and become a perfect storehouse of my relic memories.  And I will be known for kindliness more than for knowledge.  My face will shine down the corridors of time for as long as humans exist.

—Leto's Vow
     After Harq al-Ada


This is the third mention of Harq al-Ada, and we now have what seems to be a strong hint that his writings were taking place within the life of Leto II.  We also have what seems to be more or less some sort of inaugural speech by Leto.  Interesting, especially since we've already learned there will be another Mahdi after Muad'Dib.  Not too surprising to learn that Leto would be that Mahdi, I guess; but it's always interesting to me when Herbert drops these big developments from the quasi-outsider perspective of an epigraph.

This chapter focuses on Alia.  It's a good one, and provides us with the moment in which the memory of Baron Harkonnen asserts itself within Alia's mind.  This seems to be a flashback, but I'm not entirely sure of that; and if it is, it is unclear how far back we are flashing.  It is possibly a period of several years, because Alia is still dressed in mourning colors (yellow, "the color of the sterile sun") for Paul's self-exile into the desert. And yet, the Baron's ascendance focuses largely around the fears Alia has over the role Javid (previously glimpsed prior to being solicited to Jessica's side) is attempting to assert within her ranks.  So I'm just not sure exactly what the timeline is here.  Not that it matters all that much; it just stood out to me a bit as a point of non-clarity.

We learn a bit about the tidal forces of the voices within Alia, which are like a constantly screaming chorus from among which occasional individual voices arise.  "I, Agamemnon, your ancestor, demand audience!" cries one notable one.  Well, okay, that's pretty cool.

Alia does her best to cope with this din of interior solicitation, but echoes of it are everywhere:

"[M]orning's glow along the cliffs of the Shield Wall kept distracting her.  Plantings of resilient fuzz-grass filled the garden's pathways.  When she looked away from the Shield Wall she saw dew on the grass, the catch of all the moisture which had passed here in the night.  It reflected her own passage as of a multitude.  That multitude made her giddy.  Each reflection carried the imprint of a face from the inner multitude."

What an image!  And I like how this fact of her Abomination subtly points toward another fact: that the notion of dew on grass on the surface of Dune is itself a sort of abomination.

"Alia felt herself caught by everything she had attempted to deny.  The other lives welled up within her like a hideous tide.  Each demanding life pressed its face against her vision centers—a cloud of faces.  Some presented mange-spotted skin, others were callous and full of sooty shadows; there were mouths like moist lozenges.  The pressure of the swarm washed over her in a current which demanded that she float free and plunge into them."

Poor girl.  This sounds bloody awful.  Into this riot of confusion comes the voice of the Baron, who is able to command all the other voices to be silent.  What does he want?  It's what he doesn't want: full command of her mental life.  All he wants is a corner in which to live, and to be occasionally allowed to be present during certain times, such as when she is in the arms of a lover ... and if she should have a need to slip a knife between the ribs of that lover, well, all the better; and if she doesn't want to do that herself, he's more than happy to volunteer to do the dirty work himself.

I'm sure it'll turn out just fine...

*****

These are illusions of popular history which a successful religion must promote: Evil men never prosper; only the brave deserve the fair; honesty is the best policy; actions speak louder than words; virtue always triumphs; a good deed is its own reward; any bad human can be reformed; religious talismans protect one from demon possession; only females understand the ancient mysteries; the rich are doomed to unhappiness . . .

—From the Instruction Manual:
    Missionaria Protectiva


The epigraph speaks for itself (and I'll add to it "the meek shall inherit the Earth").  The chapter itself is a brief one in which a father and a son in the deep desert take the water of six people who have journeyed there "peacefully on umma."  ("You came in search of a personal religious awakening?" the older man asks them rhetorically.  "Good.  You shall have that awakening.")

This seems to have something to do with Jacurutu, and probably with The Preacher as well.

*****

     A sophisticated human can become primitive.  What this really means is that the human's way of life changes.  Old values change, become linked to the landscape with its plants and animals.  This new existence requires a working knowledge of those multiplex and cross-linked events usually referred to as nature.  It requires a measure of respect for the inertial power within such natural systems.  When a human gains this working knowledge and respect, that is called "being primitive."  The converse, of course, is equally true: the primitive can become sophisticated, but not without accepting dreadful psychological damage.

—The Leto Commentary
    After Harq al-Ada


[insert untypable sound of impressed surprise here]

The somewhat lengthy chapter which follows consists entirely of a conversation between Leto and Ghanima in which the two of them decide on a course of action.  We are not entirely privy to what they are talking about, which might seem like a cheat from some points of view, but strikes me as organic to the plot: they have decided upon a thing without point-blank speaking of it aloud, except in a coded manner.  In other words, they aren't here just to drop a bunch of exposition upon the readers, the way they might be in a bad (or even a good) movie.

In my view, the epigraph to this chapter speaks almost directly to the (pardon the pun) nature of their decision.  In reaching it, the two of them briefly allow themselves to be host to their parents, with Leto serving as Paul and Ghanima serving as Chani.  Both of them feel the pull toward possession and are, with varying degrees of effort, able to push their would-be possessors away.

Afterward, they reflect upon the near-miss(es), and come to a decision which is shocking in its lack of ceremony:

     "Ghani, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I'll never ask you to do that again.  I was selfish.  Forgive me."
     "There's nothing to forgive," she said, and her voice came panting as though after great physical exertion.  "We've learned much that we needed to know."
     "She spoke to you of many things," he said.  "We'll share it later when—"
     "No!  We'll do it now.  You were right."
     "My Golden Path?"
     "Your damned Golden Path!"

In the span of the final three sentences of that exchange, a monumental, civilization(s)-altering decision has been made.  We will not find out the full extent of what this means for a while, so if you are a first-time reader, you likely don't think TOO too much of this.

If you know what the Golden Path is, however, you might be rocked back on your heels a bit to realize that the final decision to well and truly embark upon it is made in the span of a few seconds, with the two deciders essentially not even discussing the ramifications.  They know the ramifications already; they know them so well that they need discuss it no further, but only decide (or not) upon it.

"They don't know what we've decided for them," Ghani says of the guards who protected them while they were sequestered during this night-long deliberation.

The first stop along the way of the Golden Path apparently involves joining Jessica.  Ghani wonders if it might not involve something else instead.  "A knife slipped into Alia might settle most of our problems," she says.

"If you believe that," retorts Leto, "you believe we can walk in mud and leave no tracks."

Frank Herbert for the win!

*****

     This was Muad'Dib's achievement: He saw the subliminal reservoir of each individual as an unconscious bank of memories going back to the primal cell of our common genesis.  Each of us, he said, can measure out his distance from that common origin.  Seeing this and telling of it, he made the audacious leap of decision.  Muad'Dib set himself the task of integrating genetic memory into ongoing evaluation.  Thus did he break through Time's veils, making a single thing of the future and the past.  That was Muad'Dib's creation embodied in his son and daughter.

—Testament of Arrakis
    by Harq al-Ada


If I follow that epigraph correctly, it is making the case that what Muad'Dib knew was that all humanity is a single organism, connected one to the other by a common genetic purpose.

If that is true, then what could the notion of one human being another's enemy possibly mean in the grand scheme of things?  Not much.  And so it is that in this chapter, Prince Farad'n of the Corrino family is visited by The Preacher, whom Tyekanik has brought to Salusa Secundus to interpret the prince's dream.  Well, for several reasons, actually; but that one is the expressed one.

"Farad'n inhaled deeply, began to relate the dream.  It became easier to talk as he got fully into it.  He told about the water flowing upward in the well, about the worlds which were atoms dancing in his head, about the snake which transformed itself into a sandworm and exploded in a cloud of dust.  Telling about the snake, he was surprised to discover, required more effort.  A terrible reluctance inhibited him and this made him angry as he spoke."

We do not find out what oneiric significance is attached to this dream (though we can probably guess at it), because The Preacher, as it turns out, agreed only to interpret the dream; he didn't agree to actually tell that interpretation to anyone else.  He has come here for his own purposes; "Your dream tells me that great events move toward a logical conclusion," he says.

Farad'n is furious with both The Preacher and Tyekanik over this seeming waste of time.  "Forgive him, Prince," The Preacher advises of Tyekanik.  "Your faithful Bashar does God's will without even knowing it."

Tyekanik, of course, has been tasked by Wensicia with cajoling Farad'n into taking up the Fremen religion, so as to put himself a position to better utilize them when he assumes power.  Tyekanik has broached this subject with the young man prior to The Preacher's arrival, and the Prince is skeptical, at best.

But as The Preacher (who has impressed him despite not providing the service for which he was ostensibly contacted) leaves, Farad'n thinks, "I must look into this religion which Tyek espouses."

God's will is done.

*****

     And he saw a vision of armor.  The armor was not his own skin; it was stronger than plasteel.  Nothing penetrated his armor—not knife or poison or sand, not the dust of the desert or its desiccating heat.  In his right hand he carried the power to make the Coriolis storm, to shake the earth and erode it into nothing.  His eyes were fixed upon the Golden Path and in his left hand he carried the scepter of absolute mastery.  And beyond the Golden Path, his eyes looked into eternity which he knew to be the food of his soul and of his everlasting flesh.

—Heighia, My Brother's Dream
    from The Book of Ghanima


It did not stand out to me until I was transcribing it, but that closing phrase ("everlasting flesh") is provocative, isn't it?  One hears of the everlasting soul in religious connotations, but the notion of "everlasting flesh" is decidedly rarer; or at least it is if my brief research on the subject is any indication.  From what I can tell, the only "everlasting flesh" is that which is worn by a person after death and spiritual resurrection.  In Heaven, for example.

In this epigraph, Ghanima is describing in different (and loftier) words what Leto described to her a couple of chapters ago after they spoke of the Golden Path.  And this addition of the notion of "eternal flesh" is an eyebrow-raiser in that context, for sure.

The chapter itself finds Leto having a solo meeting with Jessica just as Ghanima did a few chapters ago.  In that meeting, he shocks her numerous times: by demonstrating just how much he is not really a child; by briefly allowing the Duke Leto to speak to her from his lips; by revealing that he knows her Harkonnen ancestry ("Jessica out of Tanidia Nerus by the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen"); by revealing that he knows of the Bene Gesserit plan to mate him with his sister; by telling her that Alia is plotting to have her kidnapped and taken to Salusa Secundus.

He also reveals that he has a difficult decision to make: "Do I follow the Atreides mystique?  Do I live for my subjects . . . and die for them?  Or do I choose another course—one which would permit me to live thousands of years?"

Jessica recoils at this, aware that Bene Gesserit training does technically make it possible for Reverend Mothers to manipulate their internal chemistry so profundly that a prologned life of that sort is indeed possible.  However, it is utterly forbidden by their beliefs, because if one were to do such a thing, more would follow, and the resultant chaos would bring first attention and finally destruction.  "I don't like the trend of your thoughts," Jessica says to her grandson.

"You don't understand my thoughts," he replies.

*****

     Atrocity is recognized as such by victim and perpetrator alike, by all who learn about it at whatever remove.  Atrocity has no excuses, no mitigating argument.  Atrocity never balances or rectifies the past.  Atrocity merely arms the future for more atrocity.  It is self-perpetuating upon itself—a barbarous form of incest.  Whoever commits atrocity also commits those future atrocities thus bred.

—The Apocrypha of Muad'Dib


"Atrocity" is one of those words which is occasionally used in a manner which greatly undersells its actual meaning.  I've never been privy to an atrocity, and hope I never will be.  I might occasionally refer to something -- Star Trek: Picard, let's say -- as an atrocity, but I do not truly have the measure of its meaning.  I should probably keep that in mind.

In this chapter, The Preacher shows up in Arrakeen to deliver a sermon, and we find out that the "Ixian face mask" mentioned during the chapter with Farad'n is in fact just a piece of cloth.  The Preacher reflects on the necessity of making sure nobody finds out that he doesn't need it.  So, like, this is all but by-name confirmation that The Preacher is Paul, I'd say.

Meanwhile, Alia watches his sermon from a hidden observation place.  She doesn't know if he is Paul, but thinks it's possible; and also thinks it doesn't much matter.  She is spooked by his words, which seem to address things he could not possibly know (such as the decision she mentally makes moments before to have Irulan eliminated).  She also wonders at the fact that despite his blatant heresy, nobody -- including herself -- seeing or hearing the sermon makes any move to stop him, before, during, or after.

Confession: I have the Fountains Of Wayne song "Red Dragon Tattoo" stuck in my head today, and kept playing it mentally while I was trying to read this chapter.  So I probably didn't get from it (the chapter, that is) anywhere near as much as there was to get.

*****

     I will not argue with the Fremen claim that they are divinely inspired to transmit a religious revelation.  It is their concurrent claim to ideological revelation which inspires me to shower them with derision.  Of course, they make the dual claim in the hope that it will strengthen their mandarinate and help them to endure in a universe which finds them increasingly oppressive.  It is in the name of all those oppressed people that I warn the Fremen: short-term expediency always fails in the long term.

—The Preacher at Arrakeen


This epigraph is a fiery suggestion that the Fremen are fucking up big-time and need to walk that shit back before it's too late.  I'm paraphrasing.  Bonus points -- at maximum level -- for use of the word "mandarinate."

In this chapter, Leto has a conversation with Stilgar and tries to get him to engage with several ideas the Naib does not wish to discuss, among them the need to beware Alia.  He speaks to Stil in Paul's voice, walking right up to, and maybe a bit beyond, the line at which Stilgar is comfortable with.  "It was correct to find one's immortality in children," Stilgar feels, "but children had no right to assume too exact a shape from their past."

Leto tells Stilgar of a vision (or perhaps just a dream) he has had, which involves three potential paths: in one, Leto must kill his grandmother, Jessica; in another, he must mate with his sister; and in the third, he is called to reduce his father to human stature.  None of these are appealing prospects, to Leto or to Stilgar.

Leto confides in Stilgar that he is "past-directed" and "abrim with innate knowledge which resists newness and change."  And yet, Muad'Dib himself wrought many changes:

Leto "gestured at the desert, his arm sweeping to encompass the Shield Wall behind him.  Stilgar turned to peer at the Shield Wall.  A village had been built beneath the wall since Muad'Dib's time, houses to shelter a planetology crew helping spread plant life into the desert.  Stilgar stared at the man-made intrusion into the landscape.  Change?  Yes.  There was an alignment to the village, a trueness which offended him.  He stood silently, ignoring the itching of grit particles under his stillsuit.  That village was an offense against the thing this planet had been.  Suddenly Stilgar wanted a circular howling of wind to leap over the dunes and obliterate that place.  The sensation left him trembling."

Short-term expediency always fails in the long term.

*****

     The life of a single human, as the life of a family or an entire people, persists as memory.  My people must come to see this as part of their maturing process.  They are people as organism, and in this persistent memory they store more and more experiences in a subliminal reservoir.  Humankind hopes to call upon this material if it is needed for a changing universe.  But much that is stored can be lost in that chance play of accident which we call "fate."  Much may not be integrated into evolutionary relationships, and thus may not be evaluated and keyed into activity by those ongoing environmental changes which inflict themselves upon flesh.  The species can forget!  This is the special value of the Kwisatz Haderach which the Bene Gesserits never suspected: the Kwisatz Haderach cannot forget.

 —The Book of Leto
    After Harq al-Ada


Hoo-boy, that one is proving tough for me to keep in my mind all at once.  Guys, I am feeling especially stupid today; my mind simply does not want to focus on anything except self-pitying thoughts, which are useless (and, worse, self-destructive).  Also, apparently, unavoidable.  Come with me now as I attempt to keep myself sane and engaged!

Let me see if I can parse the epigraph by interpreting it:

A person's life extends beyond its end by virtue of that life being remembered by others.  Humans should view death -- and the memory of their lives -- as a component of life.  As humanity (as a whole) extends through time, the reservoir of human memory becomes fuller.  Some of these memories may be useful to help humanity guide itself through the changes inherent in time's passage.  However, some memories may in time be accidentally lost as the evolutionary process progresses; changes in environment are one way these losses can occur, and the end result is that the human species can become forgetful in a broad sense.  The Kwisatz Haderach, then, represents humanity with a full, undiminished memory.

The implication is that the Kwisatz Haderach also represents a truer version of humanity, one which may well prove to be unpopular with a humanity that has forgotten itself.

That's what I take from it, at least.

The preceding chapter ended with Leto asking Stilgar a seemingly innocuous question: "Have you noticed, Stil, how beautiful the young women are this year?"

The chapter we are currently covering picks up in precisely the same place (a rarity for Herbert in these novels), and finds Stilgar profoundly disturbed by Leto's words in a way he cannot immediately explain.  But as the two of them walk, Stilgar's mind races, and he focuses on the changes Muad'Dib wrought upon the old ways of the Fremen, which are vanishing to the point that it is possible to notice beautiful young people pursuing their activities under the open sun, an unthinkable sight for an old naib like himself.

It's a well-written chapter, but I found it to be mildly suspect.  Leto is able to set Stilgar's mind racing down a very specific path, one which ends in precisely the place he wishes it to lead.  I'm not sure I buy that he could do this with a single sentence; I mean, after all, Stilgar is just a normal person.  This is not Ghanima, or even Alia or Jessica; Stilgar, though deeply wise and competent, does not have the mental resources those others have.

Maybe Leto used some sort of Voice command on him?  Meh.  It probably needed be worried about the way I seem to be worrying about it.

We'll move along and see if the next chapter finds me better able to contend with things.

*****

     A Fremen dies when he is too long from the desert; this we call "the water sickness."

—Stilgar, the Commentaries


That's a straightforward-enough epigraph: it tells us what we already know, that as the deserts of Dune recede to create the water-rich planet of Arrakis, the Fremen will vanish.  Does this imply that the Fremen would eventually -- and perhaps in not too long a span of time -- become too soft and water-fat to effectively continue to hold the Imperium in their grip?

This chapter finds Alia trying to persuade Duncan to enact her plot to have Jessica kidnapped and to frame House Corrino for it.  He senses that something is wrong, and his mentat computations lead him to the correct conclusion: Abomination.  He tests his theory by unexpectedly suggesting that Alia might rather see Jessica killed than captured, and what he sees is a brief flash of joy on her face at the idea.  This, then, is an alien-Alia.

Duncan agrees to the plot, and allows Alia to believe that he will perhaps kill Jessica anyways; he says goodbye to her, knowing what she does not -- that it is for the final time.

I was intrigued by a seemingly unrelated bit which pops up while Duncan is mentally considering the issue of atomic weapons.  He uses his mentat computations to contend with the idea that House Corrino might choose to use atomics against Arrakis, since the entire Atreides family is on the planet.  He dismisses the idea because it is simply too risky for House Corrino; too many systems are in place to ensure that Salusa Secundus would be just as levelled as Arrakis would be.  Here's the bit I was drawn to:

"They were undoubtedly sincere in subscribing to the argument that nuclear weapons were a reserve held for one purpose: defense of humankind should a threatening 'other intelligence' ever be encountered."

Well, now, that's an intriguing notion.

There are no aliens in the Dune series; the concept is never, as far as I know, broached in any way, at least not in the first three novels.  I can't say for sure regarding the final three, but I believe it to be true of them as well.  The closest thing would be the known existence of animal life on certain planets (such as the sandworms of Dune).

So does this mean that the atomic stockpiles of the human race are being held for pre-emptive use should a non-human intelligence ever invade the Imperium?  Does this imply that such a force is known to exist?

If so, the sequels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (which entertained me at times but which were mostly execrable) that extend the series beyond book six suggest instead that what this refers to is the potential re-emergence of intelligent machine life.  This was partially the intent and result of the Butlerian Jihad: to expel any machine intelligence which could not be destroyed to a safe distance away from human civilization.  But seemingly there are still fears that that intelligence could return and pose a threat.

I'm not 100% certain that Frank Herbert is pointing directly at that idea, but he's clearly got something in mind in this near-throwaway sentence.

*****

                                                  You have loved Caladan
                                                  And lamented its lost host—
                                                  But pain discovers
                                                  New lovers cannot erase
                                                  Those forever ghost.

—Refrain from The Habbanya Lament


Well, it's a new day here at Where No Blog Has Gone Before, but apparently it's going to be another day of reduced reading comprehension.  So I've got nothing whatsoever to say about this chapter, in which Ghanima needles Jessica some more.

*****

     The assumption that humans exist within an essentially impermanent universe, taken as an operational precept, demands that the intellect become a totally aware balancing instrument.  But the intellect cannot react thus without involving the entire organism.  Such an organism may be recognized by its burning, driving behavior.  And thus it is with a society treated as organism.  But here we encounter an old inertia.  Societies move to the goading of ancient, reactive impulses.  They demand permanence.  Any attempt to display the universe of impermanence arouses rejection patterns, fear, anger, and despair.  Then how do we explain the acceptance of prescience?  Simply: the giver of prescient visions, because he speaks of an absolute (permanent) realization, may be greeted with joy by humankind even while predicting the most dire events.

—The Book of Leto
    After Harq al-Ada


In case it isn't clear by my words in these last few chapters, let me state unequivocally that I'm enjoying this reread.  I don't think I ever, as a child, loved Children of Dune as much as I loved Dune or even Dune Messiah, but I loved it plenty, and it seems as if that hasn't changed.  And yet, of late, I'm at a loss for words as I work my way through it.  That's not on Frank Herbert; that's on me.  I'm feeling more or less overwhelmed with negative emotion of late.  It's not a new thing, exactly, but it's suddenly more intense than it's ever been, as if someone had cranked all my feelings of fear, loneliness, confusion, and isolation and cranked them up to eleven, then broke off the knob so the level could not be readjusted.  Because of this, I'm finding it very difficult to focus on anything else, so while I'm reading Children of Dune and enjoying it, the computing processes in my brain tasked with retrieving the sense and value and meaning of things is working overtime -- if there were a cooling fan for the part of my brain which is a CPU, it'd be whirring grotesquely -- on other matters.

Even so, something occasionally breaks through the billowing smoke in my brain, and this epigraph was one such thing.  I interpret it to mean that Herbert, via Leto, is saying that societies are heavily resistant to change, and move toward change only when pushed there by ingrained reflexes.  It is not lost on me that I am reading this novel during a time when essentially the entire world has been (be it permanently or impermanently, and I certainly hope for the latter) changed by COVID-19.  Well, I think it's certain that fear, anger, and despair have been aroused, and signs increasingly point toward the fact that many are rejecting the changes, quite possibly in a way which will eventually cause greater harm.  (Either that, or it's the inverse, and the greater harm is already being caused as a result of the changes.)

That being the case, I took Leto's summation of why the humans of this fictional universe could accept prescience to be profound.  Essentially, what Leto is arguing is that humans are hardwired to prefer the unchanging and the familiar even if news of such is inherently bad.  The fear of uncertainty is worse even than the knowledge of ruin.  This matches with certain things I've been feeling lately, which is not particularly reassuring, but certainly endears this novel to me even further.

As for the chapter itself, it's a good one in which Duncan, Alia, and Irulan discuss a number of issues, ending with Alia's computation that she is going to be the target of an assassination attempt.  Duncan has already been more or less in mentat computational mode, and sets his mind to work on this new issue.

"He knew he was not in the proper mentat calm for such an assessment, but he had to try."  [See also this blogger attempt to blog through the mental uproar he is feeling!]  "He had to be asprecise as possible.  At the same time, he knew that precise thinking contained undigested absolutes.  Nature was not precise.  The universe was not precise when reduced to his scale; it was vague and fuzzy, full of unexpected movements and changes.  Humankind as a whole had to be entered into this computation as a natural phenomenon.  And the whole process of precise analysis represented a chopping off, a remove from the ongoing current of the universe.  He had to get at that current, see it in motion."

He is successful; not in a mentat way, necessarily (he lacks the specific datum he would need for that), but in a way that "came very close to the visionary power which Paul had known."  What he learns is that it will be the twins whose lives are subject to an assassination attempt, not Alia.  He also sees direct evidence of Alia's possession, and is dismayed by that even farther than he already was.

As the trio are discussing the potential ways an attempt could be made on Alia's life and where such a plot might occur, there is some amusing talk of the idea that small animals might be employed to find her, bite her, and deliver poison into her system that way.  Somebody says, and I am paraphrasing, "Yeah, but no, the House ferrets would take care of any such animals."  "But what if the animal WAS a ferret?"  "Nah, the others would take care of an intruder."

I don't think Frank Herbert meant this stuff to be funny, but I kind of got a kick out of the idea of trained Atreides ferrets roaming the grounds of their various facilities, constantly vigilant against mice and rats and whatnot, just in case.

*****

     Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern.  The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery.  The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.

—Law and Governance
    The Spacing Guild Manual


Oof.

The bulk of this chapter is devoted to a conversation between Jessica and Javid, in which she rebuffs his attempts to get her to denounce The Preacher.

"Jessica saw the shrug, though: This is the age of the shrug.  He knows I've heard all the stories about him and he doesn't care.  Our civilization could well die of indifference within it before succumbing to external attack."

Oof.

*****

     This is the fallacy of power: ultimately it is effective only in an absolute, a limited universe.  But the basic lesson of our relativistic universe is that things change.  Any power must always meet a greater power.  Paul Muad'Dib taught this lesson to the Sardaukar on the Plains of Arrakeen.  His descendants have yet to learn the lesson for themselves.

—The Preacher at Arrakeen


This epigraph seemingly contradicts the philosophy espoused in the one from two chapters ago in which Leto spoke of reflexive resistance to change.  So, then, The Preacher speaks somewhat in opposition to Leto?

This chapter picks up where the previous one left off, with Jessica and Alia meeting supplicants.  The first is an insolent troubadour who Jessica susses out to be a part of whatever attack gambit Alia is planning to employ against her.  She parries, and does something other than what Alia wants.

The second is a Fedaykin who has come to the meeting on false pretenses which seem to throw a kink into Alia's plans; he speaks of the danger inherent in the changing face of Dune, and his pleas are interrupted by an assassination attempt against Jessica.  She survives it, and accuses Alia of trying to have her killed; she also sees direct evidence of Alia's possession (and even correctly identifies the possessor as the Baron Harkonnen).  Using an ancient Fremen language known only to the most devout which she knows will alert any other Fedaykin in the room, she rallies several warriors to her side and is able to make an escape.

I don't have much to say about it, but this is a thrilling and terrific chapter.

*****

     When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.

—Words of an ancient philosopher
    (Attributed by Harq al-Ada to
      one Louis Veuillot)                   


Apparently Louis Veuillot was a real philosopher, but whether he is responsible for this epigraph, I cannot say, because my Googling did not extend that far.  We'll assume he did.  I dig it.

The chapter involves Leto and Ghanima, who are in the desert, having given their guards the slip.  They are apparently aware of the impending attack by the Laza tigers, and have put together a plan to survive it, part of which will seemingly involve Ghanima convincing herself that Leto has died.

As the chapter closes, the tigers are running at the twins to launch their attack.

*****

     You Bene Gesserit call your activity of the Panoplia Prophetica a "Science of Religion."  Very well.  I, a seeker after another kind of scientist, find this an appropriate definition.  You do, indeed, build your own myths, but so do all societies.  You I must warn, however. You are behaving as so many other misguided scientists have behaved.  Your actions reveal that you wish to take something out of [away from] life.  It is time you were reminded of that which you so often profess: One cannot have a single thing without its opposite.

—The Preacher at Arrakeen:
    A Message to the Sisterhood


I'm kind of fascinated by that "[away from]" bit.  The Preacher's phrasing (using "out of") is somewhat antiquated and awkward, so whoever transcribed this speech included that bracketed bit so as to provide clarity; that's why it's bracketed, to represent an editorial intrusion.  But the entire thing is made up!  So the bracketed bit really exists -- this is my take on it, at least -- only to provide a little bit of extra world-building depth for the types of people who notice things like the way an editorial intrusion might be presented within a direct quotation.

Fascinating!

In this chapter, Jessica, having escaped with al-Fali and a few other Fedaykin, is holed up in a sietch waiting to be rescued by Stilgar's forces.  The death commandos are in a grim good humor: "When God hath ordained a creature to die in a particular place, He causeth that creature's wants to direct him to that place," al-Fali says.

Eventually, Duncan Idaho shows up, which is weird, because, like, isn't he married to Alia and stuff?  True enough, but Jessica trusts him and thinks he is likely part of Leto's plan, so she agrees to be "taken captive" by him, and shit's gonna go however shit's gonna go.

Finally, I wanted to mention a weird, incongruous bit that occurs.  Jessica finds herself reflecting on a story she has heard about this Red Chasm Sietch:

"The story was that this sietch had refused to profit from Muad'Dib's religion, earning the enmity of Alia's Priesthood.  The people here reportedly had put their capital into a scheme to raise dogs as large as ponies bred for intelligence as guardians of children.  The dogs had all died.  Some said it was poison and the Priests were blamed."

Okay, what the fuck now?

It's an unanswerable question, so we'll just move along and try to not dwell on how we wish there was an entire midquel novel devoted to this odd anecdote.

*****

     The universe is just there; that's the only way a Fedaykin can view it and remain the master of his senses.  The universe niehter threatens nor promises.  It holds things beyond our sway: the fall of a meteor, the eruption of a spiceblow, growing old and dying.  These are the realities of this universe and they must be faced regardless of how you feel about them.  You cannot fend off such realities with words.  They will come at you in their own wordless way and then, then you will understand what is meant by "life and death."  Understanding this, you will be filled with joy.

—Muad'Dib to his Fedaykin


I want to buy in to what Muad'Dib is saying there.  I'm with him up until the "filled with joy" part.  My experience with facing the reality of the universe has not been as he says, at least not once that part of the equation arrives.  Perhaps that means I have not yet truly faced reality.

This chapter involves Farad'n talking to Wensicia about the plans enacted for his benefit.

*****

     It is said of Muad'Dib that once when he saw a weed trying to grow between two rocks, he moved one of the rocks.  Later, when the weed was seen to be flourishing, he covered it with the remaining rock.  "That was its fate," he explained.

—The Commentaries


Whose commentaries, I wonder?

In this chapter, Leto and Ghanima survive the attack of the Laza tigers by holing up in a small cut in the rocks.  They kill the cats by using poison-tipped crysknives, and Ghani is badly -- though survivably -- wounded.  Then Leto leaves for Jacurutu, and Ghanima trains her mind to think of him as dead.  She is successful, and I love the way Herbert depicts this process as a thing that happens between sentences:

"The deep compulsions had been designed with care and, for a long time after Leto had gone, Ghanima reworked her self-awareness, building the lonely sister, the surviving twin, until it was a believable totality.  As she did this, she found the inner world becoming silent, blanked away from intrusion into her consciousness.  It was a side effect she had not expected."  [paragraph break]  "If only Leto could have lived to learn this, she thought, and she did not find the thought a paradox."

*****

     Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristocratic forms.  No government in history has been known to evade this pattern.  And as the artisocracy develops, government tends more and more to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class—whether that class be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or entrenched bureaucracy.

—Politics as Repeat Phenomenon:
    Bene Gesserit Training Manual


Yep, that epigraph passes the smell test for me.

The chapter finds Farad'n, Tyekanik, and Wensicia -- the latter of whom becomes increasingly left behind the the other two -- discussing the offer they have received from Duncan Idaho to bring Jessica as a hostage.

How do you suppose "Tyekanik" should be pronounced?  Farad'n calls him by a diminutive, Tyek, which doesn't actually help much.  "Tyke"?  "Tie-eck"?  I just don't know.  I don't much care for that name.

*****

     In this age when the means of human transport include devices which can span the deeps of space in transtime, and other devices which can carry men swiftly over virtually impassable planetary surfaces, it seems odd to think of attempting long journeys afoot.  Yet this remains a primary means of travel on Arrakis, a fact attributed partly to preference and partly to the brutal treatment which this planet reserves for anything mechanical.  In the strictures of Arrakis, human flesh remains the most durable and reliable resource for the Hajj.  Perhaps it is the implicit awareness of this fact which makes Arrakis the ultimate mirror of the soul.

—Handbook of the Hajj


As this chapter begins, Ghanima herself is journeying on foot, back to the presumed safety of Sietch Tabr.  She is enraged by the "fact" of Leto's death, but puts it aside and nurtures it.  "In this, she was pure Fremen."

"She understood what was said about Fremen.  They were not supposed to have a conscience, having lost it in a burning for revenge against those who had driven them from planet to planet in the long wandering.  That was foolishness, of course.  Only the rawest primitive had no conscience.  Fremen possessed a highly evolved consicence which centered on their own welfare as a people.  It was only to outsiders that they seemed brutish—just as outsiders appeared brutish to Fremen.  Every Fremen knew very well that he could do a brutal thing and feel no guilt.  Fremen did not feel guilt for the same things that aroused such feelings in others.  Their rituals provided a freedom from guilts which might otherwise have destroyed them.  They knew in their deepest awareness that any transgression could be ascribed, at least in part, to well recognized extenuating circumstances: 'the failure of authority,' or 'a natural bad tendency,' shared by all humans, or to 'bad luck,' which any sentient creature should be able to identify as a collision between mortal flesh and the outer chaos of the universe.  In this context Ghanima felt herself to be the pure Fremen, a carefully prepared extension of tribal brutality.  She needed only a target," and will soon have two: the tigers' handlers, one of whom she kills outright and the other of whom she captures.

*****

     In all major socializing forces you will find an underlying movement to gain and maintain power through the use of words.  From witch doctor to priest to bureaucrat it is all the same.  A governed populace must be conditioned to accept power-words as actual things, to confuse the symbolized system with the tangible universe.  In the maintenance of such a power structure, certain symbols are kept out of the reach of common understanding—symbols such as those dealing with economic manipulation or those which define the local interpretation of sanity.  Symbol-secrecy of this form leads to the development of fragmented sub-languages, each being a signal that its users are accumulating some form of power.  With this insight into a power process, our Imperial Security Force must be ever alert to the formation of sub-languages.

—Lecture to the Arrakeen War College
    by The Princess Irulan


This is a lesson likely learned by many parents whose children speak in internet lingo.

In this chapter, Jessica and Duncan are being held captive on Salusa Secundus, and Farad'n meets with them.  Jessica witnesses a growing rift between Farad'n (whom she admires as being a cunning and seemingly forthright-enough young man) and Wensicia.  A deal is struck: Jessica will teach Faradn'n the ways of the Bene Gesserit, and he will in turn consider someday marrying and mating with Ghanima.

*****

Confession time: I'm struggling with this post.  I guess I've already confessed that while I'm enjoying the reread, I'm having a hard time finding things to say, which makes it somewhat questionable as to whether I should continue forcing the issue.

The solution I've come up with is to split the post into two parts.  I'm only at slightly beyond the halfway point, so this is a logical enough place to take a pause.  And there's a secondary reason for doing so: it's only a few days until the new Stephen King book, If It Bleeds, comes out.  I'll likely want to begin that ASAP, and unless I were to devote more time to this blogging effort with Children of Dune, there's no way I'll finish in time.  So I'm going to not worry about finishing on time, and instead pause my reread in order to concentrate on the new King.

Then, once I'm done with that, I'll return to Children of Dune and finish it out, hopefully with a fresh brain and a renewed intellectual vigor.  If not, well, I'll just sling a few bulletpoints out there and we'll be done with it.  Either way, it looks as if from an actual enjoyment standpoint, things are going well; that the blogging process is not panning out as well as I'd like is too bad, but hey, so it goes.

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