Sunday, May 3, 2020

A Memory Was Not Enough: Reading "Children of Dune" (part 2)

Alrighty, picking up from Part 1, let's see if we can stay focused long enough to work our way through the second half of:


     The password was given to me by a man who died in the dungeons of Arrakeen.  You see, that is where I got this ring in the shape of a tortoise.  It was in the suk outside the city where I was hidden by the rebels.  The password?  Oh, that has been changed many times since then.  It was "Persistence."  And the countersign was "Tortoise."  It got me out of there alive.  That's why I bought this ring: a reminder.
—Tagir Mohandis: Conversations with a Friend

I assume Tagir Mohandis: Conversations with a Friend is kind of like the space-future version of Tuesdays with Morrie.  I can't remember whether Tagir Mohandis plays any sort of larger part in the narrative; some alarm in the back of my brain is saying he does, but I don't trust that alarm.  [I should have; I looked it up later and discovered that Mohandis was the saucy baliset player with whom Jessica is impressed a few chapters back when she and Alia meet with supplicants.]
Either way, I could not immediately take any sense from this epigraph.  Then it occurred to me: this was a tortoise-versus-hare reference, one so sly that I can't even be sure ol' Tagir Mohandis himself was cognizant of it.
The chapter itself picks up with Leto, who, you may recall, was thought dead (by Ghanima, albeit not by readers) when we left off.  A worm comes to the sound of his thumper and disposes of the dead Laza tigers, and Leto, who is walking away from it, uses the Fremen method of walking which removes any pattern from his steps and is therefore not noticeable by worms.  To Leto, such movement is so "deeply conditioned in him that he didn't need to think about it.  The feet moved of themselves, no measurable rhythm to their pacing.  Any sounds his feet made could be ascribed to the wind, to gravity.  No human passed here."  
I love that last sentence.  It's a nice little bit of foreshadowing.  Herbert continually finds ways to underline just how alien Leto's (and Ghani's, Paul's, etc.) thinking is to our own, and that happens during this chapter when he uses the sandworm for transportation and remembers how it was Stilgar who took him up for his first worm journey.
"Leto had only to let his memory flow and he could hear Stilgar's voice, calm and precise, full of politeness from another age."  Stilgar gives Leto the names for different speeds of wind, "And Leto, who'd already known these things, had nodded his gratitude at the wisdom of such instruction."
What a marvelous little bit of writing that is!  Herbert does not point out -- perhaps not needing to -- that not only would Leto have full recall of his own memories of this instruction, but probably also Paul's memories of equivalent teachings from Stilgar.  He might even have Chani's memories of them, and that's to say nothing of other Fremen whose memories he possesses of teachers other than Stilgar.  And yet, Leto finds it right to play his role and receive Stilgar's wisdom AS wisdom.
"Thus has Leto been reminded of knowledge which lay in his memory.  It had been an important lesson about the working of memory.  A memory was not enough, even for one whose past was as multiform as his, unless its use was known and its value revealed to judgment."
Experience is not sufficient; it is only what you make of it.
     I saw his blood and a piece of his robe which had been ripped by sharp claws.  His sister reports vividly of the tigers, the sureness of their attack.  We have questioned one of the plotters, and others are dead or in custody.  Everything points to a Corrino plot.  A Truthsayer has attested to this testimony.
—Stilgar's Report                        
    to the Landsraad Commission
Not much to contend with in this epigraph; it is conveying plot, which is unusual, but acceptable.
This chapter finds Farad'n mentally wrestling with questions about Duncan Idaho.  Why did the man try to kill himself?  Was that in fact what had happened?
"There was a sense of duration about Idaho, a feeling that he could not be worn down.  He gave the impression of being self-contained, an organized and firmly integrated whole.  The Tleilaxu tanks had set something more than human into motion.  Farad'n sensed this.  There was a self-renewing movement about the man, as though he acted in accordance with immutable laws, beginning anew at every ending.  He moved in a fixed orbit with an ednurance about him like that of a planet around a star.  He would respond to pressure without breaking—merely shifting his orbit slightly but not really changing anything basic."
And whatever his motives in cutting his wrist, "he had done it for the Atreides, for his ruling House.  The Atreides were the star of his orbit.  Somehow he believes that my holding the Lady Jessica here strengthens the Atreides.  And Farad'n reminded himself: A mentat thinks this."
Herbert is making a fairly good case for Farad'n being a highly formidable adversary, and he's also making a good case for him being a sympathetic one.  I think I remember how this turns out, and I think it pleases me.
He reviews some reports of news on Arrakis from his spies, and his mind summarizes and editorializes them as he goes:
"The traditional Fremen says: 'Look to the Massif,' meaning that the master science is the Law.  But the new social structure is loosening those old legal restrictions; discipline grows lax.  The new Fremen leaders know only their Law Cathechism of ancestry plus the history which is camouflaged in the myth structure of their songs.  People of the new communities are more volatile, more open; they quarrel more often and are less responsive to authority.  The old sietch folk are more disciplined, more inclined to group actions and they tend to work harder; they are more careful of their resources.  The old folk still believe that the orderly society is the fulfillment of the individual.  The young grow away from this belief.  Those remnants of the older culture which remain look at the young and say: 'The death wind has etched away their past.' "
From the last chapter, we know that that death wind, "the wind of the demon in the open desert," is called Hulasikali Wala, "the wind that eats flesh."  This is not the only resonance between these two chapters; Faradn's editorial summation of what he has learned syncs up pretty well with Leto's own thoughts about how "memory was not enough," "unless its use was known and its value revealed to judgment."  These concerns, of course, motivate all of Leto's actions.  Farad'n cannot and does not know that he has hit upon such a valuable set of insights; we readers do know, and are likely impressed by it.
It goes further, with Farad'n also realizing that "The religion of Muad'Dib is based firmly in the old Fremen sietch cultural tradition while the new culture moves farther and farther from those disciplines."  He wishes he could talk with Leto (whom he believes to be dead) about these things; perhaps an opportunity to discuss them with Ghanima will arise.
     Above all else, the Mentat must be a generalist, not a specialist.  It is wise to have decisions of great moment monitored by generalists.  Experts and specialists lead you quickly into chaos.  They are a source of useless nit-picking, the ferocious quibble over a comma.  The mentat-generalist, on the other hand, should bring to decision-making a healthy common sense.  He must not cut himself off from the broad sweep of what is happening in his universe.  He must remain capable of saying: "There's no real mystery about this at the moment.  This is what we want now.  It may prove wrong later, but we'll correct that when we come to it."  The mentat-generalist must understand that anything which we can identify as our universe is merely part of larger phenomena.  But the expert looks backward; he looks into the narrow standards of his own specialty.  The generalist looks outward; he looks for living principles, knowing full well that such principles change, that they develop.  It is to the characteristics of change itself that the mentat-generalist must look.  There can be no permanent catalogue of such change, no handbook or manual.  You must look at it with as few preconceptions as possible, asking yourself: "Now what is this thing doing?"
—The Mentat Handbook
Well, of course, a mentat would say that, wouldn't he?
I confess that I lack the brain power to determine how this information plays in relation to the rest of the book, and especially how it plays when confronted with Leto's philosophies; or, indeed, with the philosophies we are about to encounter in this very chapter.
Speaking of which, what we get here is another appearance by The Preacher, who visits the plaza of Alia's temple on the first day of a religious festival based on Muad'Dib.  He is observed very closely by Alia herself, who disguises herself in a hood and stillsuit and stands very close to him as he speaks.  She tries to determine whether he is, in fact, her brother.
The Preacher says many things, and does so in the memory of Leto II.  "I say to you what the dead Leto has learned, that tomorrow has not yet happened and may never happen.  This moment here is the only observable time and place for us in our universe."  (I am reminded of the Mentat Handbook, reading that what one wants in the moment may prove wrong later, but that is a matter to be dealt with later.)  "I tell you to savor this moment and understand what it teaches.  I tell you to learn that a government's growth and its death are apparent in the growth and death of its citizens."
"It will be said," The Preacher says later, "that Leto has gone where his father went, has done what his father did."  This, of course, will prove to be accurate.  I can't remember: does Paul know via his prescience that Leto is in fact still alive?  I'm guessing he does, if only as a potentiality, but my memory is uncertain.
The Preacher is challenged by one of Alia's priests who is among the crowd, who is incensed that he would challenge Muad'Dib.  The Preacher clarifies:
"I come not to challenge Muad'Dib but to challenge you!  Is your religion real when it costs you nothing and carries no risk?  Is your religion real when you fatten upon it?  Is your religion real when you commit atrocities in its name?  Whence comes your degeneration from the original revelation?"  And, later: "I give you Muad'Dib's words!  He said, 'I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid.  I don't find it strange that all you want to believe is only that which comforts you.  How else do humans invent the traps which betray us into mediocrity?  How else do we define cowardice?'  That's what Muad'Dib told you!"  He continues, "To exist is to stand out, away from the background.  You aren't thinking or really existing unless you're willing to risk even your own sanity in the judgment of your existence."
He had been grasping Alia's arm during part of this broadside, but let go of it at a certain point, thrusting her backward.  Now, he reaches forward and takes it again; gently this time.  And he pitches his voice so that only she can hear what he says next: "Stop trying to pull me once more into the background, sister."
The Preacher's sermon has concluded, and he departs.  The throng of people follows him, and Alia is left, shaken to the very core of her being:
"Certainty filled her.  It was Paul.  No doubt remained.  It was her brother.  She felt what the crowd felt.  She had stood in the scared presence and now her universe tumbled all about her.  She wanted to run after him, pleading for him to save her from herself, but she could not move.  While others pressed to follow The Preacher and his guide, she stood intoxicated with an absolute despair, a distress so deep that she could only tremble with it, unable to command her own muscles."
Alia is one of my favorite characters in the series; I sometimes forget this, but I find her struggles to be quite captivating.  She ends up being more or less a villain, and yet, I think she is largely sympathetic in the ways she is shown to be unable to break free from her behaviors.
If she had the clarity of thought to do so, she might well ask herself a question similar to the question Farad'n asked himself about Duncan Idaho in the previous chapter: why is this man doing this thing?  If The Preacher is Paul, then he, like Duncan, has Mentat training to fall back upon; and, for that matter, he likely takes whatever actions he takes so as to serve the ultimate betterment of House Atreides.  How, then, do The Preacher's actions do so?  This is something Alia must be wondering, in the back of her brain if not in the front of it.  And so her inability to move, to run after him and ask him to save her, must in some way be a recognition of the seeming fact that The Preacher serves House Atreides.
"There's no real mystery about this at the moment.  This is what we want now.  It may prove wrong later, but we'll correct that when we come to it."  Even in her current state, perhaps Alia knows this.
     The one-eyed view of our universe says you must not look far afield for problems.  Such problems may never arrive.  Instead, tend to the wolf within your fences.  The packs ranging outside may not even exist.

—The Azhar Book: Shamra I:4

I always loved that epigraph when I was a kid; not entirely sure why -- probably something to do with its punchiness.  I wouldn't have been able to quote it to you, but even with the lousy memory my sleep-deprived brain "enjoys" in these middle years, I could have told you it had to do with the wolf within ones doors, or something like that; and I was looking forward to it popping up at some point during this reread.

To commemorate the occasion, I borrowed two screencaps from, of all things, the 1967 Casino Royale, and this happened:


Tellingly, I believe I might have been misinterpreting the quotation all these years; I had always taken it as a recommendation that one tend to immediate problems before worrying about hypothetical ones.  Now, though, I'm less sure; I think we can surmise that within the universe of Frank Herbert's Dune, it is perhaps not a one-eyed view which proves to be the most useful.

Either way, I dig that quotation.

The chapter itself finds Duncan Idaho resigning from Atreides service, which Jessica, knowing they are being overheard by Corrino spies, thinks might just be for show.  But that's only a hypothetical; she can't ask, obviously.

There's a great exchange on the first page of the chapter when she asks him why he wished to speak her.  He says, "It may be that only one of us will survive."

Her answer: "And you wish me to make a good report of your efforts?"

That, my friends, is a sick burn.


Only in the realm of mathematics can you understand Muad'Dib's precise view of the future.

Alright, I'm not transcribing this entire epigraph.  It goes on for a while and is about math, and I don't truck with no mathematical content.

A few cool bits from this chapter (which involves Leto finding Jacurutu, or what he hopes is Jacurutu; wherever it is, Leto is promptly captured):

  • "There's unknown all around at every moment.  That's where you seek knowledge."  This is mentioned as being something Leto's father once said.  Yep, sounds like typical Muad'Dib, alright.
  • Leto is patiently sitting around and waiting for the rhythms of night in the desert to begin so that he can go about his business, and he finds himself mentally reciting Chaucer's route from London to Canterbury.  (As one does.)  "It gave him a sense of timeless buoyancy to know that few in his universe would recall Chaucer or know any London except the village on Gansireed.  St. Thomas was preserved in the Orange Catholic Bible and the Azhar Book, but Canterbury was gone from the memories of men, as was the planet which had known it.  There lay the burden of his memories, of all those lives which threatened to engulf him.  He had made that trip to Canterbury once."
  • After Leto is captured, his captor tells him that he needs to be educated before he ascends the throne.  "You wonder how one could presume to educate such a person as yourself?  You, with the knowledge of a multitude held there in your memories?  That's just it, you see!  You think yourself educated, but all you are is a repository of dead lives.  You don't yet have a life of your own.  You're just a walking surfeit of others, all with one goal—to see death.  Not good in a ruler, being a death seeker.  You'd strew your surroundings with corpses."  Leto has a sort of vague sense in the back of his mind as to who his captor might be.  I do, too, but cannot for the life of me remember for sure.  I think it's Gurney, but we'll have to wait and find out in a later chapter.


     We can still remember the golden days before Heisenberg, who showed humans the walls enclosing our predestined arguments.  The lives within me find this amusing.  Knowledge, you see, has no uses without purpose, but purpose is what builds enclosing walls.

—Leto Atreides II
    His Voice            

I'll confess that I can't quite get my mind to follow that epigraph.  I'm sure about one thing: it is NOT about Walter White from Breaking Bad, who wore a snappy hat and called himself Heisenberg.  No, I'm pretty sure it's about the actual Heisenberg, who, if I understand his uncertainty principle correctly (and the odds of that are even at best), postulated the notion that sometimes shit happens and fucks things up.  So even if one has done everything one thinks one needs to do to achieve a desired and intended result, some random factor one did not plan for might arise and fuck one's shit all to hell and back.

With that in mind, let me try to eat the meat from Leto's idea and get to the bone.  If Heisenberg is understood to represent ruin resulting from random and unforeseeable occurrence, and if he showed humanity the existence of boundaries which limit the ability of assumed knowledge (i.e., arguments), then Leto is scoffing at the idea that the limits of that assumed knowledge is created by the very thing which makes knowledge useful (i.e., purpose).  One cannot apply knowledge without immediately walling oneself in behind the assumptions which spring from doing so.

Or something like that.

In this brief chapter, Alia reads some guards the riot act for trying to capture The Preacher after his sermon.  They failed, of course.

Oh, and by the way, this exists:

Because I am a bad person, I have not read ANY of Herbert's non-Dune books.  I have a goodish number of them, though, and plan to do so once I'm done rereading his Dune series.  Will I report back on that here?  Sir, yes sir.


     If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments.  When you believe something is right or wrong, true or false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments.  Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

—The Open-Ended Proof            
    from The Panoplia Prophetica

Boy, these epigraphs make me feel dumber and smarter at the same time, boy.

I don't know that that's the wrong reaction, either.  It might be especially apt in the case of this epigraph-and-chapter combination, being as the chapter finds Leto being riddled by Namri, father of Javid, a desert Fremen who will kill him if he does not provide the correct responses.  Namri is not asking questions so much as he is posing concepts, and I barely Gumbied my way through the whole thing.

Leto sees Namri as a sort of human gom jabbar, one who has been placed here -- possibly by Jessica and/or the Bene Gesserit -- to determine whether he is human.  I'm not sure he's not also being tested for whether he is Fremen; I believe a man like Namri might see the two as being one and the same.  I don't think it's a test of abomination, but it's possible.

Leto answers, and Namri says, "You speak as one who recites, not one who believes."

Leto digs a bit deeper.  Namri is a bit more impressed.  "You speak like a true rebel," he says, and when he says this Herbert tells us that "he rubbed the tortoise ring on his finger."

Interesting.  In the epigraph to the first chapter we covered in this post, Tagir Mohandis -- who was earlier seen as a supplicant in Alia's court -- was also said to possess a tortoise ring.  Are we to think that Namri and Mohandis are the same person?  I don't think so; their descriptions are not similar enough to make me think so.  Are they in league somehow?  That's more of a possibility, especially since Jessica in that earlier chapter ostensibly sends him to Salusa Secundus to serve the Corrino family.  This bears keeping an eye upon.


     Because of the one-pointed Time awareness in which the conventional mind remains immersed, humans tend to think of everything in a sequential, word-oriented framework.  This mental trap produces very short-term concepts of effectiveness and consequences, a condition of constant, unplanned response to crises.

    The Arrakis Workbook

This epigraph seems to perhaps work in tandem with that from the previous chapter, which suggested that when one believes words and their hidden arguments, one opens oneself to belief in the faults which may accompany the assumptions that express the arguments.  That, in turn, takes us back to the chapter before that, which spoke of Heisenberg.

I feel like all of this likely makes sense; I've got the beast in my sights, but have yet to actually bring it down.  And actually, isn't my assumption that the words make sense potentially due only to being word-oriented?

My brain hurts.

The chapter finds Jessica beginning her Bene Gesserit training of Farad'n, whom she sets on his path by trying to instruct him in looking at his hands and making them appear older, then younger.  This will allegedly teach him patience.


     You will learn the integrated communication methods as you complete the next step in your mental education.  This is a gestalten function which will overlay data paths in your awareness, resolving complexities and masses of input from the mentat index-catalogue techniques which you already have mastered.  Your initial problem will be the breaking tensions arising from the divergent assembly of minutiae/data on specialized subjects.  Be warned.  Without mentat overlay integration, you can be immersed in the Babel Problem, which is the label we give to the omnipresent dangers of achieving wrong combinations from accurate information.

—The Mentat Handbook

Thus glazeth my eyes over.  They stayeth that way through most of this chapter, which involves Leto being administered spice essence and undergoing a trance, during which he is guided somewhat by the memory of his father.  "Time is a measure of space, just as a range-finder is a measure of space, but measuring locks us into the place we measure," reads one bit.

Plot-wise, we learn that it was indeed Gurney Halleck who captured Leto a few chapters back.


Oh, Paul, thou Muad'Dib ,
Mahdi of all men ,
Thy breath exhaled
Sent forth the huricen.

   —Songs of Muad'Dib

The pedant in me can't help but note that the first two lines of that poem do indeed have a space between the final letter and the comma which ends the line.  Is that a stylistic norm of which I have been previously unaware?

I do like "huricen," though.  That appeals to the redneck in me.

This chapter involves Ghanima -- who apparently loathes being referred to as "Ghani" (sorry!) -- being enraged by the idea that a betrothal between her and Farad'n is desired.  She hollers at Alia a bunch and then hollers at Irulan a bunch and then decides that being betrothed to Farad'n would actually be a boss way of getting close enough to him to wet her knife in his blood, so she shrugs and says okay then.

Good chapter.  There's a bit I like when Irulan enters the room; she glances at Alia "and the two female advisors who stood dejectedly beside her."  This makes me think of all the shit such advisers must see and hear when in the service of the higher-ups in the Dune-verse.  All those wheels-within-wheels-within-wheels conversations they must witness; how baffling such must seem to those on the outside of them.  These advisers are dejected because their every day at work is spent in a fog of confusion.  At one point Alia gets jabbed verbally by Ghanima and turns away from her, instead staring "at the two amazons who were pretending not to hear this argument."  I imagine a pair of dogs accused of eating seat cushions.

There's a great image at the end of the chapter in which Irulan leaves this meeting and Alia follows her.  "The guards outside and the waiting aides were sucked up in her wake like sand particles drawn into the vortex of a rising worm."  Awesome!  (Speaking of awesome, I accidentally misspelled "guards" as "gourds" and considered leaving it that way.)  Alia and anyone even remotely on her level would indeed be a force of nature, and it's easy to imagine them drawing subordinates behind them in just such a manner.

I also particularly enjoyed Ghanima -- whose name I almost just typed as "Guinan" just now (!) -- pointing out how Irulan's name is just "Ruinal" spelled differently.  Petty and childish, but at a really high level.


     Many forces sought control of the Atreides twins and, when the death of Leto was announced, this movement of plot and counterplot was amplified.  Note the relative motivations: the Sisterhood feared Alia, an adult Abomination, but still wanted those genetic characteristics carried by the Atreides.  The Church hierarchy of Auqaf and Hajj saw only the power implicit in control of Muad'Dib's heir.  CHOAM wanted a doorway to the wealth of Dune.  Farad'n and his Sardaukar sought a return to glory for House Corrino.  The Spacing Guild feared the equation Arrakis = melange; without the spice they could not navigate.  Jessica wished to repair what her disobedience to the Bene Gesserit had created.  Few thought to ask the twins what their plans might be, until it was too late.

—The Book of Kreos

That one speaks for itself, I think; pretty great.

The chapter finds Leto handling his shit post-trance, if he is indeed in a post-trance state.  My brain is not present within my skull today, so we are going to simply move on.


     There is no guilt or innocence in you.  All of that is past.  Guilt belabors the dead and I am not the Iron Hammer.  You multitude of the dead are merely people who have done certain things, and the memory of those things illuminates my path.

—Leto II to His Memory-Lives
    After Harq al-Ada                  

In this chapter, Farad'n visits Jessica in the middle of the night, having experienced a breakthrough by successfully making his hand appear to age before him.  He's managed the feat in a mere eight days, and for whatever reason, I am made grumpy by this.  I don't think I believe such a thing is possible, so it grates for me here.  I am aware that I am complaining about believability in the context of a novel about giant sandworms which create a spice that allows people to fold space.  Hello, my name is Bryant and I am a weirdo.


     Humankind periodically goes through a speedup of its affairs, thereby experiencing the race between the renewable vitality of the living and the beckoning vitiation of decadence.  In this periodic race, any pause becomes luxury.  Only then can one reflect that all is permitted; all is possible.

—The Apocrypha of Muad'Dib

"The beckoning vitiation of decadence" would be a great name for something; a punk band's debut album, maybe, or an actor's memoir.

Leto is still tripping balls in this chapter, having been given a second forced dose of melange.  He's sent into the desert with a young woman, Sabiha, accompanying him to take his life should it prove necessary.  He learns during his experience what it must have been like for Alia to succumb to Abomination, but seemingly evades the same fate.  He emerges from the trance having (or so I take it) fully integrated the inner voices into his own personality by convincing them to accept that only he can be in control.  Then he chats up Sabiha a little bit and says he's probably going to have to kill someone close to him, and they call it a day.

This is a good chapter that I did not do justice, either in the reading or in the "analysis."


     Natural selection has been described as an environment selectively screening for those who will have progeny.  Where humans are concerned, though, this is an extremely limiting viewpoint.  Reproduction by sex tends toward experiment and innovation.  It raises many questions, including the ancient one about whether environment is a selective agent after the variation occurs, or whether environment plays a pre-selective role in determining the variations which it screens.  Dune did not really answer those questions: it merely raised new questions which Leto and the Sisterhood may attempt to answer over the next five hundred generations.

—The Dune Catastrophe
    After Harq al-Ada       

Five hundred generations, eh?  That's a long-ass time.

In this chapter, which is a strong one, Ghanima has a contentious conversation with Irulan, who tells her that Farad'n has accepted her proposal.  Ghanima reiterates that that's going to mean his death, which Irulan says she will prevent if she can.  It's Ghani she's thinking of, though, and as the conversation progresses it is very clear that both of these women have a profound love for each other, though only one is willing to admit it.  Ghanima slashes at Irulan verbally by reminding her that she is the childless wife of Ghani's father, which brings Irulan to tears.  This prompts Ghanima to have to fight down "a tightness in her throat," and as the chapter closes she finds herself thinking, "Don't let me have to kill this woman."

There's also a cool bit where Ghanima says, "We Atreides go back to Agamemnon and we know what's in our blood.  Never forget that, childless wife of my father.  We Atreides have a bloody history and we're not through with the blood."

You tell her, kid.


One small bird has called thee
From a beak streaked crimson.
It cried once over Sietch Tabr
And thou went forth unto Funeral Plain.

                        —Lament for Leto II

Leto is still being held by Gurney, Namri, and Sabiha in this chapter, but is able to escape by somehow making Sabiha pass out when he touches her cheek.  He's apparently had a vision of her becoming his lover, and if I understand things correctly, this is a thing that can and will only happen if he avoid the Golden Path.  And yet, he has seen the two of them together, which for him makes it a sort of reality that will fail to actually materialize.  I think.

It may mean Sabiha is doomed:

"Presently he opened his eyes and put a hand out, touching her cheek.  He began to talk to her then, telling her about the vision in which she had lived."

Chills up the spine, boy.

That's despite the fact that prior to this, we've been treated to one of the most spectacularly unpleasant -- and yet, somehow, uproariously amusing -- images that I know of in all of fiction.  Leto is experiencing this vision, and apparently within it (not, I'm assuming, without it due to his mere nine years of physical age) he feels "an adult beefswelling in his loins."

An "adult beefswelling."  I recently rewatched The Cabin in the Woods, within which that same type of physical occurrence is referred to as a "husband bulge."  That's pretty good, but it's no "adult beefswelling."

Anyways, Leto takes his potential adult beefswelling and escapes while Sabiha is unconscious, which causes much consternation among Gurney and Namri, since there's a massive storm approaching.  These two jokers have lost Leto!


     Peace demands solutions, but we never reach living solutions; we only work toward them.  A fixed solution is, by definition, a dead solution.  The trouble with peace is that it tends to punish mistakes instead of rewarding brilliance.

—The Words of My Father:        
    an account of Muad'Dib          
    reconstructed by Harq al-Ada

In this chapter, Duncan has returned to Arrakis, apparently in advance of Jessica and Farad'n, and meets with Alia to share with her news of the Corrino heir being trained in Bene Gesserit ways.  The focus of the chapter -- or my focus upon it, at least -- is on Duncan's continued understanding that Alia is well and truly gone.

"There was no Alia here.  Alia was dead.  For a time he'd maintained a myth-Alia before his senses, someone he'd manufactured out of his own needs, but a mentat could carry on such self-deception for only a limited time.  This creature in human guise was possessed; a demon-psyche drove her.  His steely eyes with their myriad facets available at will reproduced upon his vision centers a multiplicity of myth-Alias.  But when he combined them into a single image, no Alia remained.   Her features moved to other demands.  She was a shell within which outrages had been committed."

This is a more melodramatic chapter than is typical for Herbert (and is arguably the third in a row, after the tortured affection we witness between Ghanima and Irulan, and after the forlorn yearnings of Leto for a Sabiha who will never quite manage to exist).  It works quite well, I think, ending with Duncan flying a thopter into the desert while allowing himself to cry his metal eyes out.


     This rocky shrine to the skull of a ruler grants no prayers.  It has become the grave of lamentations.  Only the wind hears the voice of this place.  The cries of night creatures and the pass wonder of two moons, all say his day has ended.  No more supplicants come.  The visitors have gone from the feast.  How bare the pathway down this mountain.

—Lines at the Shrine of an Atreides Duke

I dig that epigraph; don't have anything to say about it, particularly, but definitely dig it.

Much the same is true of the chapter proper, in which Leto survives the storm by doing an incredibly badass thing: he rides a worm straight into the face of one, and releases the creature just in time for it to burrow into the sand in evasion of the storm.  He then basically jumps into the deep hole the worm creates so that he can go far enough below the surface to withstand the storm, and inflates a stilltent which will protect him long enough to ride it out.


     There exist obvious higher-order influences in any planetary system.  This is often demonstrated by introducing terraform life onto newly discovered planets.  In all such cases, the life in similar zones develops striking similarities of adaptive form.  This form signifies much more than shape; it connotes a survival organization and a relationship of such organizations.  The himan quest for this interdependent order and our niche within it represents a profound necessity.  The quest can, however, be perverted into a conservative grip on sameness.  This has always proved deadly for the entire system.

—The Dune Catastrophe
    After Harq al-Ada       

In this brief chapter, Farad'n has completed his Bene Gesserit training with Jessica, which seems kind of short if you ask me.  However, Jessica seems to have completed her aims, as we find out in the final moments of the chapter: "Farad'n no longer was Corrino.  He was now Bene Gesserit."


     What you of the CHOAM directorate seem unable to understand is that you seldom find real loyalties in commerce.  When did you last hear of a clerk giving his life for the company?  Perhaps your deficiency rests in the false assumption that you can order men to think and cooperate.  This has been a failure of everything from religions to general staffs throughout history.  General staffs have a long record of destroying their own nations.  As to religions, I recommend a rereading of Thomas Aquinas.  As to you of CHOAM, what nonsense you believe!  Men must want to do things out of their own innermost drives.  People, not commercial organizations or chains of command, are what make great civilizations work.  Every civilization depends upon the quality of the individuals it produces.  If you over-organize humans, over-legalize them, suppress their urge to greatness—they cannot work and their civilization collapses.

—A letter to CHOAM            
    Attributed to The Preacher

The Preacher lost me with that one; it doesn't take much, I'm having trouble keeping up right now.

In this chapter, Leto digs himself out of the sand and rides another worm for a while.  He finds a band of smuggler-Fremen, to whom he speaks of a place called Shuloch.  There's a lot of talking here, frankly.  Leto verbally bests the leader of the group (Muriz), though.


     The future of prescience cannot always be locked into the the rules of the past.  The threads of existence tangle according to many unknown laws.  Prescient future insists on its own rules.  It will not conform to the ordering of the Zensunni nor to the ordering of science.  Prescience builds a relative integrity.  It demands the work of this instant, always warning that you cannot weave every thread into the fabric of the past.

—Kalima: The Words of Muad'Dib
The Shuloch Comments         

Kalima!  I will now sidestep some sort of ill-advised Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dune joke.

This is another short chapter, in which Leto goes to Shulouch with Muriz.  Shuloch, if I am not mistaken, is a place where people who are cast out from Jacurutu are exiled.  Sabiha has been sent here thanks to her failure with guarding Leto.  "Sabiha is the fate of my vision," Leto says to Muriz, who laughs at the idea of this seeming child getting with a major-league hottie like Sabiha.  "It will not be as either of you might believe," replies Leto, who gives water to the dead and tells a stunned Muriz to go and pray for Kralizec.  "I promise you it will come."

"Kralizec?  That wasn't merely war or revolution; that was the Typhoon Struggle.  It was a word from the furthermost Fremen legends: the battle at the end of the universe."

Sounds serious.


     Fremen speech implies great concision, a precise sense of expression.  It is immersed in the illusion of absolutes.  Its assumptions are a fertile ground for absolutist religions.  Furthermore, Fremen are fond of moralizing.  They confront the terrifying instability of all things with institutionalized statements.  They say: "We know there is no summa of all attainable knowledge; that is the preserve of God.  But whatever men can learn, men can contain."  Out of this knife-edged approach to the universe they carve a fantastic belief in signs and omens and in their own destiny.  This is an origin of their Kralizec legend: the war at the end of the universe.

—Bene Gesserit Prviate Reports/folio 800881

A scene between Gurney and Namri in which the latter informs the former that Leto is in a secure place.  Gurney wants to see this for himself, but Namri says it is not permitted.  Gurney becomes suspicious and provokes Namri into divulging that the plan they've been enacting is that of Alia, not Jessica; Gurney has been played.  He further provokes Namri into attacking him, and kills the Fremen man dead as dirt.  You can't get the better of Gurney Halleck, fool!


     The spirit of Muad'Dib is more than words, more than the letter of the Law which arises in hs name.  Muad'Dib must always be that inner outrage against the complacently powerful, against the charlatans and the dogmatic fanatics.  It is that inner outrage which must have its say because Muad'Dib taught us one thing above all others: that humans can endure only in a fraternity of social justice.

—The Fedaykin Compact

So that means that not only is Muad'Dib a literal social-justice warrior, but all of his Fedaykin are as well.  Good enough for me!

Leto is sitting in a hut watching Sabiha as various threads of his vision play out.  "His mind sorted the threads.  Some held a sweetness which haunted him.  One future with Sabiha carried alluring reality within his prescient awareness.  It threatened to block out all others until he followed it out to its ending agonies."

I'm not finding it terribly easy to focus on this reread.  I have lost much of reading-comprehension ability during the past few years, and often now when I sit down to read I have difficulty focusing on the words on the page.  Not physically, in the sense of my vision being poor; I mean that my brain simply will not sit still.  This often manifests in the form of some song being stuck in my head and the mental sound of it overriding the mental sound of me reading to myself.  In the real world, I've long had a hard time reading if there are other sounds (music, television, people talking, etc.) present to draw my attention away.  Now, this problem has taken root in my brain.  So I'm sitting here reading this chapter, and "Red Dragon Tattoo" by Fountains Of Wayne simply will not turn itself off; the mental radio shifts over to "Beautiful Girls" by Van Halen once in a while, but it's one of those songs or the other.  So I'll begin reading, and the mental radio kicks in, and my toes or fingers begin tapping out the beat, and then I've completely lost all sense of whatever words I'm trying to read.  So I'll tell myself to focus, and briefly I do, but half a setence goes by and the radio kicks back on.

Some days are better than others in this regard, and to some extent it does seem to be tied to individual books.  I can focus on Stephen King better than I can on Frank Herbert, for example, probably because King is less challenging than Herbert and requires less brain-power to ingest.  Put another way, King is more engaging than Herbert.  Whatever the case, these past hundred or so pages of Children of Dune have been a real struggle, and it depresses me beyond the point to which I am already depressed.

The places where my attention on Herbert's work snaps back into focus almost certainly says more about me than about the passages which catch me.  For example, all of this stuff between Leto and Sabiha focus me pretty well.  This is perhaps because cut-off potential future paths regarding romantic entanglements are very much on my mind of late.  It is a specific thing, too, tied to a specific woman I know, whom I love very much and will never be able to engage in that manner.  It has, on occasion, caused me to give water to the dead, and I am continually haunted by occasional mental visions of my own in which I briefly imagine some future which is never going to be.

Apologies for the melodrama; I mention it only because I feel like it gives me a solider-than-normal connection to Leto, who is seeing literal futures and finding them tremendously appealing only to then have to tear himself away from them because he knows they end in ruin, not merely for himself and Sabiha but for, like, everyone.  What torture this must be if you can see it so clearly that it may as well be a memory!  I've got only the mildest dose of the misery poor Leto has.  And yet it's rough enough on me that I am constantly distracted by it; when I try to sleep, it often crowds out all other thoughts, and I've taken to trying to find conscious avenues of thought that are really only advanced versions of counting sheep.  Sometimes it works; sometimes not.  Never without a struggle, though.

Sleep, of course, is what's really at the root of my reading-comprehension issues.  They are themselves a mere subset of larger brain-fucntion concerns, and those, I believe, are due to having been badly sleep deprived for probably something like fifteen years now.  I suffer from sleep apnea, and while it's treated, I think the treatment is little better than a Band-Aid.  I sleep so poorly when I am ostensibly asleep that I believe a sleep deficit has been created which is likely never to be paid back.  I think I am probably stuck this way; I can hope for it to get no worse, but actual improvement may be beyond me at this point.  I am not fully asleep when asleep; I am not fully awake when awake.

That being the case, it's not too much of a surprise that a challenging novel like Children of Dune is giving me a merry chase.  Am I reading it the same way I read it in the sixth grade?  Not really understanding much of it, but enjoying it all the same?  That's probably not too far off the mark.  I will take it, I suppose; there doesn't seem to be much choice.

Speaking of not having much choice, Leto decides upon a vision-thread to follow, and it leads to a horrific, awesome decision: he permits a number of sandtrout to attach themselves to his skin, and permits them to form a living stillsuit of sorts over his naked body.  It becomes a living second skin, and he encourages biological processes which bond this skin to him, beginning an irreversible process in which he gives up his humanity in favor of becoming some new sort of being.

This leads to an astonishing moment in which Leto is able to summon a worm and stand in front of it, holding it hypnotized and immobile.  He also develops John Carter-like superpowers, including the ability to make huge leaps, run across the sand at vast speeds, and use his limbs to do tremendous damage to flesh and stone alike.

This is probably one of the more eventful chapters in the entire Dune saga; I suppose it might seem a bit fantastical by some standards, but for me it's a definite highpoint.


     Limits of survival are set by climate, those long drifts of change which a generation may fail to notice.  And it is the extremes of climate which set the pattern.  Lonely, finite humans may observe climatic provinces, fluctuations of annual weather and, occasionally may observe such things as "This is a colder year than I've ever known."  Such things are sensible.  But humans are seldom alerted to the shifting average through a great span of years.  And it is precisely in this alterting that humans learn how to survive on any planet.  They must learn climate.

—Arrakis, the Transformation
    After Harq al-Ada                 

Three months have passed; Leto has begun destroying qanats in the desert, loosing their waters into the sand; Alia has received reports that this is happening, but has no idea how or by whom.  The Baron tries to exert influence upon her, but she puts him off somewhat.  Still, things are not going well; she's even begun to grow plump, her exterior beginning to mirror her interior.

As a man who weighs in excess of 325 pounds, I can relate; unfortunately, I am more of a Baron Harkonnen in that regard than even Alia.  I suspect that The Preacher would have harsh words for me.


     Thou didst divide the sand by the strength; Thou breakest the heads of the dragons in the desert.  Yea, I behold thee as a beast coming up from the dunes; thou hast the two horns of the lamb, but thou speakest as the dragon.

—Revised Orange Catholic Bible
    Arran II:4                                   

That "dragons in the desert" bit makes me remember that there's a Frank Herbert novel called The Dragon in the Sea.

No, I haven't read it.

In this highly consequential chapter, Leto seeks out The Preacher and meets his father for the first time.  (Well, not technically for the first time, I guess; but for the first time since he was an infant, so for the first time since he has the ability to actually speak to him.)  The Preacher is skeptical at first, hearing no childhood in the voice of the person standing before him.  "I'm small for my age as you were," replies Leto, "but my experience is ancient and my voice has learned."

Paul's guide recognizes Leto for what he may be: a demon.  Both Leto and Paul seem to know that the guide, Assan Tariq, intends to take an action against one or both of them, probably to make sure both Atreides are killed; he plans to use a shield to call and madden a worm, which will sweep over the both of them in order to destroy the sound the shield makes.

"Leto felt the dissonance between them then.  It was an element of the universe with which his entire life grappled.  Either he or his father would be forced to act soon, making a decision by that act, choosing a vision.  And his father was right: trying for some ultimate control of the universe, you only built weapons with which the universe eventually defeated you."

Leto kills Assan Tariq and flings the shield to a sufficient distance that the worm which it calls will not harm him or his father.  Paul seems to have chosen not to take the opportunity to warn Tariq; he has allied himself with his son, if only through inaction.  He also seems to know the full extent of what will result: the transformation Leto will undergo, and the unspeakable future which will result.  "Your Jihad will be a summer picnic on Caladan by comparison," Leto confirms.

But Leto's vision has been more extensive than Paul's: he knows that if this Kralizec does not occur, the human race will cease to exist.


     Fremen were the first humans to develop a conscious/unconscious symbology through which to experience the movements and relationships of their planetary system.  They were the first people anywhere to express climate in terms of a semi-mathematic language whose written symbols embody (and internalize) the external relationships.  The language itself was part of the system it described.  Its written form carried the shape of what it described.  The intimate local knowledge of what was available to support life was implicit in this development.  One can measure the extent of this language/system interaction by the fact that Fremen accepted themselves as foraging and browsing animals.

—The Story of Liet-Kynes
    by Harq al-Ada              

The plot is moving quickly now.  In this chapter, Duncan kills Javid and then provokes Stilgar into killing him.  This is to serve the greater good.


     After the Fremen, all Planetologists see life as expressions of energy and look for the overriding relationships.  In small pieces, bits and parcels which grow into general understanding, the Fremen racial wisdom is translated into a new certainty.  The thing Fremen have as a people, any people can have.  They need but develop a sense for energy relationships.  They need but observe that energy soaks up the patterns of things and builds with those patterns.

—The Arrakeen Catastrophe
    After Harq al-Ada              

In this brief chapter, Halleck visits the remnants of Esmar Tuek's band of smugglers and joins with them; he does not trust them, but needs only use them long enough to be able to get a thopter for his own use.


     Any path which narrows future possibilities may become a lethal trap.  Humans are not threading their way through a maze; they scan a vast horizon filled with unique opportunities.  The narrowing viewpoint of the maze should appeal only to creatures with their noses buried in sand.  Sexually produced uniqueness and differences are the life-protection of the spices.

—The Spacing Guild Handbook

I'm imaging what new-hire orientation at the Spacing Guild must be like.  Do they test you for your ability to swim in a tank without freaking out?  If not, is that covered in the handbook?  I'm just not sure my experiences prepare me for those.

In this chapter, Alia learns of Duncan's death at Stilgar's hands.  She is brought this news by Buer Agarves, whom her inner Baron tried to get her to seduce.  She makes a deal with Agarves: if he can capture Stilgar, she will make him the new Naib of Sietch Tabr.  Oh, and she decides to seduce him, too.

She begins weeping for Duncan, partially because of her initial inability to weep for him; and within her, a voice demands to know "Who cries?  Who is it that cries?  Who is crying now?"


     By these acts Leto II removed himself from the evolutionary succession.  He did it with a deliberate cutting action, saying: "To be independent is to be removed."  Both twins saw beyond the needs of memory as a measuring process, that is, a way of determining their distance from their human origins.  But it was left to Leto II to do the audacious thing, recognizing that a real creation is independent of its creator.  He refused to reenact the evolutionary sequence, saying: "That, too, takes me farther and farther from humanity."  He saw the implications in this: that there can be no truly closed systems in life.

—The Holy Metamorphosis
    by Harq al-Ada                 

That's an interesting notion: "a real creation is independent of its creator."  It makes me think of something else I encountered recently, something to do with fathers and sons; but the connection will not make itself apparent to me, so it's going to be stuck in my head like a half-remembered song lyric would do in the days before one could Google such things.

In this chapter, Ghanima learns that Stilgrar has accepted a parely with Buer Agarves, who is technically a cousin and therefore trustworthy.  Riiiiiiiiiiight.


     Muad'Dib was disinherited and he spoke for the disinherited of all time.  He cried out against that profound injustice which alienates the individual from that which he was taught to believe, from that which seemed to come to him as a right.

—The Mahdinate, An Analysis
    by Harq al-Ada                      

Gurney obviously was able to steal a thopter, for he's gone from the smugglers and has now somehow ended up -- seemingly due to Leto -- reunited with both Leto and Paul.  Gurney does not initially recognize Paul, whose years in the hard desert have made him appear to be even older than Halleck; but the man does eventually accept that The Preacher was once Paul, and wonders that he is still alive.  ""What is that?" Paul asks.  "Alive?"

The three of them set out for Alia's temple, where Farad'n will soon be.


     Church and State, scientific reason and faith, the individual and his community, even progess and tradition—all of these can be reconciled in the teachings of Muad'Did.  He taught us that there exist no intransigent opposites except in the beliefs of men.  Anyone can rip aside the veil of Time.  You can discover the future in the past or in your own imagination.  Doing this, you win back your consciousness in your inner being.  You know then that the universe is a coherent whole and you are indivisible from it.

—The Preacher at Arrakeen
    After Harq al-Ada              

Ghanima observes from a hiding place as Stilgar meets with Buer Agarves; she sees something untrustworthy in the man's demeanor, but cannot identify its origins.  She is subdued from behind and kidnapped.

     Muad'Dib gave us a particular kind of knowledge about prophetic insight, about the behavior which surrounds such insight and its influence upon events which are seen to be "on line."  (That is, events which are set to occur in a related system which the prophet reveals and interprets.)  As has been noted elsewhere, such insight operates as a peculiar trap for the prophet himself.  He can become the victim of what he knows—which is a relatively common human failing.  The danger is that those who predict real events may overlook the polarizing effect brought about by overindulgence in their own truth.  They tend to forget that nothing in a polarized universe can exist without its opposite being present.

—The Prescient Vision
    by Harq al-Ada        

In this short chapter, Leto convinces Paul to return with him to Arrakeen to Preach one final time.  "You will not come back to the desert, father," he says.


     The child who refuses to travel in the father's harness, this is the symbol of man's most unique capability.  "I do not have to be what my father was.  I do not have to obey my father's rules or even believe everything he believed.  It is my strength as a human that I can make my own choices of what to believe and what not to believe, of what to be and what not to be."

—Leto Atreides II                     
    The Harq al-Ada Biography

I think there is some debate to be had on the subject of the extent to which Leto actually is refusing to travel in his father's harness, as it were.

In this, the first of the final three chapters, The Preacher does indeed return to Arrakeen.  He calls out Alia by name as a blasphemy, which proves to be too much for the Priesthood; one of them kills him, and a voice from the mob screeches, "They've killed Muad'Dib!"  We are not privy to what happens after that, but in the next chapter it is said that a riot breaks out at some point (possibly not until after Alia's death).

Alia has had Jessica and Farad'n brought to her so they can observe The Preacher with her, and she also plans for Ghanima to be brought to them in full wedding attire, including a crysknife.  She knows that Ghani will slay Farad'n, which serves her purposes.  However, when Ghanima shows up, she is accompanied -- and restrained -- by Leto, who says the trigger words that unlock her memory.

Amusingly, Herbert actually has Alia holler "Seize them!"  This is a cornier moment than is typical for Dune, but it's also kind of delightful; Alia is, after all, a bit of a mustache-twirler by this point.  Leto shows off his superhuman abilities and bests Alia with ridiculous ease.  She curses him in a voice that everyone recognizes as that of the Baron Harkonnen.  Leto offers Alia a choice: a trial of possession with him as the judge, or suicide by defenestration.  Alia opts for defenstration.


     The assumption that a whole system can be made to work better through an assault on its conscious elements betrays a dangerous ignorance.  This has often been the ignorant approach of those who call themselves scientists and technologists.

—The Butlerian Jihad
    by Harq al-Ada       

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Harq al-Ada?

I wish Harbert had lives long enough to write more about the Butlerian Jihad.  I also kind of like the fact that it's this eNORmous piece of indistinct backstory.  There is, of course, a trilogy of prequel novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson which tell the entire story.  They are fun in a pulp sort of way: extraordinarily gory, not even vaguely convincing as something of which Frank would have approved, and ultimately no more legitimate than slightly-above-average fan-fiction.  That's all true of most of those spinoff novels, which are sloppy, poorly-written, and pale reflections of the originals; but nevertheless occasionally diverting.  Not sure if I'll ever cover them here; it's a possibility, but spending the time to revisit them for the purposes of doing so is unappealing.  Even if I do, it won't be in any detail; probably I'd cover them all in a single post.

This chapter picks up several weeks after the last one ended.  We know that Farad'n has received stories of "bitter fighting beyond the Shield Wall," and we also find out that the fighting has spilled off-planet.  Apparently, things are getting pretty rough out there.  They're likely to get rougher.

Ghanima in this chapter talk to Farad'n for a while and tells him about how Leto goes into the desert to run in an attempt to tire himself out.  What we hear from her is horrifying in the loneliness it implies: "He's Kralizec embodied.  No wind ever ran as he runs.  He's a blur atop the dunes.  I've seen him.  He runs and runs.  And when he has exhausted himself at last, he returns and rests his head in my lap.  'Ask our mother within to find a way for me to die,' he pleads."

Kull wahad!  That is brutal.

"Think of all those lives, cousin," she says.  "No.  You can't imagine what that is because you've no experience of it.  But I know.  I can imagine his pain.  He gives more than anyone ever gave before.  Our father walked into the desert trying to escape it.  Alia became Abomination in fear of it.  Our grandmother has only the blurred infancy of this condition, yet must use every Bene Gesserit wile to live with it—which is what Reverend Mother training amounts to anyway.  But Leto!  He's all alone, never to be duplicated."

Jessica, Stilgar, and Tyekanik show up and they all talk about the Golden Path for a bit.  Stilgar does NOT like the sound of it, for he fears that it will be the death of the Fremen.  Ghanima rebuts this, says that the Fremen -- and the Sardaukar -- will have plenty of work to do "to remove the occasional dissatisfaction."  Otherwise, what comes will be a peace that will "endure and endure and endure.  Memory of war will all but vanish.  Leto will lead humankind through that garden for at least four thousand years."

She says, "He'll lead humans through the cult of death into the free air of exuberant life!  He speaks of death because that's necessary, Stil.  It's a tension by which the living know they're alive.  When his Empire falls . . .  Oh, yes, it'll fall.  You think this is Kralizec now, but Kralizec is yet to come.  And when it comes, humans will have renewed their memory of what it's like to be alive.  The memory will persist as long as there's a single human living.  We'll go through the crucible once more, Stil.  And we'll come out of it.  We always arise from our own ashes.  Always."

Stilgar has another concern.  "No more worms," he frets.  But Ghanima says that they while they will all be dead within two hundred years, they'll eventually come back.

"The worms will return after my brother goes into the sand," she says.

Boom, end of chapter; chills up spine.


     As with so many other religions, Muad'Dib's Golden Elixir of Life degenerated into external wizardry.  Its mystical signs became mere symbols for deeper psychological processes, and those processes, of course, ran wild.  What they needed was a living god, and they didn't have one, a situation which Muad'Dib's son has corrected.

—Saying attributed to Lu Tung-pin
(Lu, The Guest of the Cavern)     

In the final chapter, Leto sits on the Lion Throne and accepts homage from the tribe Naibs.  Beside him sits a canopic jar containing the water of Muad'Dib.  Stilgar is the final of them to approach, and he wonders at the inscription on the jar: "This water is the ultimate essence, a source of outward streaming creativity.  Though motionless, this water is the means of all movement."

We also find out that Leto has appointed Farad'n to the position of Royal Scribe, a job which kind of runs in the Corrino family.  (And hey, how come we never find out what happened to Irulan?  Last we hear, she was in the dungeons along with Stilgar as a result of Alia.  I assume she was released with him, but I'd feel better if I knew it.  She's one of my favorite characters in the series!  I just worry, is all.)  Leto gives him a new name: Harq al-Ada, which means "Breaking of the Habit."  Leto expects Farad'n to defy him at evey turn; it is literally his job.  (This makes a consideration of the many epigraphs penned by Harq al-Ada somewhat interesting, eh?)

He also confides in Farad'n that when Jessica asked if he was Abomination and he answered in the negative, that was a treachery: he did not escpe Abomination, as Ghanima did.

"I was forced to balance the inner lives under the pressure of excessive melange.  I had to seek the active cooperation of those aroused lives within me.  Doing this, I avoided the most malignant and chose a dominant helper thrust upon me by the inner awareness which was my father.  I am not, in truth, my father or this helper.  Then again, I am not the Second Leto."  "I'm a community dominated by one who was ancient and surpassingly powerful.  He fathered a dynasty which endured for three thousand of our years.  His name was Harum and, until his line trailed out in the congenital weaknesses and superstitions of a descendant, his subjects lived in a rhythmic sublimity.  They moved unconsciously with the changes of the seasons.  They bred individuals who tended to be short-lived, superstitious, and easily led by a god-king.  Taken as a whole, they were a powerful people.  Their survival as a species became habit."

This is the universe Leto intends to create, and it syncs with a lesson he learned on Dune: "We kept the presence of death a dominant specter among the living here.  By that presence, the dead changed the living.  The people of such a society sink down into their bellies.  But when the time comes for the opposite, when they arise, they are great and beautiful."  "Harum is cruel and autocratic.  I partake of his cruelty.  Mark me well: I have the cruelty of the husbandman, and the human universe is my farm."

What do we make of all this business about Harum?  I've seen it argued that a few pages before the end of the novel is way too late to introduce a major element like that, but Harum has indeed been mentioned a couple of times:

  • In the chapter with an epigraph beginning "You will learn the integrated communication methods," we are told that while he is suffused with spice essence, "the past presented him with an ultimate ancestor—one who was called Harum and without whom the distant future would not be."
  • In the chapter with an epigraph beginning "Humankind periodically goes through a speedup," he's been given yet another dose of spice, and he is pretty much on the verge of freaking right the fuck out.  "He thought that he might be losing the inner command, falling at last into Abomination.  Leto felt his body twisting in terror.  He had come to depend upon his victory and the newly won benevolent cooperation of those memories.  They had turned against him, all of them
    If I can be of any help with step one, directly or indirectly, I'm always an email or phone call away. Or a road trip.even royal Harum whom he'd trusted."  All of what comes after this in that chapter is worth revisiting; it's one that I knew I had not done justice do when I covered -- "covered" -- it earlier.  I'm not going to get into it any further here, but I encourage you to check it out for yourself.
So I'd argue that the presence of Harum in the narrative doesn't come out of nowhere; it's there, but the process by which Leto integrates him is so dense and mystifying that I'm not sure it's possible to understand on a single read; maybe even a second or third.  Well, I'm sure it IS possible for some readers; just not for readers who, like me, are a bit slower on the uptake.  For my money, though, this stuff does all hang together.  
I do wish I had a bit more information about Harum though.  I take him to be a figure from ancient Egypt -- Leto's reign-to-be is referred to as a pharaonic empire -- but cannot say for certain.  And my assumption is that Harum is, to us in our actual reality, a hypothetical leader who established the very notions of dynasty, perhaps even of civilization itself.  I'm basing that on little more than instinct, but it seems possible to think that Leto's genetic memory would go back to a time well before recorded history, and that he could and would draw for power and stability upon the memories of someone whose philosophies were transformative enough that they resulted in a broadening and refining of the notion of what it meant to be human.  I'm inferring every bit of that, and it's a lot to infer.  I do kind of wish Herbert had given us more.
At the same time, the idea that Leto has reached so far into the past that he's swimming in waters which existed well before our own real-life recorded history is a compelling notion.  It offers -- potentially, if this is indeed what he was going for -- Herbert the ability to speculate as to some of the forces which moved human history into a path where history itself was possible in the first place.  For us in any actual sense, such a thing will forever remain mysterious; so it is therefore appropriate that Herbert not try to give us any literal stories about such a time -- that sort of thing could only ever be bunk.  But for Leto to know of them and to know that they sprung in some way from a man named Harum...?  Okay, that gets by, I think.
It also helps to re-emphasize yet again just how incredibly alien Leto is.  Even before he fused with a mess of sandtrout, this kid was a being of another type entirely.
We should also talk about the rest of his conversation with Farad'n, for whom he has news: Farad'n will never marry Ghanima, because Leto himself is going to marry Ghani.  Not like that, though; it will be purely a political marriage, and they will have no physical union.  Nope, the mating will be all for Farad'n, provided that the children who result from it are referred to as Atreides heirs, not Corrino heirs.  Farad'n will have descendants; but the universe will know them to be Leto's.  "As my mother was not wife, you will not be husband," says the Emperor to his scribe.  "But perhaps there will be love, and that will be enough."
Leto also has a warning for Farad'n:
"Leto stepped down then to Ghanima's level, moved her gently until she faced away from him, turned and placed his back against hers.  'Note this, cousin Harq al-Ada.  This is the way it will always be with us.  We'll stand thus when we are married.  Back to back, each looking outward from the other to protect the one thing which we have always been.'  He turned, looked mockingly at Farad'n, lowered his voice: 'Remember that, cousin, when you're face to face with my Ghanima.  Remember that when you whisper of love and soft things, when you are most tempted by the habits of my peace and my contentment.  Your back will remain exposed.' "
Leto strides out of the hall, and Ghanima is left looking into the wake of his departure.  She takes her betrothed's hand, and says, "One of us had to escape the agony, and he was always the stronger."
Killer.  Absolutely killer; ol' Frank Herbert knew how to end a novel, boy.
And with that, our exploration of Children of Dune is done, at least for now.  It's a certainty I'll come back to this book -- to these books -- someday.  I feel as if I barely scratched the surface; I feel as if these two posts I wrote about the novel are really little more than notes to some hypothetical future version of myself, saying, "Here are some things for you to keep in mind when you sit down to really tackle this book."
I can live with that.
For now, what I'll say is that while certain aspects of this novel are dry and dense and perhaps unsatisfying, Herbert packs such a punch when he decides to truly deliver one that such complaints kind of fade into irrelevance for me.  And anyways, I think all of the dry/dense bits are probably illuminating and compelling provided one can get on par with them, a thing I do not feel I did successfully very often in this reread.  
What I'm left with is a tremendous sense of tragedy for Leto, who perhaps emerges here as the grandest of all the characters in the series.  Leto is a child who never was able to grow to adulthood; an adult  -- a multitude of adults -- who never was able to be a child.  He takes the only course of action he can bear to take, and wishes agonizingly that there could be another; and, worst of all, he will have to endure the horrors and the loneliness of this decision for literally thousands of years.
Leto is perhaps one of the most tragic figures in all of fiction.  He is an astonishing achievement, and so is Children of Dune.
I can't resist a small tease of the next novel in the series, God Emperor of Dune.  I'll get there by first mentioning that I read Dune for the first time during early 1985, during my fifth-grade spring semester, after the movie came out and I was unable to go see it.  I read the book instead, and was all of ten years old.  This was my first adult-level book, and I am convinced that it not only taught me to read as an adult, but to think as an adult.  (To the extent I ever learned!  I'm not exactly an intellectual powerhouse.  And yet, I suspect I would never have reached even this level of smarts without the Dune novels pushing me forward.)
I cannot recall with any certainty when I read Dune Messiah and/or Children of Dune, but I think it would have been during the summer between fifth and sixth grades -- 1985, when I was eleven.
I know it cannot have been any later than that because I can distinctly remember wanting to read the next book, God Emperor of Dune, after.  And my keenest memory of it is of toting it to school with me during the fall semester of my sixth-grade year.  I took it every day, and would start to read it, only for my eyes to glaze over.  I absolutely could not penetrate that novel.  The cover of it absolutely fascinated me, and I would look at it longingly, dreaming of what the novel must be like.  But while I had eventually been able to power my way through Dune and the first two sequels and come to enough of an understanding -- or, perhaps (I suspect), an illusion of understanding -- to dervie substantial enjoyment from them, God Emperor remained closed to me.
And in fact, I never did finish it, at least not then.  I say "finish"; shit, man, that sixth grader never even properly began reading that book.  I did not successfully read God Emperor of Dune until sometime, I think, in 2000.  I could not make heads nor tails of it; I read every page, but bounced right off of each one.  I reread it a year or two later via audiobook and got much the same result.  (Same results in all cases with the next and final two books, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune.)  I revisited those audiobooks again circa 2010 and got a bit more out of them, but still not quite enough to feel as if I'd mastered the final half of the series.
I say all that so as to issue a guarantease: sometime in 2021, I will be returning to God Emperor of Dune.  Once and for all, I plan to determine whether I have failed as a reader with those novels, or whether they are failures in and of themselves.  2021 will be my year for suduing God Emperor of Dune, one way or another.  Presumably, Heretics and Chapterhouse will follow, either in subsequent years or, if I should feel emboldened enough to work through them in sequence, hot on the heels of God Emperor.
Hopefully that Golden Path will yield golden results.

No comments:

Post a Comment