Reading Frank Herbert’s Dune makes me want to go to the desert. I’m not sure if the harsh conditions on Arrakis should inspire such feelings, but they’re present nonetheless. Maybe it’s because visiting the Mojave isn’t as dangerous—no sandworms, no stillsuits, no Harkonnens. We encountered plenty of all three in the latest reading assignment. It was a long one, so let’s get to it.
Paul and Jessica are on the run, Baron Harkonnen thinks everything is going just as he planned, and Thufir Hawat blames Jessica for the betrayal of House Atreides. Oh, and the Imperial Planetologist Kynes is also the Fremen leader Liet. That’s the tl;dr version of the 80 or so pages we read for this week. But, there is oh so much nuance to take apart.
Herbert continues to weave a complex narrative that completely engrosses me—and not just because of the quality of the story but because I have to pay attention. It’s a delight to read a book you can’t get away with skimming. If you don’t carefully read each paragraph, you’ll miss something and it’s rare that books are like that (cut to me shaking my cane in the air).
The majority of the opening of “Book Two: Muad’Dib” focuses on Paul and his changing relationship with Jessica. It’s a necessity because he’s becoming more than human. However, there are lines that rankle me a little, such as Jessica thinking, “she now lived in her son’s orbit.” I don’t like seeing him in a position above her, but at the same time I recognize this was her goal and the goal of the Bene Gesserit. Beyond the mere fact that Paul is evolving to a place beyond her, he still needs her help and wisdom. The last page brought Jessica essentially telling Paul to shut up and listen to a lesson. She’s still his mother, and he still obeys—even if he does so begrudgingly.
One particular point that resonated with me was when Paul wrestled with being in the present versus relying on prescient memory. It was an important lesson for him to learn that being able to see the future doesn’t automatically mean one is prepared for every situation. Slipping into a state where only prescient knowledge guides you is to walk a dangerous path. I think there are always unexpected factors, and even with Paul’s extreme skills, unknowns are present—assuming they aren’t is to be ignorant and careless.
We also saw more of why Baron Harkonnen is a formidable threat. Because of his missteps, it’s tempting to see him as weak or silly. He’s calculating though. His plans may not always work out the way he intends them to, but his lethal intentions make up for errors. He’s determined to get what he wants, regardless of who’s in the way. He is willing to take extreme risks in order to get to his end goal, and those are sometimes the scariest people.
- “To accept it would require awakening fully into the terrible necessities of Arrakis where they must guard even fractional traces of moisture…”
- “The vision of time is broad, but when you pass through it, time becomes a narrow door.”
- “There’s steel in this man that no one has taken the temper out of of… and we’ve need of steel.”
- “What do you despise? By this are you truly known.”
- What do you despise?
- Hawat and the Atreides men don’t seem to understand Fremen traditions and the value of water, but we’ve seen others from Caladan get it. Why do you think they’re slow to come around?
- Do you think Baron Harkonnen will be able to convince Hawat to work for him?
- Do you have any theories about Kynes’s purpose and dual identity?
“Weapon of Choice” — Now that we’ve been introduced to the concept of how you can walk without a steady rhythm to avoid attracting sandworms, please enjoy Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice.” It wins because it features a dancing Christopher Walken and this line, “Walk out rhythm, it won’t attract the worm.” Really, I could have stopped after saying dancing Christopher Walken.
Guys. I don’t want to put Dune down. I’m always a little disappointed when I get to the final page of the week’s assignment and have to stop reading—I want to read ahead but I’m worried I’ll get confused about where I am and accidentally spoil something. I’m impressed I still feel so strongly about this story and these characters after reading the book a few times. Of course, my abysmal memory means many points are still surprises but still. I’m both horrified and intrigued by what Paul is becoming. And I’m in complete admiration of the way Herbert layers in the plans within plans within plans throughout the story–it’s terribly intricate.
What are your thoughts? Who do you trust? Do you think Jessica will survive? Go to the comments (scroll without rhythm!) and let me know what you’re thinking about Dune, answer discussion questions if you want, or share your favorite quotes. Please let me know if you’ve been motivated to memorize the Litany Against Fear.
Come back next week, on August 10, to discuss pages 411-479!
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