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Nerdist Book Club: DUNE, Part 7

Nerdist Book Club: DUNE, Part 7

Frank Herbert’s Dune emphasizes the hardships of survival on the desert planet of Arrakis, but at the same time, Herbert continually points out the possibilities. It is a place where you’ll die if you don’t walk properly on the sand, or adjust your stillsuit just so, or take one of many other tiny missteps. Arrakis seems to actively and aggressively seek out the weak and eliminate them. However, the seeds for transformation and the hope for a different world are there, and those positives are presented just as strongly as the negatives. The future as seen by Liet-Kynes was a highlight of the most recent chapters.

What happened

Let’s start with Liet-Kynes. His near death visions were the first part of the book that read as clunky to me. He was delirious, and the hallucinations he had of his father as he stumbled through the desert were a convenient way to explain what Kynes has really been doing as planetologist. The lessons from his father were enlightening, to be sure, and laid down a foundation that will surely come in handy later, but it was delivered in an information dump sort of way. Kyne’s mumblings also gave us confirmation that the sandworms have a direct connection to the spice and revealed more subtle tidbits about Fremen culture.

Even more about the Fremen were explained later as Paul and Jessica encountered them for the first time–for the first time in the desert, anyway. The descriptions of Paul and Jessica’s journey across the dunes and that initial meeting contain so much striking imagery. Herbert really flexed his muscles here and made the desert vivid and real. He does so without being overly flowery, too. The physical landscape has to be more than merely described in Dune. It must be alive and contribute to the story. And it is and does. Arrakis is a being all its own, and Herbert’s words help you appreciate the planet in that way.

Stilgar by Randall

And back to the Fremen. The run-in with Stilgar is loaded with secondary information. Jessica and Paul unpack layers of politics and hierarchy in seconds, and the discourse between the three of them–well, mostly Jessica and Stilgar–goes beyond the superficial meaning of the words exchanged. They say things with more than one meaning, and they constantly adjust and reply at a lightning pace. Their brains fire quickly to avoid disaster.

The Missionaria Protectiva’s work on Arrakis undoubtedly contributed to saving Paul and Jessica’s skins, but there were other factors at work. I’m impressed by how many points had to come together in order for the mother and son to survive. There was the prophecy, there was Kynes’s note to the Fremen about Paul, and there was Jessica being a Bene Gesserit and being capable. Jessica was more at risk of being killed than Paul, but I feel like failure at any juncture was a threat to them both. The Fremen don’t allow for an inch of error, and given how careful they must be simply to survive, I can’t blame them.

Favorite quotes

“And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life—we went soft, we lost our edge.”

“One does not risk everything to settle a score prematurely.”

“Out here, woman, we carry no paper for contracts. We make no evening promises to be broken at dawn. When a man says a thing, that’s the contract.”

Discussion questions

– What do you think the relationship is between the sandworms and the spice?
– Do you think Jessica and Paul made the right decision to trust Stilgar? Do you think they had a choice?
– Have your feelings about the Missionaria Protectiva changed now that their work is basically ensuring Paul and Jessica’s survival?
– Given the parts of this world that seem sophisticated as far as tech, are you surprised that there aren’t computers or similar devices for the purpose of information storage and distribution?

Bonus material

Dune tattoo – Gorgeous Dune-themed tattoo with the blue on blue eye of someone who consumes spice and a sandworm. This beauty was inked by Andrey “Grimmy3D” Barkov.

We’re more than halfway through Dune, but the story has shifted significantly. The scope is still grand—even when we’re focused on a character or two, it’s all about Arrakis and its dangers and future—but we’re seeing the big picture through a smaller lens. Right now, that lens has focused on the Fremen. The latest section is the most we’ve read about their culture so far, and it’s coming at just the right time. We’ve come across certain Fremen before and also know how they’re underestimated by nobles like Harkonnen, and now we’re beginning to see how they measure up. My early assessment is that Harkonnen and the Emperor have no idea what’s in store for them.

What do you think about the Fremen? Jump to the comments and let me know your thoughts on the latest reading assignment. You can answer the discussion questions or just tell me what you liked and disliked. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter, too!

Come back next week, on August 17, to discuss pages 480-550! We only have five more discussions left. To those of you still reading along, you rock.

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