Dune Club notes, part 2

Continuing from part 1 of the Dune Book Club, run by Comic Book Girl 19.


Pages 60-105.

Notes before the Twitch Stream

So I must admit, I had seen the David Lynch Dune film well before ever reading the novel. I sort of grew up with that film in the same way I grew up with The Terminator, King Kong, The Dark Crystal, The Beastmaster, and Aliens (I had a great childhood, film-wise). So when I first read the novel, it surprised me to see that the book reveals quickly that Dr. Wellington Yueh is a traitor to the Atreides, pretty much spoils that he succeeds in betraying them before the event occurs via the quotes made by Princess Irulan at the start of a few chapters, thereby cutting the mystery and paranoia aspect of wondering who within the Atreides house is a traitor. However, what works in film doesn’t necessarily work in books. Of course, there is a chance it probably could’ve worked (I need to rewatch the Sci-Fi miniseries to determine if that show did it in that style; oh, not that much of a fan of the miniseries, for the record), but the intentions become clear as to why Herbert did it in this way. Because this novel isn’t meant to be raise tension by making the reader paranoid about everyone’s intentions. Ok, maybe it does, but there’s so much of it going on that the way David Lynch opted to pace the film with Yueh would’ve bogged the novel down unnecessarily, where we’re already trying to keep up with all the little subplots and character motivations which are bound to be brought up much more often and in a much clearer way than a 2+ hour film could ever hope to achieve.

By revealing he’s the traitor right away, the reader is left asking, “Why?” when it first comes up, especially when we see he’s not an evil bastard like the Harkonnen’s. Quite the contrary, he’s an individual who loves those in the House Atreides, and doesn’t want to betray them. But his love for his wife Wanna, a Bene Gesserit herself, has poisoned him so much that he is willing to do anything, even if his hopes of seeing her alive again at the end of all this are bleak at best, to try and get her back. Because the Harkonnen’s last had her, and her fate after they captured/imprisoned her is unknown to Yueh, or to the reader (at this point).

Love is a double edged sword. On the one side, it is a fantastic experience, a supreme feeling of euphoria, having a significant other who completes you, making you wonder how you could live without them prior to ever meeting them, and forcing you to consider if you could ever keep on living without them. And that leads to the other side, where it can corrupt you and drive you made. Like a drug. Once you have been with it for so long, or even for a short while, you will do anything to maintain it. It depends on your control over your emotions.

Anyway, on another note, an interesting technological advancement tidbit gets brought up on page 63, a small minibook that fits in the palm of your hand.

Or if your entire hand if its that small.

At first I thought Frank Herbert was showing signs of underestimating the future, or if his mind wasn’t quite fully able to comprehend how advanced we could possibly get (in all fairness, that would be a miraculous feat for anyone to theorize prior to the Internet and WiFi), thinking that the future would have mini-books that small, with magnetic pages and a built-in magnifying glass, with an electric lock. Granted, it saves space, but isn’t that what tablets and e-books are for? But quickly after it’s introduced:

Page 63:

It’s a very old Orange Catholic Bible made for space travelers. Not a filmbook, but actually printed on filament paper.

Ahah! So “filmbooks” exist, which I imagine are pretty much the equivalent to some device that stores e-books and such. So even for this time period, minibooks that small are outdated. But they’re important as well, considering their historical significance, and how their old-fashioned state is every bit as informative now as it was back then. I suppose this is a message that actual physical books that you hold in your hand will always be able to serve a purpose, even if there’s supposedly more convenient ways of achieving the same thing. Much like board games. Sure you could play digital versions of the same thing, but something is lost when you can no longer touch the pieces, hold the cards, roll the dice, play face-to-face with someone else. With that in mind, it’s worth tracking down and playing the old 1979 Avalon Hill Dune board game, which is still as awesome today as it was back then if you can get a total of 6 players playing it.

So good that even today players are making print-and-play copies of this classic, with revised artwork.

I picked up in last week’s discussion, and in the Afterward I read in the novel, that Paul would later to be shown to be a flawed leader, elements of which are hinted at in this book. I believe I may have picked up on one of these elements on page 64 where Paul and Yueh are talking.

Page 64:

I must catch his mind as well as his cupidity.

Cupidity: extreme greed, especially for wealth.

I have yet to see this trait demonstrated in Paul Atreides, but it’s something to keep an eye out for. Because if the Atreides doctor believes that Paul possesses cupidity, then someone like him must have good reason for it, some psychological evaluation that occurred earlier on, likely before the events in the book.

“From water does all life begin.” – Kalima, Orange Catholic Bible

“Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us?” – Orange Catholic Bible

The above quote is mentioned by Yueh to be his wife Wanna’s favorite passage. I imagine this is also likely to be Comic Book Girl 19’s favorite passage. I mean, come on, a chick who gets high every now and then on pot or LSD, for the sake of gaining a higher awareness, a higher state of being, and is encouraging readers to do the same except by reading instead of taking drugs. Madam, I shall do both! During the next reading section! After all, I accomplished the same thing one night after eating an edible (I don’t smoke the stuff) when watching the mediocre Key and Peel film Keanu. When that cat appeared, the secrets of the afterlife opened up to me. Maybe the Egyptians were onto something.

Page 65:

It has much historical truth in it as well as good ethical philosophy.

Back to the Orange Catholic Bible for a moment. Like just about every religious book, there are many bits of wisdom to be gained from it; even if you don’t follow the religion and/or find faults with it, there tends to be bits of wisdom to carry with you in your life. I used to be Christian, no longer, but the Bible is chock full of great sayings and life-altering words, especially in the book of Proverbs. Likewise for the Tao Te Ching, the Koran, books on Buddhism, etc. It’s a belief of mine that no single religion holds all the answers, but those who started the religion and/or wrote the books the religion is based on had pieces of a grander picture. Worth having some of those pieces for the long run. Hell, for all we know, Dune can be considered a religious book, even if it pulls from elements of other religions. As does Star Wars (episodes IV and V anyway). Elements of wisdom, philosophy, theology, and ethics are everywhere, and inspire everything around them.

Page 65:

Paul looked down at the tiny book in his palm–such a small thing. Yet, it contained a mystery … something had happened while he read from it. He had felt something stir his terrible purpose.

So, Wanna’s favorite line, of what senses we lack to perceive all that is around us, stirs a terrible purpose within Paul. I sense that this foreshadows that he will drink the water of life, as all Bene Gesserits do who wish to become Reverend Mothers. To gain perception, to look down the avenues of the past, to see not just feminine avenues but masculine avenues. To gain a heightened sense of awareness via the taking of a drug that will change you forever. To see where Truthsayers and previous Reverend Mothers have not seen, and are terrified to see. Brought up on page 19 of last week’s readings.

Still trying to picture this guy with purple lips.

Page 67:

The Duke forced himself to the casual gesture, sat down on a corner of the table, smiled. A whole pattern of conversation welled up in his mind–the kind of thing he might use to dispel the vapors in his men before a battle. The pattern froze before it could be vocalized, confronted by the single thought:
This is my son.

Duke Leto Atreides, so involved with the lifestyle of a politician on a daily basis, he struggles even to treat his son as just a son and not some other individual who is not family. A man who wishes to live a normal life, to care for his lover (not wife) Jessica, to be with his son more, but cannot due to his responsibilities.

What is also interesting is how Paul begins to notice that Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam did something to him, with what I assume is the power of the voice, a lingering effect attempting to force him not to reveal certain information to his father. The Bene Gesserit have determined that his fate is sealed, have already planned for the future accordingly, and do not wish to see that plan change, such as when Jessica forced them to change their plans when she gave birth to a boy rather than a girl.

How to get out of this post-hypnotic state? How to free oneself from that? Then again, what consequences would befall everyone if the Duke were to have more knowledge of this? Would that inevitably make things better or worse? The Bene Gesserit are not evil, but they are not wholly good either. They are just like anyone else, only more tactful and influential than your average person, than your average female.

“The truth could be worse than he imagines, but even dangerous facts are valuable if you’ve been trained to deal with them.” – Duke Leto Atreides

Page 69:

Think how they’d react if I were responsible for a serious reduction in their income. After all, one’s own profits come first.

Leto’s words of knowledge to Paul, considering the main reason the Baron Harkonnen and the Emperor would have the Atreides be responsible for Arrakis. With the intent of seeing them fail. How ironic it is then that Paul Atreides would cause both the Harkonnens and the Emperor to suffer this very fate by the end of the book.

Knowing where the trap is–that’s the first step in evading it. This is like single combat, Son, only on a larger scale–a feint within a feint within a feint … seemingly without end. – Duke Leto Atreides

On page 70-1, the prison planet Salusa Secundus is brought up again after being mentioned briefly in last week’s reading. It is indicated that this planet, in its harsh environment, is also used as a place of training for the Sardaukar, fanatical militants loyal to the Emperor. Raised in a harsh environment to become as renown and feared as they are, only rivaled by the Fremen who are also raised in a harsh environment on Dune with the storms, sandworms, and lack of water. The Emperor plans to use the Sardaukar disguised as Harkonnen’s to disrupt the Atreides on Arrakis to help see them fail, so that the blame will fall on the Harkonnen’s while the Emperor stays clean from the affair on a public level.

A brief mention of the Guildsman being mutated. I don’t believe we ever get a description of them in this book, because that’s classified, but the Lynch film and the miniseries have their own take on the subject:

And then comes the biggest thing I don’t remember from my initial read of the book long ago:

Page 74:

Your mother wanted me to be the one to tell you, Son. You see, you may have Mentat capabilities.

So Paul is capable of being a human computer. I wonder if Feid, the Harkonnen, has the same trait, since the Baron seemed so interested in teaching Feid about the Mentat. However, Feid seemed disinterested in the section we’ve read of him so far. He’s capable, but too disinterested to utilize such potential. But I could be wrong. It’s possible that Paul has this capability and Feid does not.

Page 75

Perhaps being a Mentat is terrible purpose, he thought.
But even as he focused on this thought, his new awareness denied it.

I’m hoping Comic Book Girl 19 dives into this aspect, because I’m sure there’s more to be read into this particular section than I’m currently doing. Guess I’ll just simply quote this and ask, “What do you read into this?” That’s assuming she answers, considering she gets bombarded with dozens of questions every minute. Currently, I think this just means Paul is afraid of the powers to be gained through this knowledge, this newfound ability, but his awareness has pros to outweigh the cons.

anachronism: a person or thing which seems to belong to a different (period of) time.

Anachronism, a word to describe the place the Atreides reside in once they reach Arrakis. Arakeen, an old fashioned place, much like the book Yueh gave to Paul.

Page 77:

The name, Arakeen, had a good sound, filled with tradition.

I wonder, what are the origins of this word? I mean in the sense of how Frank Herbert came up with it?

Pages 77-8, a bull’s head with blood on its horns and a picture (painting?) of Duke Leto’s father. Leto’s father, a matador, was killed by a bull. And they keep his image across from the bull head. I’m curious as to the metaphorical aspects of this. Does the bull represent the Harkonnens? A reminder of how deadly the political game is to the Atreides? In any case, Jessica dislikes the image of Leto’s father, for reasons that become more clear later on. Personally, I think it’s foreshadowing to how Leto will lose his life, and Jessica could be aware of it. But that’s not all there is to it.

Page 79:

And he realized there was no single and precise thing that brought her beauty to focus. The face was oval under a cap of hair the color of polished bronze. Her eyes were set wide, as green and clear as the morning skies of Caladan. The nose was small, the mouth wide and generous. Her figure was good but scant: tall and with its curves gone to slimness.

I believe this is the part where Frank Herbert indulges himself in bringing his wife into the novel, allowing himself to inhabit Duke Leto’s persona just for a small while for this section.

And then comes the point where we see that Leto is overlooking Dr. Yueh, something that will cause his downfall.

Page 79-80:

“I thought I heard Yueh’s voice, but I couldn’t take time to look.”

Page 81:

“There are legends here about the Bene Gesserit.”
The Missionaria Protectiva, Jessica thought.

Aha! As I suspected, I brought up the probability that the Missionaria Protectiva would be used to instill legends and prophecies for the soul purpose of making lives easier and goals more easily accomplished for the Bene Gesserit. Sure enough, this is demonstrated soon after this line with Jessica’s conversations with Shadout Mapes, which would end up saving her life (though it may not have been put in danger if not for the “prophecy” in the first place) and allow Jessica to gain the sandworm tooth, to use as a dagger. The Maker.

She went through the quick regimen of calmness–two deep breaths, the ritual thought–
“You must teach me someday how you do that,” he said, “the way you thrust your worries aside and turn to practical matters. It must be a Bene Gesserit thing.”
“It’s a female thing,” she said.
— Leto and Jessica

Page 82

He glanced at his wristwatch.

Guess those are still handy too, even in that day and age.

“The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance.” — Jessica, quoting St. Augustine.

Now the thing must take its course. — Shadout Mapes.

Page 93:

He looked, from behind, like a fleshless stick figure in overlarge black clothing, a caricature poised for stringy movement at the direction of a puppet master. Only the squarish block of head with long ebony hair caught in its silver Suk School ring at the shoulder seemed alive–

The puppet master being the Harkonnens. This description of Yueh indicates that he is a puppet for the Harkonnens, yet his mind is still his own. Indicating he can stop being a puppet whenever he chooses, but doesn’t, because of how his love for his wife is twisting him. Relates back to the earlier quote by Jessica above, about how the mind commands the body. Also, in essence, this relates to an even earlier quote where Yueh wanted to capture Paul’s mind and cupidity, when Yueh is guilty of both. His mind for his wife, his cupidity for her love.

Page 98:

She glanced out to the right at a slope humped with a wind-troubled gray-green of bushes–dusty leaves and dry claw branches. Too-dark sky hung over the slope like a blot, and the milky light of the Arrakeen sun gave the scene a silver cast–light like the crystknife concealed in her bodice.

I think there’s something to read into with this, this description of the outdoors of Arrakis as seen from here. Is this a natural darkness, or an artificial one caused by the shields? What are the metaphorical implications here?

Page 103:

But the poison in him, deep in his mind, is the knowledge that an Atreides had a Harkonnen banished for cowardice after the Battle of Corrin.

And there’s Baron Harkonnen’s motivation for wanting to see House Atreides fall.

“… motivating people, forcing them to your will, gives you a cynical attitude toward humanity. It degrades everything it touches.” — Jessica

Page 104:

“Besides, Wellington, the Duke is really two men. One of them I love very much. He’s charming, witty, considerate … tender–everything a woman could desire. But the other man is … cold, callous, demanding, selfish–as harsh and cruel as a winter wind. That’s the man shaped by the father.”

And there’s the other reason Jessica despises Leto’s father.

After the Twitch Stream

NOTE: So I was going to hold off on posting this until Comic Book Girl 19’s youtube videos were up, the ones showing the twitch stream broadcast.  But I’m sick of waiting, so I’ll update this post when those become available. Until then, here’s a link to the Twitch video that I can’t embed on wordpress:


Watch live video from ComicBookGirl19 on www.twitch.tv

UPDATE: The first portion is up on youtube:

That Jessica quote about forcing them to your will and how harmful that is, something that applies to the Harkonnens, entirely. That is what they are all about.

A fellow commenter stated that the water of life (concentrated spice) is sandworm sperm. Comic Book Girl 19 says it’s worm bile. Either way, excreted from the worms.

Comic Book Girl 19 mentions that she initially found it far-fetched that the Harkonnen’s could break the conditioning Yeuh received for his doctor training just by kidnapping his wife. But she comes to the same conclusion I did, that he’s not technically killing Duke Leto directly, but simply betraying him and keeping him alive for the Baron.

The bull and matador metaphor, just as Leto’s father died while in the arena with the bull, so Leto will die while in the political arena with the Harkonens. Paul destined to suffer the same fate?

What is the son but an extension of the father? — from “Muad’dib, Family Commentaries”, by the Princess Irulan

“Dudes are nuts. Dudes like to take shit over.” – Comic Book Girl 19

“Being ok with 2 contradictions at the same time really strengthens your brain.” – Comic Book Girl 19

The other side of uniqueness, loneliness, not belonging. The pros and cons of uniqueness. I can sympathize. I don’t really do small talk, am always left out of conversations mainly because I don’t find many of them all that interesting. I have different interests than most.

The book isn’t about wondering what things are happening, but about how they happened, how they get through their journey, how they got to the end. It’s not about the end, it’s about the journey.

What happened to Caladan when the Atreides left? The theory is that another family/house came in and took over.

Most life on Dune is focused around the polar ice caps, because everywhere else is pretty much dead desert.

PS: In hindsight, I probably should’ve just asked about Feyd and if he had Mentat capabilities like Paul.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

Continued on in part 3.

2 thoughts on “Dune Club notes, part 2

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