The Baron Harkonnen’s plan is coming to fruition this week on the Dune Reread! Which is horrible. But, you know, necessary to the plot and stuff.
Index to the reread can be located here! And don’t forget this is a reread, which means that any and all of these posts will contain spoilers for all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. If you’re not caught up, keep that in mind.
Do you wrestle with dreams?
Do you contend with shadows?
So you move in a kind of sleep?
Time has slipped away.
Your life is stolen.
You tarried with trifles,
Victim of your folly.
—Dirge for Jamis on the Funeral Plain, from “Songs of Muad’Dib” by the Princes Irulan
Duke Leto is staring at a mysterious message he received, unable to tell who it came from or what it means. He has had a report from Hawat on the Mentat’s meeting with Jessica and realizes that it was a mistake to keep her out of the loop and plans to tell her everything. As he walks in shadows to find her, he spots a figure on the floor—it’s the smuggler Tuek and he’s dead. Leto follows the path of whoever killed him toward the generator room. He finds Mapes who has also been stabbed. She manages to get out a few words before dying, but he’s not sure of their meaning. He can sense that someone is nearby and goes to activate his shield, but it hit by a dart gun. He sees Yueh and realizes that the man sabotaged their generators, leaving them wide open to attack.
Yueh explains that he needs the duke so he can get into the Baron Harkonnen’s presence and ask after his wife. But he is giving Leto the means for revenge by giving him a poison tooth that can expel gas and kill the baron. Leto wants to refuse, but Yueh tells him that he mustn’t, and in return he will see that Paul and Jessica appear dead but are hidden among Harkonnen enemies. He takes Leto’s ring for Paul and implores him to remember the tooth.
Again with the openings to each section being such a clever device. When you first read the book, you have no idea who Jamis is, but on a reread you can see the connection from one patch of story to another. This is the moment that Leto is brought down and it is juxtaposed with the death of Jamis. Obviously these two men don’t have much in common, but there is a thematic throughline here in the song, the idea of someone’s life being stolen from them in part due to their own errors.
Herbert looooooves his dramatic irony, and this is one of the places where it shines through the most. The fact that Leto is about to bring Jessica in on everything that’s going on, that he’s basically reached the end of his tether where suspicion is concerned, is part of what makes this more upsetting.
Those antifatigue pills they mention him taking are a thing I want, though. I mean, I know no one’s effectively figured out how to make something that keeps you up without driving you crazy (and maybe never will?) but hours in the day. I wants them.
We get a window in on Yueh’s plan finally, but it doesn’t seem that we’re meant to focus on that so much as the fact that Yueh clearly has clearly done all of this just for the chance to find out whether or not Wanna is alive. And there’s a good chance she isn’t, and he knows that. Yueh literally betrays his life, his training, his employers, everything that he is or will ever be known as, for the chance to look Baron Harkonnen in the eye and find out what happened to his wife. There are many love stories in this book, but this one—which we hear so little of—is perhaps the most important of all. It makes it very hard to dislike Yueh, knowing that the lack of closure has driven him to this.
A brief moment for Mapes who I always love, and always forget dies so soon in the story. I miss her brusqueness already.
* * *
There should be a science of discontent. People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.
—from “Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan
Jessica wakes bound and gagged on the floor, remembering that she was knocked out previously. The baron enters knowing that she is awake because they calculated her dosage of narcotics precisely; that’s when Jessica realizes that the only person who could have told them that is Yueh. The Baron Harkonnen tells Jessica that he’s brought in Piter de Vries to prove to the man that he doesn’t really want her as a prize in all this—he wants power. He offers Piter the Atreides duchy instead, and Piter takes it. Jessica knows the baron is lying, but de Vries’s Mentat mind has been so twisted he cannot seem to tell. The baron leaves Jessica in Piter’s hands for the sake plausible deniability (he will have to answer questions from the Reverend Mother later); he has no idea what will happen to her. Piter de Vries tells the guards (one of whom is deaf to prevent Jessica from using the Voice on him) to do as Yueh suggested with them; bring them out into the desert and let them go for the worms. She is taken with Paul to a ‘thopter and flown away.
The guards there with them are debating about whether or not to rape Jessica, and Paul is feigning inexperience and helplessness to keep their opinions low as to their abilities. Jessica knows these men are going to be killed anyway, as the baron won’t want witnesses. One of the guards goes to Jessica and Paul manages to use the Voice just barely successfully enough to get the man to remove Jessica’s gag. She then uses the Voice on the guards to get them to think they are fighting over her. One guard kills the other and Jessica convinces the second one to let Paul go. As he’s being led outside the ‘thopter, Paul kicks the man hard enough to collapse his heart and kill him. Jessica scolds him for the risk as he frees her, then tells him that the ship has Yueh’s mark and he left things for them. They retrieve a bundle from under their seat just as the Harkonnens find them—they run from the scene.
This section is just full of all the possible grossness that we can encounter. Piter de Vries at least lets go of Jessica for the sake more power (and then the baron makes the point that he’s “giving up” Paul, which is something about the baron that we’ll get into later), but then we’ve got all the ugliness with the guards. Thankfully all of these people are easily and quickly dispatched, but it serves as a reminder for how awful everyone in the Harkonnens’ employ truly is. Whatever Leto’s failings in handling the situation, he never allows people to be treated so inhumanely. The Harkonnens don’t even extend themselves to basic respect.
The opening of this section is a harbinger: Paul’s musings on a “science of discontent” where he claims that people must suffer to develop their psychic muscles is certainly true for him, and this is where that discontent begins. And as we see in this section, he’s not quite up to the task yet. His use of the Voice is not perfected, and while he does kill the second guard, he puts himself as unnecessary risk when Jessica could have handled the man far easier.
The pacing throughout these sections is a bit jagged, but I appreciate how quickly everything happens. Hostile takeovers of this nature aren’t going to happen over days and weeks; when the plan is set, everything goes like clockwork. So we don’t waste a lot of time with people being taken from here to there, and fretting over their future. Even Yueh’s plan within the plan simply carries off.
* * *
Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife—chopping off what’s incomplete and saying “Now, its complete because it’s ended here.”
—from “Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan
Yueh encounters a Sardaukar in Harkonnen uniform (he can tell because the man calls Leto “The Red Duke,” which only the Emperor does), and suggests that the man be tied up. The Sardaukar wants to know where the ducal ring is, and Yueh claims that the ducal sometimes sent it with messages to prove that information truly came from him. He is dismissed and hears people calling him a traitor from every corner, knowing that this is how history will think of him. He manages to get to the ‘thopter he knows will carry Jessica and Paul away and slips the ducal ring and a note into a Fremkit that he left for them.
This is a little bit of flashback for reader edification. We find out what Yueh has done to set the stage for Paul and Jessica’s escape, and also watch his treatment at the hands of the people he has helped. To be honest, it’s not really necessary, but the back-and-forth from all these separate viewpoints not only makes the situation feel more desperate, but does us the favor of adding suspense because we must read through this before finding out what happens to Jessica and Paul.
But most of this is plot machinations, as we’re nearing Book II and about to get into the real meat of the story. We’ve got one more section of Book I next week, and then we move into the desert for good.
And here is this week’s audio snippet!