Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune: Children of Dune, Part Four

This week we’re going to get attacked by tigers! Two of them. Big tigers. And one of us won’t make it out alive… or will they? (That is actually a legitimate question in this context, you’ll see.)

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.

Summary (through “In all major socializing forces you will find an underlying movement to gain or maintain power through the use of words.”)

Jessica is giving court rulings with Alia, and is allowed to make the first judgement, sending a troubadour with a stinging tongue to House Corrino as he requested. Then al-Fali, a Fedaykin, comes before the court to ask about the desert and in a sudden kerfuffle among the priests, one of them tries to assassinate Jessica. Al-Fali realizes that she is in danger and Jessica knows that the priests were the cause, and that Alia is in on the plan. She and al-Fali talk secretly, and she tells him who he must question later if they make it out of the day’s proceedings alive. Jessica insists that the two guards who did not prevent the assassin priest from being killed in the shuffle will die, as she said they would, but Alia resists. In the resulting fight, Jessica reveals before the court that Alia tried to have her killed and recognizes who has possessed her daughter—the Baron Harkonnen. Jessica asks al-Fali to speak his peace and he talks of the desert disappearing and the sandworms becoming fewer and fewer. Alia insists it’s suspicious nonsense and that there will always be some desert, but Jessica can tell that she’s lying, having a moment of near-prescience that marks all of the people in on Alia’s plot to kill her. She realizes that destroying Arrakis’s ecology in part of the baron’s plan, and she tells the court so. Alia says that spice will become the most priceless commodity in the universe when they’re done, but Jessica knows it is madness, and reminds the Fremen of her tie to their people. She calls the Fedaykin to her, and several are hiding in the room, and instantly come to her aid.

Leto and Ghanima make their way out of the sietch on their journey. They are aware that they are going to be followed by two animals sent by House Corrino, and they quickly encounter the two Laza tigers. Jessica waits with the Fedaykin for word from Stilgar after she sent him a message telling him that Alia was possessed. She is informed that Alia wanted the twins put into her custody, but they were not at the sietch to be collected. Al-Fali’s men tell her that Stilgar has sent Duncan Idaho to her, and everyone is wary. Jessica asks if he is meant to abduct her, and Duncan tells her that Alia commanded it, but he is there to help her. They both admit to failing Alia and making the same mistakes with her. Jessica decides she will let herself be kidnapped by Duncan, trusting him. She tells al-Fali and his men to go to Stilgar for sanctuary. She insists to Duncan that Alia is no longer Atriedes, and as he serves the Atreides he is no longer bound to serve her, which upsets Duncan, but he agrees. Duncan admits that he is taking Jessica to Salusa Secundus, and that he is doing it on the Preacher’s behalf, who has asked that she train Farad’n as she did Paul. Jessica asks if the Preacher is Paul, but Duncan is uncertain.

Farad’n has learn from his mother about the plan against he Atreides and is having difficulty deciding how to feel about it. Wensicia is worried that he might denounce her for taking such a liberty, but he decides not to. He is still displeased with much that has been done in his name, especially the way that she trained the tigers to kill the twins. The twins in the meantime are trying to outrun the tiger. Ghanima gets clawed in the leg and Leto kills one of the tigers with their poison-tipped knives. He asks for Ghana’s knife to kill the second, but she insists on doing it herself to make certain that one of them survives. She manages to kill the second tiger, but it gouges her arm terribly. Leto helps her bandage it and twins have to separate; Ghanima going back to flush out the traitor among them, and Leto going to find Jacarutu. They part and Ghanima forces herself to believe that Leto died by one of those tigers, as was their plan—she has to be able to fool a Truthsayer, so she must believe it true.

Farad’n calls his Wensicia and Tyek to discuss Duncan Idaho’s offer and bringing them the Lady Jessica, wondering what the purpose of it is. Farad’n thinks that no matter their aims, she would probably be a valuable prisoner, whose capital could be spent when it presented the need to be. He has taken to studying House Corrino history and also House Atreides, and comments on the importance of the stillsuit and what they can infer about their enemies because of it. He says that it is a conservative garment, which means they will make conservative mistakes. He also insists that the Atreides grew in places of extremes, Caladan being a soft place and Arrakis being a hard place. He notes how the Atreides have brought that softness to Arrakis.

Ghanima has arrives back at the sietch and finds one of the traitors. Palimbasha, a grandson of a Naib whose sons had died for Paul. He is clearly working with House Corrino, and so Ghanima use items from her Fremkit to construct and poison dart and kills him, then pulling her poisoned crysknife on his female companion.

Commentary

We’re reaching the halfway point of the book now, which means that all the plans are taking a big step forward and we’re learning more about who is a player and who is not. I love Jessica and Alia battling it out in this regal over-the-top setting, forcing Jessica to voice all of her fears about Alia in public. It’s beautifully theatrical, which the Dune series doesn’t always go for despite how wrapped up it is in political maneuvering. So to have Jessica and Alia really get into it and play their cards and manipulate the scenario is refreshing very much in the way that the story refreshes once Paul and Jessica arrived among the Fremen in the first book. And to finally have someone recognize the force possessing Alia for who he is… that’s deeply chilling as well.

It’s sort of a clever move on Herbert’s part; Alia can be as destructive as she likes due to the hatred that Baron Harkonnen had for the Atreides. She has room to go completely off the rails because there are no limits to what he would do in revenge, especially when there is nothing for him to gain aside from that. It doesn’t make me feel better about how everyone let Alia down for years before it came to this, but it is extremely effective for bringing the drama.

And also, there’s really nothing more badass than Jessica calling for the Fedaykin to help her, and them just springing up all over the room and rushing her out.

We’re getting glimpses of the plan that the twins are enacting step by step, keeping that suspense up. I suppose the tigers had to be dealt with, but at the point where we realize that they’re trying to fake Leto’s death, it does make it clear that the tiger scenario is kind of a silly plot device. They dispatch them quickly enough and we’re left with the more important result, which is Ghanima having to train her brain into believing Leto is dead so that he can seek out Jacarutu without anyone on his tail. And that little murder scene right there at the end is pretty terrifying. We get more evidence as we go along as to just how competent these kids (who are not really kids) truly are, and every time it gets creepier.

There’s a moment where Jessica and Duncan confront one another about there mistakes with Alia, and Jessica admits that she ran away from her daughter, and then says that Duncan failed her daughter by being her husband, and that he wanted her because Alia was essentially a younger version of her mother. Which… putting aside that she technically kind of is by being preborn with Jessica’s memories, when was there ever any indication that Duncan felt that way about Jessica? I understand it’s meant to be a sort of revelation, but sometimes things like that really feel just tossed into the narrative like we’re supposed to gasp in shock about it. When it really would have been more rewarding if there had been any solid indication that Duncan had some emotional attachment to Jessica prior to this.

The real interesting stuff is all about Farad’n, though, at least for my money. We find out that the kid is actually related to Shaddam’s old buddy Count Fenring, which makes a lot of sense, and is also a great way of still playing the story out through the dynamics of the characters we knew in the first book, people who have a little more context to work from. It puts Farad’n’s caution and introspective nature into perspective, and makes it clear that he’s not going to be easy to manipulate in this game. Wensicia is learning this the hard way, feeling furious at being left out once her son is privy to all her schemes. (Showing that perhaps she’s a bit more like Irulan than she’d like to admit? These ladies cannot seem to get what they want on their own terms, and their dad certainly didn’t either.)

But what is more interesting about Farad’n is what he gleans from history, from examination of peoples and places. It makes sense that the Preacher is sending Jessica to him because he has the same sort of perceptiveness that Paul showed in the beginning of Dune. And the reader is permitted to watch Farad’n go through this development without knowing what we’re really supposed to make of him. He doesn’t seem to be a villain, but the narrative is definitely ambiguous on the subject of whether we should be rooting for him. We only know that Ghanima is holding him responsible for Leto’s “death.” Which is already a misdirect since we know that Leto isn’t really dead. The story does a fascinating job of building Farad’n up into an interesting character who is allowed to grow into the story, and he don’t learn the entire sum of his character straight away.

Emily Asher-Perrin will gladly hang out with the troubadour, though. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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