Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

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

This week we’re going to get stuck in a spice trance and agree to a very messy betrothal that could potentially result in a murder. That’s the plan, at least.

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 “This rocky shrine to the skull of a ruler grants no prayers.”)

Leto wakes to find Gurney Halleck is his captor at Jessica’s orders. They plan to force him into the spice trance, as Gurney tells him that refusing to do what his father could not will haunt him forever if he doesn’t attempt it. A woman surfaces in his mind and vows to protect him from the other identities inside of him. Leto keeps coming back to the thought that his skin is not his own, begins to learn from moments in the past and the future, gains control over all the lives within him. When he wakes, Namri is there, prepared to slay him. Leto asks him to do it, and that fact stays Namri’s hand—he claims he was told to look for indifference in Leto as a sign hat he should kill the boy.

Alia and Irulan are trying to convince Ghanima to accept a proposal to Farad’n. She is furious at the thought and insists that she would kill him for Leto, even knowing that he has blamed and denounced his mother for it. She also knows that the Fremen would never accept a Corrino, and they would curse her if she did. Alia points out that Jessica is being held by them, and also Duncan. Irulan tries to use the Voice on Ghanima and she laughs. Alia and Ghanima come to an understanding—Ghanima says she will accept the proposal to get her grandmother and Duncan back, but she would kill Farad’n. Irulan advises against it, but Ghanima is insistent. The plot is set.

Leto continues his trances, knowing that every time he comes out of one Namri might kill him. He finally surfaces to speak to Gurney and Namri, and after much philosophizing, comes to the conclusion that the problem with the Empire and Muad’Dib’s rule was that it sought to bring peace… but peace only as defined by a certain way of life. That way has not left people contented, but they are told to be. He tells Gurney that he will work with Jessica and the Sisterhood, though they may come to regret it. He realizes that even though these people want his cooperation, but the time he is done they may long for the “good old days.”

Farad’n finally makes his hands change as Jessica asked him to and learns the first most important lesson, that his mind controls reality. Jessica admits that she didn’t not expect him to manage it so quickly, but that he is only on the very cusp of learning. She wants him to be able to do this aging of his hands at will, and will also begins to teach him how to move every muscle in his body individually. She promises him that when he is done with this course of learning, he will be completely his own man, and control his destiny.

Leto is continually put into the spice trance, growing angry at his grandmother for using such a drawn out gom jabbar. He nearly loses sight of himself within the boundaries of time, but he comes back to it. Waiting for him when he wakes is Namri’s niece Sahiba, who is ready to act in her uncle’s stead. He tells her what he has seen in his vision; a future without the worms, unless he can correct the course they are on. He also tells her that in one version of the future, they are a couple, despite the fact that he is eight years younger than her. She doesn’t believe him in either account, but they head back to the sietch so he can reveal what he’s learned.

Ghanima wonders if she is doomed to share Alia’s fate and calls up a conversation she had with her grandmother about abomination, where her grandmother explained that it occurs because the benevolent persons that exist in the preborn are useful, but the malignant ones join together and overwhelm their host. Ghanima decides that her hate for Farad’n will make her strong enough to resist. Irulan comes out to scold her for being out in the open, and also to tell her that Farad’n has accepted her proposal, but wants to delay the ceremony and they don’t now why. Duncan is being sent home, but Jessica is staying with Farad’n. Irulan wants to dissuade Ghanima still, but she tells her that the Atreides descend from Agamemnon; their history is bloody and they adhere to it. (Irulan does not know who Agamemnon is.) Ghanima tells Irulan that Alia plans to send the princess away after she marries Farad’n, but Irulan won’t hear of it—she loves Ghanima as her own child and would protect. Ghanima finds this laughable, saying that there is a chasm between them, since she is Fremen and Irulan is not. She insists that if Irulan wants to help her, she must understand the many lives that live within her. Irulan stoops to hug her, and Ghanima worries that she might have to kill her.

Leto wakes from his vision and sees Sabiha making coffee. He thinks of what he saw in his visions, of the two of them together. Sabiha feeds him, as he’s very weak, then he has her sit while he tells her his visions about them. While he’s talking, he puts her in a kind of trance and she falls asleep. Leto escapes and Gurney and Namri have to find him. Namer is insistent that he has to be killed if he escapes, though Gurney doesn’t want to commit to that despite Jessica’s orders. Duncan is returned to Alia and realizes that there is nothing of her left. She demands to know why he took her mother to the Corrinos but he insists that she told him to make it look realistic. At the same time, Alia realizes she can no longer trust Duncan, and plans to send him away and have someone take care of him. She sends her guard to take him in a thopter to Sietch Tabr, but on instinct, Duncan insists on flying himself. He bursts into tears, permitting himself to feel Alia’s loss, then realizes that she had planned to have him killed on this trip.

Commentary

Again the parallels between Leto and Paul’s journey; Leto begins having visions of a woman who will “save him,” and that woman is someone who he sees himself becoming romantically involved with. But this is an important deviation—Leto ends up veering away from this path in order to continue on with his destiny. It begs a lot of questions about the choices that Paul made, which this entire book is really meant to do; if Paul had neglected the personal aspects of his life, focused only on his mission to dismantle the Imperium, would things have turned out differently? I would hope that isn’t the overall “message,” as I have an natural aversion to any narrative that touts the ‘personal connections make you weak’ chestnut, but this is a poignant reminder of the ways in which Paul and Leto are different.

A brief aside for the fact that Leto’s musings on his potential future with Sabiha get a little raunchy and Frank Herbert really should have refrained from writing anything so sexually specific, because the term “beefswelling” will now not leave my brain and I’m very angry with him over it. Cripes.

The importance of the Bene Gesserit breeding program is something else that this story brings to the forefront; the concern for gaining control of the Kwisatz Haderach and stripping the “Abominations” that the Sisterhood has wrought is deeply embedded in the narrative. Dune Messiah deals more with the importance of the Guild and the Mentats, the Bene Tlielax as a player we were previously unaware of. But Children of Dune recenters on the concept of how the Sisterhood has shaped this universe. There are a lot of philosophical questions at work here, specifically once Leto thinks of the universe without the sandworms and without spice. He envisions a universe where space travel is no longer an option and the planets once more grow disconnected and fall way from one another.

As this has been the state of their universe for quite some time, the desire to preserve it is not surprising, but in the grand scheme of things you have to wonder if anyone would ever make that choice. Let the worms and the spice die, halt space travel, break up the ruling classes, have each planet become its own ecosystem. There would be a wide swath of deaths from all the rich people who are addicted to spice no longer getting their fix, and the Spacing Guild would cease to be. So many of these frightening and poisonous organizations would be no more. What’s fascinating about the Dune universe is how many of these groups are taken as unstoppable givens that will always wield a certain amount of power. All of these major players are now essentially acting on behalf of the Sisterhood because that is currently their best option.

We find out what Jessica said to Ghanima in regard to the Sisterhood’s stance on Abomination, and once again, we see a universal order based on the concept of absolutes that were decided millennia ago. There is a belief that the preborn are eventually overwhelmed by the darker personalities of their history, that they are powerless against them. But if Alia hadn’t been abandoned, it’s possible that we could have observed a different outcome. Jessica herself worries over that possibility, that she left when Alia needed her most and allowed this to happen.  Ghanima herself has plans to avoid this trap and Leto is learning to overcome it by attempting to integrate all of his previous lives into himself in a manner that allows him to access all their information without being subsumed. While we have the reveal that the Atreides are apparently descended from the legendary Agamemnon, their future doesn’t have to be bloody in the same manner.

There are questions about worldbuilding here, though. I’m inclined to believe that Herbert hadn’t come up with the idea of Abomination when he decided that Alia would be preborn. There’s not indication of Jessica being about that precise problem when she gives birth to Alia, at least not in those specific terms. So it’s likely that Herbert created the concept of Abomination after writing Dune, as this was the clearest way to further the story in the direction he wanted it to go. There’s a part of me that wishes, despite how interesting Alia’s journey is, that she had been the one to correct Paul’s errors rather than his children. It would have been a fascinating arc, for sure.

With Duncan’s tears we get a potent reminder of who this story treats as human; it’s most commonly the old guard Atreides men, men like Duncan and Gurney. They are the people whose emotions we are most often privy to, and that is even still true after Duncan has been made a ghola and trained as a logical mentat, a human computer. The Atreides and the Fremen all have a manner of reserve and withholding, either from training or from environment and upbringing. But the men whom Duke Leto I trusted, they are always painted as men of deep emotion who react in a manner that is far more humane. The same could possibly be said for Irulan at this point, but that is because we are meant to view her with great pity and sadness—the woman who loved Paul Atreides an didn’t know it, a woman without children, a woman who cannot possibly keep up with the children she then adopted. It’s not my favorite storyline, in all honesty. Irulan seems as though she could have been far more effective in any number of ways, had the story decided to have use for her.

Farad’n is proving an adept student to Jessica’s teachings, and it always strikes me as strange that he’s so easy to root for. I think it’s really just be he’s incredibly no-nonsense and pretty humble compared to the people around him. Not quite as vicious and conniving, despite his plots. When everyone else around you is pretty much a monster, it’s easy to come out looking squeaky. And Jessica’s favor certainly doesn’t hurt him either; she trained Paul, and we’re inclined to accept her favor as a good sign… despite the fact that it technically has led to disaster already where her son was concerned.

Emily Asher-Perrin is really stuck on that horrible beef word now. Ugh, gross. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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