Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I am the Kwisatz Haderach
I am the biggest Dune fan that you will ever meet. If you ever do meet me, please don't make the mistake of talking to me about Dune because I'll be completely incapable of pretending to be a normal person. Of course that's probably already off the table because as I'm typing this I'm wearing my custom-made Litany Against Fear hoodie, and that Paul Mua'Dib tattoo isn't coming off any time soon.
What I'm trying to tell you here is that I really love Dune and that Frank Herbert's writing is important to me. Which is why I decided to read three of the Dune novels out of order to cheer me up when I was dealing with some pretty nasty depression last week.
Not to get too insanely geeky crazy, I really only consider three of Herbert's Dune series to really be true Dune books (God Emperor is tragic BLASPHEMY; Heretics and Chapterhouse just don't really feel properly like Dune books. Basically Paul is my defining factor for the series and once you've left Paul and Arrakis as the Fremen knew it out of the novel it can't really be said to take place in the same story arc). And now that it's obvious that I can't discuss this without being completely geeky and insane about it, I might as well dive in head on.
I had forgotten how short this book is compared to others in the series, on top of which it hurries along at a mad, giddy pace. It's sad to see the Feydakin so abandoned by their Mhadi, sad to see Paul tormenting himself over the sacrifices he could choose not to make but does to try to save his species, sad to see Idaho revived and to see the weakened arm of the Atredies he supports. If Shakespeare had written Dune Messiah he would have called it The Tragedy of Mua'Dib. Dune Messiah makes you mourn for the innocence of a clean Arrakis, which is why I always FINISH my re-readings of the series by reading Dune again, even if I read it at the start.
Children of Dune:
Leto and Ghani are annoying little fucks. Almost all of Ghani's time on the page is spent reminding people of how insanely far back her memories stretch and how hard she has to try to avoid Abomination. We figured that out in the first three chapters, you can drop it now, kthanxbai. Leto almost never actually says anything - he will occasionally explain something in terms plain enough to insult the reader, but for the most part his thoughts and dialogue are gibberish. I don't quite hate them, but I'm much more interested in all the intrigues around them (which, I think, is the point) - Jessica and Alia's relationship is fascinating, and seeing the sacrifices that Idaho is willing to make for the Atredies is always heartwrenching. Most especially, though, I like to keep my eye on Stilgar in this novel - the most fulfilling thing about the book as a whole is the Naib's responses to the twins; they are his kinsmen, his charges, his rulers, and ultimately his downfall and the downfall of his people.
There will never be a time that I don't completely love this book. I read it first when I was fifteen, Paul's age at the beginning of the story. I saw the David Lynch film for the first time before I was even old enough to remember seeing it. My first tattoo was of Paul walking the sand, waiting to call a Maker and take up the mantle of the Lisan al Gaib. Oh man, you guys, it is hard to explain to you how freaking much I love this novel. There are flaws in it and in the series as a whole, mostly continuity errors; the Fremen color of mourning switches from one book to the next, there is something truly screwed up going on with the timeline, nothing in the appendices really fits into the skewed timeline, how the fuck recently was the spice discovered because holy shit that is an important problem in the universe. I know that there are issues. But, man oh man, do I love these characters. They are all caught in a giant whirling machine that they don't really understand but their reactions while they're forced into their paths are all so amazing to watch. I have no idea how to explain to you how much I love these characters because it feels like they're a part of me and my love for them is like my love for my kneecaps - unthinking and expressed by almost unfailing trust illustrated by every single move that I make. This is why I can walk past a TV and see it raining on Caladan and everyone I know will know where to find me for the next four hours because I can't pull myself away from the screen - it feels like a part of myself. This is why I own somewhere between four and ten copies of Dune (one stolen from a hotel in Oregon which didn't deserve it) - because if I ever have trouble finding one of the copies I go buy another one so that I can keep it in a place separate from the others so that I'm that much closer to finding it the next time that I need to read it.
Anyway, it was the discontinuity that stood out to me the most on this read-through. The spice is discussed as though it is a new discovery, and as though it has been mined in the same way with similar yields since its discovery but the Harkonnens have not only set up an enormous stockpile, they also used spice to pay for their treachery against the Atredies - something doesn't add up. In Children of Dune Leto forsees the death of the Makers because of a too-wet Arrakis, but Pardot Kynes didn't forsee the same problem in spite of being an Ecologist - something doesn't add up. Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Gurney Hallek, Thufir Hawat, and the Harkonnens never make the connection between Paul Atredies and Mua'Dib in spite of the fact that all of them are well aware of how Paul was trained by the Bene Geserit AND military tacticians before his unseen death; in fact Margot Fenring is the only one aside from Jessica who expresses even the slightest doubt that Paul is dead, based on the same training Mohiam had - something doesn't add up. Jessica was supposed to breed with Leto to preserve and manipulate a bloodline, but the duke's buyers "selected" her and she was scared of leaving with them - Bene Geserit training has something wrong with it; it doesn't add up.
But who cares if it's not perfect? Dune introduced the world to a new universe that has fascinated millions (if not billions) of people since it was first published. There's a lot going on in the novel, it was written by a somewhat chaotic man and published schizophrenically by magazines at first and in hardcover by a car manual manufacturer, so I can't really bring myself to give too much of a shit about a few errors. Those minor errors don't detract at all from the fascinating universe, the complex characters, the rich fictional history, or from my enjoyment of the novel.
Seriously guys. So much. I love it so much. Oh man, I kinda want to read it again now.
Herbert, Frank. Children of Dune. Penguin Putnam Inc. New York: New York. 1987. OP 1976.
Herbert, Frank. Dune. Penguin Putnam Inc. New York: New York. 1999. OP 1965.
Herbert, Frank. Dune Messiah. Penguin Putnam Inc. New York: New York. 2008. OP 1969.