Some initial notes for building my impressions of Dune where book references are denoted by D1-D6 for the 6 volumes of the trilogy – warning – there are some spoilers below, but once again if you have read this far into the Dune series, they are hardly spoilers because you already know all of this, or most of it.
It is interesting to me that despite the massive scale of Dune, it remains a tale concerning really only three families (initially) competing for power.
Bene Geserit (female)
Bene Tleilaxu (male -females reduced to living axlotl tanks for breeding (D5)
Ix (unknown, only contact with male ambassadors)
Honored Matres (female – returning Bene Geserit from the Scattering hellbent on destruction)
There are also only three extra-royal organizations (and later a fourth) that operate within the walls of the first 6 books. Of course, each of these (yet not always described in a homogeneous amount of detail) are incredibly complex societies with interesting dynamics which made for great reading.
Zensunni (overall fusion of Islam and Zen Buddhism which is sort of the ambient religion across the Known Universe)
Sufi (closely related to Zensunni – very close to Bene Tleilaxu core beliefs)
Freemen Worship of Leto II / the God Emperor / the Tyrant (for Bene Geserit) / Guldur (for Honored Matres)
Orange Catholic (remnants of Roman Catholic faith)
Note: The Bene Geserit, while originally derived at least partially from Roman Catholic Monastical practices views religion as a tool for manipulating the masses and opportunistically plays religions off each other)
I liked the mashup of Zen Buddhism and Islam and found that it was a creative way of projecting out human development. One should note that – other than perhaps futars late in D5 and D6), no aliens are in the Known Universe so the humans are all descendants of a diaspore from Terra in the distant past. The idea being that the Zen Buddhists and those of the Muslim faith blended together whereas – apparently – the Roman Catholics split into Bene Geserit and then disappeared. I found no mention at all of polytheist beliefs such as Hinduism or Dualism beliefs such as Taoism.
Saudukar (males from Salusa Secundus in service of Harkonnens and Shaddam IV of the Corrino family)
Fish Speakers (females from Rakis in serivce of Leto II)
Honored Matres (females with mix of various Scattering populations with sexual skills honed to an extreme but also the physical prowess of the Bene Geserit but with extreme violence and no regret or pity)
Bene Geserit (females with extreme martial arts skills and body control)
Some of the most exciting writing in Dune is of course the battle scenes and it is interesting how the elite forces switch from all-male to all-female on the advent of Leto II. The Honored Matres are pretty badass (and very scary) and it was awesome how Miles Teg evolved into a godlike fighter before his doom on Dune.
Dune / Arrakis / Rakis (home to the Freemen, planet of the Sandworms, sole natural source of melange in Known Universe)
Caladan (home planet to Atreides clan)
Giedi Prime / Gammu (home to Harkonnens)
Salusa Secondus (prison planet) (home to Corrinos?)
Hidden Chapterhouse planet (home to Bene Geserit)
Tleilax (home to Tleilaxu)
Ix (home to Ixians)
Junction(s) (waystations for the Guild Navigators)
I was frustrated that we never visited Is or Tleilax and learned precious little about any planets besides Dune, Giedi Prime/Gammu and Chapterhouse. One would think that in a galaxy of billions and trillions that there would be more planets, but I suppose that Frank needed to simplify somewhere.
Bene Geserit hierarchy
Acolytes (1st Degree – 3rd Degree)
The BG became a sort of mashup of the military and a female monastic order that was interesting to read about. Unfortunately, there are many revelations for which the reader has to wait for D6 to learn about.
Thufir Hawat (D1)
Miles Teg (D5, D6)
Duncan Idaho’s last ghola becomes both Mentat and Zensunni philosopher (D6)
Like for the BG, we learn only scattered things about mentats until late in the series. The idea of replacing “thinking machines” after the Butlerian Jihad with human computers is fascinating and one of my favorite innovations in the Dune Universe.
Bene Geserit- selective breeding, Others Memories, all powered by mélange addiction
Tleilaxu – axlotl tanks (deformed females) with selective breeding
Major Historical Moments
Butlerian Jihad – end of “thinking” machines, calculations monopolized by Guildsmen, Mentats and Bene Geserit
Creation by BG of Miossionaria Protecta
Establishment of BG Archives (?)
Birth of preborn Paul and his sister Ayla (the Abomination) to Leto and Jessica due to spice addiction. Jessica had disobeyed the BG and had a son first rather than a daughter which is a massive rock in the BG genetic pond for which we see the ripples over 5000 years of Known Universe history over the 6 books.
Paul Atreides passes Bene Geserit “box” test by Mother Superior – first male ever to pass the test
Move of Atreides family from Caladan to Dune under Emperor Shaddam IV’s direction ostensibly to protect the spice trade
Betraval and Assassination of Leto I
Flight of Paul to Fremen and their acceptance of him as their messiah, the Maud’dib
Victory of Paul Atreides Maud’dib over Shaddam IV and Baron Harkonnen at Arakeen using worm-fremen army and the Voice and death of first Duncan Idaho, Lady Jessica, Gurney Halleck, etc
Birth of preborn twins Leto II and Ghamina to Paul Maud’dib and Fremen Chola
Assasination atttempts on Leto II and Ghamina
Death/disappearance of Paul Maud’dib
Children of Dune
Abomination / possession of Ayla by spirit of Baron Harkonnen
Appearance of Preacher
Destruction of Ayla
Leto II assumes a Golden Path to save humanity by fusing with the sand trout and becoming Shai-Hallud / Shaitan / God Emperor
God Emperor of Dune
Peaceful reign of 3000 years under Leto II
Creation of Fish Speakers
Allowance of Aix technology
Deliverance of Duncan Idaho gholas by Tleilaxu to Leto II
Leto II killed during festival
Heretics of Dune
2000+ years of Scattering
Writing and distribution of Zaire ideas Manifesto (ghost written by HR Odrade daughter of Teg and future Mothre Superior)
Tleilaxu murder each of the delivered Duncan Idahos until last one
Appearance of Sheeana with power over worms on Rakis near Sietch
Waking up of Duncan Idaho by Teg and failure of Lucille to bind him to Bene Geserit
Breeding of Duncan Idaho ghola and Honored Matre Murbella
Conquering of Gammu by HR
Destruction of Dune by HR and death of Teg
Hunting of Bene Geserit by Honored Matres
Transfer from Lucille to Rebecca
Agony of Murbella
Battle of Junction
Escape of ghola Duncan Idaho and Sheeana
And now for my review of Chapterhouse: Dune
Wow, that was quite a tumultuous and somewhat anti-climactic end to the Dune saga. I will write a long post here with plenty of quotes summing up all my Dune impressions for those who wish to read them.
“When she thought of the largely passive non-Bene Desert populace ‘out there’, Odrade sometime envied them. They were permitted their illusions. What a comfort. You could pretend your life was forever, that tomorrow would be better, that the gods in heaven watched you with care.” (p. 49)
Odrade is the daughter of Bandar Mentat (and overall badass mofo) Miles Teg who becomes Mother Superior of the Bene Geserit following the events at the end of Heretics of Dune. She has a deadly standoff with the Honored Matres which dominates Chapterhouse (the hidden BG headquarters planet). She is a great character – full of depth and insight such as the quote above. The Bene Geserit thanks to melange and some genetic engineering created a form of immortality which is threatened with extinction by the Matres flooding into the Old Empire from The Scattering (see God Emperor and Heretics) and Odrade’s strategy is a fascinating one to see being put together and then executed.
“The presence of Others Within who subtracted none of her attention from what went on around her had filled her with awe. We call it. Simuflow. Speaker had said. Simuflow multiplies your awareness.” (p. 60)
Chapterhouse opened a whole new line of inquiry into the fate of Israel with the characters of the Rabbi and Rebecca – the few last remnants of the diaspora now on a galactic scale. Rebecca is pulled into the Bene Geserit in order to save the Others Within that were massacred on Lampadas by the Honored Matres. While this is an interesting interlude, it is a little frustrating that Herbert throws this in in only the last book of the series and dies before developing this idea any further. The primary interest of this interlude was in fact a bit more information on how the Bene Geserit functioned with the Others Within which was helpful in better understanding them.
“God formed me to deceive the powindah! His slight, childlike appearance was formed in a grey skin whose metallic pigments blocked scanning probes. His diminutive shape distracted those who saw him and hid the powers he had accumulated in serial ghola incarnations.” (p. 84)
The last Tleilaxu, Scytale, was an interesting character. Tleilaxu having been destroyed by the Honored Matres, Scytale is a prisoner on the no-ship on Chapterhouse. Perhaps Herbert sensed the end coming because the potential he built into this character (especially the whispering which was supposed to serve as a trigger for the ghola of Duncan Idaho) was never exploited in this book. That being said, he is fairly one-dimensional and serves as almost an albeit morbid comic relief.
“Honored Matre assumptions about control fascinated Lucilla. You controlled your universe; you did not balance with it. You did not train yourself to sense your own subtle responses, you produced muscles (forces, powers) to overcome everything you defined as an obstacle. Were these women blind?” (p. 100)
Lucilla was one of the most enigmatic and powerful characters in the later Dune trilogy I found. Here she is prisoner to the HM and studying them hoping to get a message to Odrade in time for the BG to prepare a defense. It was interesting to compare the BG before Paul/Leto II/The Scattering (all powerful, mystical, and mega fighters who subjugated emotion completely and sex as a precise weapon and the BG who viewed sex only as reproductive function.
The key issue in Dune is the disruptive impact of LOVE which ignites the first crisis in D1 when Lady Jessica falls in love with Leto I and rather than giving birth to a girl as her Bene Geserit masters would expect her to do, gives birth to Paul who then exhibits characteristics of the Kwisatz Haderach and becomes Maud’dib to the Freemen when he survives the BG test and achieves prescience. The next crisis occurs because Leto II loves humanity and wants them to survive. The last crisis is when Duncan Idaho and Murbella fall in love and do not fulfill (once again) BG plans. Unfortunately, we never really get to the end to know whether “love conquers all” or just fucks everything up.
Fantastic and legendary read. Please comment!