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Nerdist Book Club: DUNE, Part 10

It’s time for a leap ahead in Frank Herbert’s Dune. Paul and Jessica have thoroughly settled in among the Fremen and into their new roles, and their relationship has changed. Paul is taking a big step forward, and Jessica has borne a daughter. Let’s discuss the latest happenings, shall we?

What happened

It’s not intentional, but I usually end up not covering the Baron Harkonnen-related activities in these discussions. Maybe it’s my subconscious at work because I really can’t stand the character. However, his conversation with Hawat is worth noting. One point in particular jumped out at me because it ties into Hawat’s Mentat abilities. Hawat notes the opulence of the grain on a table Harkonnen owns and thinks, “Even this was a factor to consider in assessing the Baron.” The line illustrates part of what I enjoy about Herbert’s writing. By making small mentions such as that one, he shows us a what a Mentat does. There isn’t a page or a glossary in the back of the book with detailed explanations of Mentats or the Bene Gesserit and how they’re chosen and trained and what they do. We learn instead through the story, and it’s so much more interesting than a straightforward information dump.

Through Hawat and the Baron’s conversation, we learn we’ve jumped forward in time (I don’t think this came up earlier, but I might have missed it) and we see that the Baron is still underestimating the Fremen and their numbers. Also, the fact that Hawat still believes Paul and Jessica are dead is evidence of how secluded and secretive the Fremen are. It’s remarkable that word of the Atreides survivors hasn’t surfaced after years—not even a Mentat has picked up on it.

Meanwhile, Paul’s role within not only Stilgar’s sietch but within the Fremen as a whole has grown significantly. Even Harkonnen and Hawat have heard of Muad’Dib though they don’t know the identity of the leader. Since time has passed, we’ve skipped ahead past more of Paul and Jessica’s adjustment period. They’re more or less Fremen now with Jessica serving as the Reverend Mother and Paul making his final step to become a true member of the group. That step involves riding a sandworm. Yep, the Fremen are so hardcore that they’ve figured out a way to use the fearsome sandworms as transportation. If you’ve ever doubted their badassery, you can stop now.

Nouveau Dune by rurouni-jedi

The build-up for Paul’s journey is intense and stacked up in such a way that you can’t help but put yourself in his shoes and experience his concerns. I also feel sympathy for the burden Paul carries—and all the memories. The weight of a possible jihad is always upon him, and he has a difficult time sorting out when he is and what’s in the past versus what’s in the future. The parallels with the shared consciousness of sorts Jessica experiences as Reverend Mother are fascinating because her role is quite different despite the similarities to Paul.

The latest pages also saw the introduction of Alia—sort of. Paul has mentioned her before and knew what her name would be, but now she’s here. Not surprisingly, Alia was affected by Jessica changing the Water of Life while she was still in the womb. What happened has caused Alia, a child, to have the mind and memories of an adult. The Fremen don’t know what to do with this, and through Harah talking to Jessica we see that the Fremen aren’t free from prejudice and judgment. More about their culture is constantly being shown to us.

Favorite quotes

“Destroying him will be a service to mankind.”

“There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe. It has symmetry, elegance, and grace—those qualities you find always in that which the true artist captures.”

“It was a cruel thing. No being should wake into consciousness thus. The wonder of it is you could accept all that happened you.”

Discussion questions

– How do you think being treated differently by the Fremen will affect Alia as she grows up?
– Do you think Paul is using the Fremen—or are they using him?
– Why does it matter to Paul if Stilgar is becoming a worshiper rather than a friend?
– Were you surprised to learn the Fremen ride the sandworms? What do you think of learning how to do so as a rite of passage, and do you think it was necessary for Paul to participate?

Bonus material

Dune maker hooks – On the off chance that you need to ride a sandworm or the greater chance that you’re cosplaying as a Fremen, B.R. Shropshire has an easy to follow tutorial for crafting maker hooks.

Unless I missed an earlier clue, the jump forward in time was subtle and not really overtly announced. I like the lack of a warning or label saying “Years later…” Though it took me a moment to sort out Baron Harkonnen’s comment about remembering the conversation with Fenring from “several years ago,” the cues are there. Herbert trusts the reader to be smart enough to figure it out while at the same time confusing the matter further with Paul’s fuzzy grasp on what has already happened and what hasn’t. It’s fascinating. Head to the comments and let me know what you think about the way the time jump was handled, share your favorite quotes, answer the discussion questions—all the things. You can also come chat with me on Twitter.

Just 100ish pages left of Dune! I’m sad to see it end but maybe more sad that I need to try and be good and not read all the remaining pages in one sitting. Come back next Monday, September 7, to discuss pages 651-725.

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