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Nerdist Book Club: DUNE, Part 11

The journey of Paul Atreides is one to pick apart and study for days. He’s the hero of Frank Herbert’s Dune and follows the traditional path and story, but is it for the best? It’s concerning to know any one person’s decisions havw the power to affect the possibility of a jihad and a huge loss of life. I can’t decide what I want for dinner most nights so I can’t imagine the pressure Paul must face all the time. He evolved in a couple of ways in the latest pages—let’s discuss!

What happened

Paul Atreides doesn’t take small steps forward. He makes leaps. He successfully calls, mounts, and rides a sandworm. The sequence highlights how much he’s learned and is still learning from Stilgar. The leader is an invaluable resource. Without Stilgar, Paul and Jessica wouldn’t have survived their initial encounter with the Fremen and there’s no way Paul would have rose to his current status. Stilgar is a friend and a teacher—he’s not someone the Fremen can stand to lose. Watching how Stilgar guides and helps Paul leads into Paul changing an important Fremen tradition. That Paul even attempts to do it is huge, that he succeeds in convincing at least a few Fremen to understand his reasoning is nothing short of impressive.

The fact that Paul and Jessica survived the Harkonnen attack has been kept a secret, but finally, they run into a familiar face from the old days: Gurney Halleck. He’s still holding onto his hatred for Jessica, and though Paul seemed to convince him that Yueh was responsible for the betrayal of House Atreides, I can’t tell if Gurney totally believes him. I’m not sure I would if I was in Gurney’s place. If nothing else, I expect the baliset player to keep a close eye on Jessica for the rest of his days.

Paul and Alia by Kristele Pelland

Gurney’s arrival gives the reader a fresh look at Paul. Gurney brings a unique perspective since he’s both an outsider and someone who knew Paul on Caladan. He’s someone who taught Paul and contributed to the young man becoming the force of nature that he presently is. Gurney’s observations bring home how much Paul has changed, and his thoughts made me respect Paul more.

The reunion also seemed to remind Paul of his place. As he changes the rules of the Fremen—no fighting to death in order to take leadership—he also calls himself the Duke of Arrakis for the first time. He’s ready to lead the Fremen and be a ruler. Because that’s still not enough, he also decides it’s time to change the Water of Life and see if he’s the Kwisatz Haderach.

It’s a risky move, and I’m surprised Paul didn’t talk it over with Chani first. I don’t see him going to Jessica for advice, but he could have sent a message to Chani. Deep down, he probably had a hunch he would survive the ordeal, but I don’t believe it was a given. He was in danger. The timing of his latest transformation made him aware of the threat pressing upon Arrakis from the Emperor, Harkonnen, and the Spacing Guild. He wants to make another dicey action and destroy the spice to show the would be invaders who has control.

Favorite quotes

“I must not wait like a smuggler—impatient and jittering. I must be part of the desert.”

“The surface of this planet is ours. No worm nor creature nor condition can stop us.”

“Didn’t you learn that Atreides loyalty is bought with love while the Harkonnen coin is hate?”

“When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual.”

Discussion questions

– How do you feel about Paul’s decision to change Fremen tradition? Do you think the Council members will be as accepting as Stilgar?
– Do you believe Gurney Halleck trusts Jessica again?
– Paul wants to destroy spice to prove the Fremen have control. Is this a wise decision or is there too much risk?
– How do you think Paul confirming he’s the Kwisatz Haderach will be beneficial or harmful to the future of the Fremen?

Bonus material

Dune tattoo by Andrey Grimmy

Dune fan art by Kristele Pelland – I want her illustrations to be the basis of a Dune animated series.

Do you ever do that thing where you get near the end of a book and start eying the number of remaining pages skeptically? We’re about 70 pages away from the last words, and I’m not sure how much can be resolved in that amount of time. Is there space in there for the Fremen to demonstrate their strength to the Emperor and the Spacing Guild and to exert their control over Arrakis? I need answers, and I’m impatient. Are you concerned? Head to the comments and tell me your thoughts or talk to me on Twitter.

Only one more week, everyone! Come back on Monday, September 14, and we’ll wrap things up. If you feel like diving into the appendices, go for it. I highly recommend “Appendix 1: The Ecology of Dune.” It’s fascinating to learn how Liet-Kynes’s father came up with the vision of the future of Arrakis and led the Fremen towards triggering the transformation.

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