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Nerdist Book Club: DUNE, Part 2

How could I forget how engaging Frank Herbert’s Dune is? Whenever I open this book, I’m pulled into the world within a second. There’s no settling in and having to find my place and rhythm, I’m just there. Something about Herbert’s style transports me so utterly and so quickly. It’s fantastic. And so much happened in this week’s assignment: we arrived on Arrakis, we met Fremen, we learned more about the spice, there was an assassination attempt, and we got to know the Duke. Exciting!


Herbert paints quite the portrait of Duke Leto Atreides with these words: “As always, Paul experienced a sense of presence in his father, someone totally here.” It gives Leto an intensity, and that’s supported by Paul’s and Jessica’s thoughts about the Duke. He’s formidable. He’s strong. Leto Atreides is not the dense man Baron Harkonnen perceives him as. He’s sharp, and the Atreides hawk crest is entirely appropriate.

As House Atreides picks up and moves to Arrakis, we learn more about the Duke—what his relationships with Paul and Jessica are like, how much he loves them both, and what kind of leader he is. It all unfolds as the story progresses, and again, it’s shown rather than told. Perhaps the most important knowledge we gain is that the Duke is prepared for Arrakis. At least, he thinks he’s prepared. He’s aware the Harkonnens will move against him and has a plan to handle them and the other Houses. The message is clear: you don’t want to screw with Leto.

Arrival on Arrakis is handled from the inside out. Rather than following along with Paul on his journey, we start life on the desert planet with Lady Jessica unpacking. It’s an intimate, comfortable beginning that anyone who’s ever experienced the joy of moving can relate to and a fine starting point to launch into outward exploration. We encounter our first Fremen in the Shadout Mapes. We get hints about the prophecies the Bene Gesserit planted on Arrakis and the ways they communicate with each other. We are beat over the head with the importance and scarcity of water. We learn about the importance of a crysknife. And in case you’ve been wondering why the spice is so important, so revered, we learn about that too.

It’s a hefty amount of information to absorb and process, and I don’t know about you, but the first time I read this, I just had a sense it was all important. There’s no wasted space here, no padding. Each new piece of knowledge wants to worm into my brain and latch on to my grey matter.

And then, just when your head is swimming and processing, there’s an assassination attempt on Paul. He uses his wits to save his own life, but it was a close call. The Atreides have come to a dangerous place, and I don’t think anyone expected such a bold and overt move. To someone as prescient as Jessica, that had to be practically world-shattering—she doesn’t seem like a woman who is easily caught off guard. It’s an immediate lesson that the Atreides must be on their toes.


“Delay is as dangerous as the wrong answer.”

“I can smell death in this place.”

“It is shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.”

“Command must always look confident… All that faith riding on your shoulders while you sit in the critical seat and never show it.”


– Jessica knows something is off with Dr. Yueh but doesn’t seem to suspect him. Given what we know about her, do you think she realizes something deeper is going on?
– Baron Harkonnen painted the Duke as a fool, but now we know Leto isn’t going into the situation completely blind. Do you think Leto is overconfident?
– Do you see any parallels between the world of Dune and our world as far as politics, etc?
– Why did the Bene Gesserit plant prophecies on Arrakis, and do you think it was right for them to do so?


Dune action figures – Impressively detailed custom figures based on Dune by Sillof (don’t read the descriptions too closely if you don’t want to be spoiled).

Bene Gesserit cosplay – Beautiful (and a little creepy) Bene Gesserit costume made by Maggie Cogan, it’s inspired by the 1984 Dune film adaptation directed by David Lynch.

Now that we’re a little further into the book, what are your thoughts? Do you like what you’ve seen of Duke Leto? Have your opinions of the Bene Gesserit changed? The whole planting of fake prophecies bit definitely made me pause and reconsider. These ladies have some questionable meddling tendencies. Anyway! Head to the comments and tell me what you liked or disliked about the recent section, answer discussion questions, share favorite quotes—whatever you feel like. If you have trouble with the comments, please let me know on Twitter. And speaking of social media, don’t forget to use and visit the #NerdistBookClub hashtag!

Come back here next week–on July 6–to discuss Part 3, pages 133-204.

Featured Image courtesy of DeviantArt // Artist: Kristèle Pelland

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