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Nerdist Book Club: DUNE, Part 4

Welcome back, readers! Taking off last week to recoup from Comic-Con was beyond necessary, but I am so glad to return to Frank Herbert’s Dune and Arrakis. As I read this week’s assignment, I was reminded how fast the plot moves. Herbert doesn’t waste space or any words, and he still manages to build tension and excitement without taking long pauses. Case in point: the Atreides’s first dinner party on Arrakis. Let’s dive in.

What happened

Survival on Arrakis is just as much about politics as it is about spice and desert power. Intrigue runs deep and few people are who or what they seem to be at first blush. This is something we already knew—see Dr. Yueh for an obvious example—but the dinner party made the game and its stakes more apparent. The unspoken threads running under the words being said are as layered as anything you’d see in Game of Thrones. And my favorite part about all of it is that we learn about the undercurrents because of Lady Jessica.

A handful of occasions so far have illustrated the power of the Bene Gesserit, but the dinner and Jessica’s conversation with Hawat illuminated her true strength. She’s able to see what Leto cannot. Her skills are formidable—could you imagine being able to read people’s words and inflections and know whether they were being truthful? It would be an exhausting gift (or burden) to have, but life would be so different without having to second guess others. Then there’s the power she shows to Hawat. It paints the Bene Gesserit in a different light, eh?

Lady Jessica by Vladimir Kolpakov

As Jessica maneuvered through dinner and served as the reader’s guide to the intentions of the attendees, more hints were dropped about Kynes. He’s respected, he has people on his side—it doesn’t quite line up with his role as planetologist. Jessica picks up on the reverence others have for him. And most importantly, his hopes for the transformation of Arrakis are revealed and both Paul and Jessica realize he’s holding back information. Kynes isn’t falling prey to wishful thinking; he knows change is possible. It’s the first clue that the harsh conditions of the planet may not be permanent, and the revelation changes the game.

The dinner and Jessica’s confrontation of Hawat were exciting enough, but the action didn’t stop there. Dr. Yueh makes his move, and it happens so much earlier than I remembered. Since this part of his betrayal wasn’t long and drawn out, it makes the fact that we learned about his role early on more reasonable. Knowing Yueh was a double agent didn’t make me feel less shocked and harmed by his actions. The blow stung, but I can appreciate—maybe that’s not quite the right word but it’s close—how he’s using his betrayal to get back at Baron Harkonnen. Yueh is playing the long game.

Favorite quotes

“Greatness is a transitory experience.”

“You’ve glimpsed the fist within the Bene Gesserit glove. Few glimpse it and live.”

“The struggle between life elements is the struggle for the free energy of a system.”

“There is no escape—we pay for the violence of our ancestors.”

Lady Jessica Cosplay by elisabeth

Discussion questions

– Do you feel it was wise for Duke Leto to change the customs regarding water when guests enter–not whether it was morally right but whether it was politically right?
– We see the Duke’s actions and words at dinner through Jessica’s eyes. How did you interpret his statements?
– The dinner revealed much about which people are in league with each other. Which observation of Jessica’s surprised you the most?
– Do you think Kynes has a bigger role than he’s letting on? Why is he keeping how much potential Arrakis has to transform a secret?

Bonus material

Spice coffee recipes – Have a strong desire to try spice coffee? Reddit has advice.
1969 Interview with Frank Herbert – In this interview with Willis McNelly, Herbert discusses the inspiration for Arrakis and the ecology of Dune.

Hidden meanings and multiple layers are constant themes in Dune. The quote “a feint within a feint within a feint” sums it up. There is so much going on beneath the surface that we don’t see and probably some things that even Lady Jessica misses. The observations she was able to make because of her Bene Gesserit training made us see the dinner in an entirely different way than we would have if she wasn’t present. It illustrated her power and her importance–her importance in general but especially to the success of House Atreides. I’m finding that I admire Lady Jessica much more this time around.

What do you think of Lady Jessica’s abilities? Are you surprised that Dr. Yueh acted so quickly? Head to the comments and let me know your reaction to the latest pages, answer the discussion questions, share your favorite quotes—whatever. You can also come talk to me about all things Dune on Twitter.

Come back on July 27 to discuss pages 263-324.

Featured Image Powered by DeviantArt // Artist: Vladimir Kolpakov

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