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Nerdist Book Club: DUNE, Part 5

Well, that was unfortunate. The latest chapters of Frank Herbert’s Dune took a drastic turn. The landscape has completely changed for House Atreides—and not in a positive way. At least, it doesn’t seem positive. A new and likely dangerous, but also likely interesting path has opened for Paul and Jessica…

What happened

Dr. Yueh’s betrayal was put in motion as the last chapter closed. As we got to know him, it was apparent turning the Atreides over to the Harkonnens pained him; it wasn’t surprising to see him use his efforts to exact revenge upon the Baron. Unfortunately, his plan to kill the Baron failed. He did manage to complicate the Baron’s life since the poison wiped out Piter, but it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. The Baron will recoup. As the eventful night played out, it became apparent how the Emperor and his Sardaukar both are and aren’t allied with the Harkonnens. Even with the tensions present between the two groups, the Emperor is throwing in with the Baron to a certain degree.

And in case you weren’t already convinced about how twisted the Baron is, some of his more disturbing tastes were confirmed. On a scale of awfulness from 1 to Joffrey in Game of Thrones, I’d put him near the Joffrey end.

The other part of Yueh’s plan—the part we didn’t know about—worked out somewhat better. Because he was a man put in a difficult place and not a monster, he took steps to ensure Paul and Jessica would survive the Harkonnen attack. He coordinated with Duncan Idaho to make sure the mother and son would escape the grasp of the Harkonnens and fall in with the Fremen. And this is where things took a sharp U-turn.

‘Thopter by Carlos NCT

The loss of his father, Leto, triggered a change in Paul. We know from the visit with the Reverend Mother that she, Jessica, and the Bene Gesserit had hopes for the teen. They thought it possible he could be a chosen one of sorts, the Kwisatz Haderach. But what happened was something no one expected. Herbert has presented Jessica as a cool, confident, and intelligent person thus far, and to see her react to the new Paul with fear was jarring.

He has Jessica’s Bene Gesserit training and he has Mentat abilities, but that’s not all. It’s almost like he’s transcended to another plane. Nothing escapes him. He’s able to discern his mother is the daughter of Baron Harkonnen (!), that she’s pregnant, and that he will become Muad’Dib to the Fremen. He sees all the paths in front of him and the intents of everyone along the way–it seems like an incredible burden. And though in some ways it is like a switch flipped, Herbert’s approach to the way Paul processes what’s happening makes it weirdly natural. It’s all so practical, if that makes sense.

As part of Paul’s development, our eyes are finally opened to the power of the Fremen. They are not primitive as we’re led to believe by others and that plays into questions about assumptions and prejudices.

Favorite quotes

“Paul felt that all his past, every experience before this night, had become sand curling in an hourglass.”

“The culture that made these things betrays depths no one suspected.”

“The thing was a spectrum of possibilities from the most remote past to the most remote future—from the most probable to the most improbable.”

Discussion questions

– After Paul’s transformation, how do you feel about Lady Jessica? Do you blame or judge her for what Paul has become?
– Did you suspect Yueh would offer Paul and Jessica assistance? Why do you think he saved them?
– For those of you who haven’t read the books, what is your current opinion of the Fremen?
– Do you think it’s right or wrong for Paul to leverage the prophecies placed by the Missionaria Protectiva?

Bonus material

Tour a ‘thopter – Explore a ‘thopter on the set of the 2000 Dune miniseries with Alec Newman (Paul Atreides).

Dune fascinates me for many reasons, and one of those reasons is how often Herbert reveals key plot points. We knew Dr. Yueh was going to betray the Atreides all along, but it didn’t take away from the pain of the moment. We’ve known Paul would become something else–the Kwisatz Haderach or otherwise–and adopt the title Muad’Dib. If you didn’t pick up on the fact from chapter headings, the end of this week’s reading assignment made it clear. Knowing these plot points doesn’t lessen their impact, and it’s making me think about my feelings in regards to spoilers.

What do you think about the way Herbert lays out the story? Head to the comments and let me know your thoughts on that, answers to the discussion questions, favorite scenes–anything you want to chat about. You can also hit me up on Twitter.

Come back next week, on August 3, to discuss pages 325-410!

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