Rereading Frank Herbert's Dune Saga...

Dom Nardi

Member
I'm about to embark upon a reread of Frank Herbert's Dune saga. I'm writing a paper about politics in Dune for Mythmoot V and plan on reading all 6 books (not Brian Herbert's spinoff books). Corey Olsen did a great course on the first Dune novel a few years ago, which is an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to dig a bit deeper. Would anybody else be interested in rereading the books alongside me? Let me know. Maybe we can set up a subgroup here in the forums.
 

Wes

Member
I haven't read Dune before, but I have been meaning to for awhile. Don't know if I can commit to reading more than the first book at this point, but we'll see
 

Dom Nardi

Member
Most people end up not reading past the first book unfortunately. I know time is precious, but I definitely encourage you to try to finish the first three at least if you like the first book. For me, as much as I liked the first book, the story didn't feel complete until I read the second and third books. Those three form a loose trilogy, with the latter two books exploring the implications of the first one.

The fourth book is more of an interlude that follows one of the characters from book 3, while the fifth and sixth books were the start of a new trilogy (Herbert died before he could finish). I'm actually not a huge fan of the last two books.
 

Wes

Member
Shoot, it is a sad thing for an author to die without finishing a series.

I'm about 100 pages into Dune and could reasonably read/judiciously skim all 6 over the next few weeks, I'm hooked. I can see the political stuff as being quite salient. What angle are you interested in taking on it? I'm very curious about the desert people's god and what's going on with this prophecy business. Feel free to bounce ideas off, just please tread gently with specific details until I get a bit further in!
 

Dom Nardi

Member
Frank's son Brian did end up finishing the series, but I don't think he had the skill of the elder Herbert. Brian's Dune spinoff novels are more conventional space operas.

I'm looking at how prescience determines political power, as well as how prescience gets around the predestination paradox. Lots of great political intrigue. Like Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones. I won't spoil anything here in without a large spoiler warning. One thing I'll say is pay careful attention to who tells the prophecy, the origins of the prophecy, and the choices Paul makes with regard to the prophecy. Frank Herbert does a lot of interesting stuff with prophecy, predestination, and free will.
 

Wes

Member
Ok so hey, I've read the first book and I'll try to say some things that may bear on your topic here, how prescience gets around the predestination paradox, well said!

I'm not into Game of Thrones, but I did like Dune. Just started listening to the mythgard series--so good!

SPOILERS AHEAD

There towards the end, where Paul faces down the Emperor and his retinue, I think we get a pretty concise summary of the political situation. He tells the Guild what he's said to the Fremen already: "The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it." Though it's the spice that's directly under discussion, we're given to understand that he and his army could overrun the whole universe at this point, right? And yet he's trying very hard to prevent the jihad, chiefly by surviving, not becoming a martyr.

He might not be right about his definition of absolute control, of course: look at the gom jabbar, which he brings up next with the Reverend Mother. She had him in a situation where she had the power to destroy a thing--namely him--but he determined by his actions whether she did or not. Is that fair to say? If so, it's because they both believed in the power of words, of training and ritual in service of a very long-term goal. They believed in prophecy and the possibility of creating something being more important than destroying things.

So the economic (Guild), the political (Emperor and chief Houses), and the religious (Bene Gesserit) are all brought face to face here, but the tensest moments come between individuals. It's where Paul's prescience is blind, but he can feel the importance of the moment for that very reason. Is this one way of getting around the paradox? He defeats one rival--ironically by using his last breath to say he won't say the trigger word, he distracts him enough to win--but it sounds like the other, an almost-Kwisatz Haderach, makes the decision not to kill him despite being ordered to do so. Paul feels a "sense of brotherhood" with him--whatever it was in the Count's depths that stayed his hand, it was greater than political will and the power to destroy, too. Then the Princess makes her choice to go along with Paul's wish to marry. We've heard about her off and on and heard from her before every chapter, so in some sense we get glimpses of the future, too. Besides the branching aspect of Paul's prescience, this seems like the strongest testament to free will, as Jessica explains to Chani--that it matters how people interpret the story, that the two of them will be remembered in terms of that historical process as the story is handed down, rather than determined by the political expediency of the present. Unless they're using the Voice on us through the whole book, it's open to interpretation, not fixed beyond the possibility of change.

I would have a tough time piecing all this together, but it is a mind-expanding read, so those are some of my impressions, for what they're worth!
 

Dom Nardi

Member
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the "The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it" quote is absolutely central to all of this. And with prescience, Paul can see into the future and thus know if his enemies are willing to destroy the spice (they aren't). It gives him a huge advantage in negotiations.

I definitely agree about free will too. Herbert somehow manages to have some characters use prescience, but at the same time not rob other characters of their free will. I'm thinking prescience isn't "just" about seeing into THE future, but more about being able to foresee how people's choices and events collectively shape the future. I think it's more like an extraordinarily accurate - although occasionally incomplete - prediction than it is an actual lens into the future. This is where I think the Mentats and mind-expanding themes of the book come into play - prescience isn't a superpower, it's about expanding your mind to understand the possibilities. Hence, while other characters can exercise free will, their actions are also foreseeable if you know enough about them and their interests.
 

Dom Nardi

Member
Wes, Have you gotten a chance to read any of the other books? I'm starting the 5th one, Heretics of Dune. I'm not a fan of books 5 and 6, but I figured I might as well reread them while I'm on the Dune train.
 

Dom Nardi

Member
Someone tell me if #2 is something I should pick up and read?
Sparrow, I obviously like book 2, but I realize it's controversial. Here's what I'll say. Dune Messiah is a deconstruction of Dune and the heroic archetype. It's a book about palace intrigue on a fairly small scale. So, if you liked Dune because it was an epic adventure, you might not like Dune Messiah. If you were rooting for Paul as the hero, you might be disappointed. If you liked prescience and the questions the first book raises about free will vs. fatalism, Dune Messiah has a lot to offer. If you thought Paul was a jerk for not avoiding the jihad, then Dune Messiah goes the next step.

One thing you could do is check out the Sci-Fi Channel's Children of Dune miniseries, which adapted books 2 and 3. The first episode is a fairly faithful adaption of Dune Messiah.
 

Sparrow

Hestia of the Hearth
Sparrow, I obviously like book 2, but I realize it's controversial. Here's what I'll say. Dune Messiah is a deconstruction of Dune and the heroic archetype. It's a book about palace intrigue on a fairly small scale. So, if you liked Dune because it was an epic adventure, you might not like Dune Messiah. If you were rooting for Paul as the hero, you might be disappointed. If you liked prescience and the questions the first book raises about free will vs. fatalism, Dune Messiah has a lot to offer. If you thought Paul was a jerk for not avoiding the jihad, then Dune Messiah goes the next step.

One thing you could do is check out the Sci-Fi Channel's Children of Dune miniseries, which adapted books 2 and 3. The first episode is a fairly faithful adaption of Dune Messiah.

Dom, that's exactly what I needed to know. So, twenty-year-old Sparrow who craved epics and heroes with white hats, don't read it. Fifty-year-old Sparrow who wants serious meat to chew on with free will and intrigue and flawed characters (as long as they're not really hideous), go ahead and read it.

Thank you!
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I oddly started with dune messiah back tben... before i read the first dune. I liked dune best, but messiah in not a bad book, it's a very belie able and consequent follow up and closing of the story started in dune. I did like god emperor second best of the series, after god emperor the series lost much of it's original magic, though there is no book in it which i would actually call bad literature.

Brian herberts work is more like fanfic to the original series... it reads like pulpy star wars/ battle tech/ sf paragon , it has some ni e ideas, so e crappy ones.
 

Dom Nardi

Member
Sorry, I have not yet found copies of the sequels. Is your essay coming together, Dom?
Hi Wes, for some reason I never saw this post. I presented the paper at Mythmoot V. It seemed pretty well received. The video of my presentation should be posted on Signum's Youtube channel soon. I'll put a link here when it is.
 

Wes

Member
Good! I listened to some of the presentations that were posted so far. One of these years I'll try to make it in person
 

Dom Nardi

Member
Trevor and I recently put out a CFP for papers on Dune. If anyone is potentially interested in submitting, please see the guidelines attached below or reach out to me.
 

Sparrow

Hestia of the Hearth
Hmmm. Could be that attachments don't work in this medium. Dom, would you be willing to make it a Google doc with viewing privileges for all with the link?
 
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