Dune Readalong, Part III

This is the final post in the Dune Readalong hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings.  The image to the left was done by gorrem.  This post will contain spoilers.

What is your reaction to finally learning the identity of Princess Irulan?  Do you think that her convention added to the story?

You know, I wasn’t expecting this.  I had imagined Irulan to be a historian some time in the future writing about Paul.  I didn’t think that she’d be his wife.  I really liked having the Princess Irulan writings at the beginning of each chapter to foreshadow future events and give us a look into Paul’s philosophy.

Were you satisfied with the ending?  For those reading for the first time, was it what you expected?

The ending was not what I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I knew whenever I started reading that “Dune” was the first book in a series, so I didn’t expect it to resolve itself as neatly as it did.  I expected it to be one of those books that doesn’t end.  Instead, Herbert wrapped it up as one would conclude a standalone novel.  As a reader, I appreciate that.

On both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus, ecology plays a major role in shaping both characters and the story itself. Was this convincing? Do you think that Paul would have gone through with his threat to destroy the spice, knowing what it would mean for Arrakis?

Herbert’s use of Arrakis reminds me a lot of how Dostoevsky uses Petersburg in “Crime and Punishment.”  I would consider Arrakis to be as important to the story as any of its characters.  Both planets have harsh ecologies, making life difficult enough that only the strong can survive.  This makes them an ideal breeding ground for elite fighters.  Fremen culture also was built upon living on Arrakis, and the social structure was perfectly adapted to the difficult lifestyle that was necessary to survive.  Speaking of Fremen culture, did anyone else get the impression that aside from the reliance on water, the Fremen’s most important beliefs came from outside influences?  Fremen religion seemed to be based in part on Bene Gesserit prophecies, and the current decision to store enough water to change the planet’s ecosystem came from the Imperial ecologists.

When Paul threatened to destroy the spice, he was threatening to destroy the only thing that made Arrakis powerful.  I think that he would have gone through with it, because if the worms were destroyed, it would destroy any real outside interest in the planet.  It would be possible for the Fremen to do their own thing on a planet with enough water, but it would also eliminate any future source of income.  It was a desperate move, but at the same time, the Emperor really didn’t have much of a choice other than to give in to Paul’s demand.

Both Leto and Paul made their decisions on marriage for political reasons. Do you agree with their choices?

I thought that it was very interesting that Paul decided to make the same decision as his father.  With Leto, I was annoyed about his remaining single for political reasons, largely because the reasons seemed half-hearted.  With Paul, I understood a lot more.  Chani and Paul belonged together.  I know that Jessica had good intentions trying to keep them apart, but it would have been a mistake.  Knowing what position Irulan would be in after marrying Paul did make me think a lot, because she still seemed to have a lot of respect for him when she wrote about him.  I’d be curious to learn what happened between the time that Paul meets Irulan and whatever time she wrote her histories.

What was your favorite part in this section of the book?

I really liked the scene with Alia and the Emperor.  I liked Alia, and greatly enjoyed seeing her cause the Reverend Mother to freak out.  My boyfriend, on the other hand, thought Alia was creepy.

One of the things I noticed in the discussions last week was Herbert’s use of the word “jihad.” What do you think of Herbert’s message about religion and politics?

I think that what Paul was seeking to avoid during the entire story was to become simultaneously a political and a religious figure, because blind loyalty inspires great destruction.  Even though he tried to avoid it, he was pushed into such a position in order to minimize the destruction that would be found in other future scenarios.  Paul kept getting upset with Jessica because he realized what would happen if started grasping for power, and didn’t want to go down that road.  At the same time, I think that Paul’s reluctance to accept power makes him more fit to lead than anyone else.

I didn’t mind the use of the word “jihad,” even though it has different connotations in the post 9/11 world than it did when Herbert wrote the novel.  I think that Herbert chose to use a Middle-Eastern influence on Arrakis because it shares a similar climate as Middle-Eastern countries, as well as to reveal that the futuristic world incorporated some elements of the past.

Comments make me happy! Please feel free to leave a reply.

10 comments

  1. I also liked Alia a great deal, did not think she was creepy at all.
    This marriage with Paul is debasing the Princess I thought. Her identity did not suprise me, there was a hint early on but that she would end up being Paul’s wife, that yes. Nothing in the tone of her writings prepared us for this.
    I think the differnece between Leto and Paul’s choice of not marrying their concubine is, as you say, quite different. Half-hearted on leto’s side, is a very good point, I agree. I never got it.
    I only half agree on Dune being “finished”, there was an end that made sense but still there are a lot of open questions.
    Will you continue reading the series?

    1. I would like to finish the series, but I probably won’t finish it immediately, as I just picked up a bunch of other books. 😛

      I thought that the book ended more than a first book of a trilogy or series would. Normally in a series, authors tend to cut off at cliffhanger moments without really wrapping anything up. While there’s still a lot open at the end of Dune, I thought that Herbert did a decent job of wrapping up the story.

  2. There seems to be a variety of opinions on whether or not Dune is a stand alone novel and on how well it resolved itself. I lean more towards where you are, which is that it is its own thing and did have a nice resolution. Doesn’t mean every loose end was tied up, but I felt the major plot points came to an end that satisfied me enough that if there had never been any other novels written I would consider this a great read. And I do.

    Alia is great. She is a little creepy, which is part of her appeal. The scene with the Emperor was fantastic.

    One of the story lines we really didn’t talk about too much in our discussion was something you just touched on and that was the relationship between Paul and Jessica. It just now dawned on me that, as a teenage protagonist, this is also a coming of age story. Paul goes through the process of stepping outside his mother’s authority/influence to make his own decisions and transition to young adulthood. That aspect is hidden somewhat by the fact that this isn’t a “normal” coming of age novel, but it does have that aspect. Paul chooses to “date” someone his mother does not approve of and in that he ends up being correct because Chani is the right partner for him. He also refuses to get involved in his mother’s scheming as much as he can, but also learns that he cannot control everything and that some events move forward and catch him up in them despite his best efforts to not let that happen. That is a topic of discussion that could branch out for a long time.

    Another thing I liked about this novel is that while Paul could have just up and destroyed everyone in a big war on the planet, he instead used negotiation to take what he felt was his rightful place. Sure, that negotiation was accepted because of his power and his powerful backing army, but still, it was nice to see that they didn’t have to (yet) go on some long massacre across Arrakis to achieve their ends.

    1. Despite being a military figure, Paul really did do a good job of avoiding actual war. That was one thing that I really respected about his character.

      The relationship between Paul and Jessica shows a generation gap between the two characters. Jessica really does want what’s best her son, but she doesn’t understand that the future she wants to help him attain isn’t the future that Paul actually wants. I liked how Herbert handled the coming of age elements; Paul is always relatively mature compared to the whiny protagonists in a lot of coming of age fantasy.

      1. It did make Paul a more multi-dimensional character that he was strong and well trained and yet wanted to avoid a future where he saw war going forth in his name and because of decisions he either made or didn’t make. That is a lot of responsibility for a teenager.

        Speaking of, as I was reading this I couldn’t help wonder if Herbert’s years were similar to Heinlein’s in the novel Podkayne of Mars (and others) where the standard year was longer because of the planet’s orbit around its son. We tend to want to compare Arrakis to Earth, but it obviously is a different galaxy orbiting a different sun.

        1. I got the feeling that a year might be longer, mostly because so much happened during the two year gap. I was surprised to see he and Chani as an established couple with a kid so quickly, even though it was still feasible during the time frame Herbert gave.

          1. Just throwing out a theory, of course. It makes Paul a little more believable than when we compare our own 15 year olds to him. Of course he still was thought of as young in Herbert’s world because people were surprised by his wisdom, and of course he was anything but a typical youth, even in that culture.

  3. The Fremen’s religious beliefs do seem to be heavily influenced by the planting of prophesies by the Bene Gesserit, but I felt like they added their own flavor based on their environment. Survival of the fittest certainly comes into play in the societies of Arrakis and Selusa Secundus.
    Paul reminds me of his father in so many ways. I would also like to learn more about the marriage of Paul and Irulan.
    I both liked Alia and thought she was creepy.