Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dune: Part 4: Didn't See That One Coming

In our last reading, the Harkonnens successfully planted suspicion right where it would do the most damage; Duke Leto and Paul got to see their very first Spice Factory swallowed by a creature the size of Dubuque; and Lady Jessica threw a dinner party to get to know their enemies better.

Even though I've read this book I don't know how many times, and even though I know how things fall out, this next chapter always seems to sandbag me. While we're still reeling from Jessica's face-off with Hawat in the previous chapter, Leto walks down a hallway in his palace and discovers a dead man. The house's protective shields are down, and the servants who might have given warning are dead. Leto barely has time to realize his danger when he feels the drugged dart shot into his arm.

"What th--? It's happening already??? But they just got here! Leto never had a chance!" No he didn't. That's what everyone's been saying for the past dozen or so chapters.

Doctor Yueh, the Traitor, has finally made his move. "I'm sorry, my dear Duke, but there are things which will make greater demands than this," he says, indicating the tattoo on his forehead symbolizing his ethical conditioning. "I find it strange, myself -- an override on my pyretic conscience -- but I wish to kill a man.... Oh, not you, my dear Duke. The Baron Harkonnen. I wish to kill the Baron."

Yueh promises to save Jessica and Paul. He has persuaded the Baron to leave the two of them out in the desert to die, and has arranged for survival gear to be hidden for them and for Duncan Idaho to find them and take them to the Fremen. In return, he ask Leto to extract revenge on the Baron for both of them, by means of a poison gas capsule disguised as a false tooth.

Jessica awakens to find herself bound and gagged, along with Paul. The Harkonnens have arrived and the Baron is here to gloat over her. The gag is important, because the Baron fears her use of "The Voice", a Bene Gesserit technique of inducing others to instinctively obey commands by pitching the voice in just the right manner. It's a little bit like "Jedi Mind Tricks," and we saw a bit of it in her interview with Hawat in last week's section.

The Baron has promised promised Jessica to his mentat, Piter de Vries; but he now offers Piter a choice: either take the woman he's been lusting after and leave Arrakis, or remain as the Baron's governor. This is part of the Baron's larger plan; he expects Piter to make himself so hated as ruler of the planet that the people will welcome his eventual replacement, the Baron's nephew Feyd, with open arms. A mentat should know when he's being manipulated like that, but Piter jumps exactly the way the Baron wants him to.

Piter has a couple minions take Jessica and Paul in an ornithopter, the one Yueh prepared, out into the desert, "as the Traitor suggested." Both Piter and the Baron fear the possibility of being questioned by the Emperor's B.G. Truthsayer (whom we met in the first chapter), and so they want to be able to say truthfully that they did not actually kill either Jessica or her son. Paul has been left un-gagged, and although he is not yet fully trained in the Voice, he is able to induce one of the guards to remove his mother's gag as well. Big mistake, guys.

A little bit here about Duncan Idaho. In the sequel, we meet a clone of Duncan and are told how much Paul admired the original, but he never seemed to me to have done much in the original book. Re-reading it, I see that Duncan did a lot of cool stuff -- just that it was all off-stage. For example, we are told early on that Duncan was Paul's chief fencing instructor. His mission to the Fremen must have been exciting and dangerous, and here we are told that Duncan picks up Paul and Jessica. Then, apparently, Duncan goes to rendezvous with Kynes, and gets captured by the Harkonnens. He is tortured to death; all off-stage. We aren't even told for sure it's him. Duncan deserves better. Just sayin' is all.

Yueh meets the Baron and demands that Harkonnen keep his part of the bargain: to free Yueh's wife from her agony and permit him to join her. Yueh's no fool. He knows exactly what this means; but he has to be sure that his wife is truly dead and free from the Baron's tortures. And he wants to get his revenge.

His plan very nearly works; the poison gas in Leto's tooth kills Piter and some of the Baron's soldiers, but by chance the Baron himself is far enough away to cheat death.

Out in the desert, Paul and Jessica wait in a tent for Idaho to return. They've found the pack of survival gear Yueh hid away on their ornithopter, along with the Atriedes ducal signet ring and a letter confessing to his treachery. Paul finds himself unable to stop analyzing things. The mentat training Hawat has been giving him; his mother's B.G. training in observation; his genetic potential as the possible Kwisatz Haderach, the one who can be many places at once; all boosted by his recent exposure to the spice melange are coming together and making him hyper-aware. He experiences glimpses of the future -- of possible futures.

Paul's mind had gone on in its chilling precision. He saw the avenues ahead of them on this hostile planet. Without even the safety valve of dreaming, he focused his prescient awareness, seeing it as a computation of probable futures, but with something more, an edge of mystery -- as though his mind dipped into some timeless stratum and sampled the winds of the future.

The possibilities he sees in the future frighten and repulse him. And he sees the jihad; a galactic war carried on in his name. "I'm a monster!" he thinks; "A freak!" He also realizes that he himself carries Harkonnen blood; that his mother's unknown father was in fact the Baron himself. And he sees the huge vortex of destiny ahead of him ready to swallow him up.

NEXT: Paul and Jessica flee into the desert. Gurney and Thufir seek refuge. The Baron reviews his options. And: Walk this way!

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