A Grain of Sand, Thoughts About Dune
Evil or great, the mighty remain human beings with all the grandeur and humbling that can imply. That is a ringing theme in Dune I very much enjoy. Science fiction without presenting aliens as reflections of us, but warped humans merely hyper-conditioned. Arrogance obscuring clarity is something that while sounding simplistic is the multifaceted enemy of the human condition, patiently affecting and layering or being beaten back by the many Houses and incredible individuals within the story, from the mighty Fremen harnessing their own environment and the galaxy in a great flash of motion, to every Mentat becoming a living computational mechanism, and from the chain of Paul to Leto II, from Jessica to Alia to Baron and the influx of both of the latter over each other even after the event of one’s death, the retroactive wounds of the past and weight of decision demonstrating the incredible clarity demanded merely to wield power and affect minimal change, when occluded the human being can overwhelm itself so absolutely.
It is very easy to be both distinctly and subtly awed by the obsessive nature of so many cyphered languages, ‘feints within feints’, yet time and again beneath the heady words use Dune is a series that consists of the powerful rattling the chains that societal systems and the needs of the people force them into, a straightforward cautionary tale about the nature of hero worship and supposed superiority and ultimate power where the hero can become Emperor, and can be blinded, and tempted with vice and bleed out no different to a beggar on the street. That the mighty who presume to use sex as an imprinting method of enslavement can be turned amusingly with raw carnality. That even the tectonic God-Emperor is a fleshy thing, subject to the fall of gravity, just as humanity is as fantastically flawed and easily toppled as it can be miraculously intelligent.
So sure of eternity, yet blind. Blind to being creatures who still need followers, who need eyes to see. Leto II is a worm undone by sexual longing and a fall from a bridge as surely of any of us are. one may pontificate about the end, but it is interesting how following a process, or being eroded by choices one chooses to ultimately accept without true resistance is fascinating. The Fish Speakers emphatically not being the pinnacle of warfare or particularly humane following their enforced military superiority, the struggle for the Bene Gesserit not to be a malevolent force even as they employ the power of lies and suffer for the fact the choose to lack the essence of true union they counterfeit for politics. Duncan Idaho can calmly mentally prepare to slit his own wrist with wire if he chooses, but once bled the man can be forced to recover. Within a setting containing such rich detail, byzantine systems for society, neofeudalistic organisation, and galactic exploration, such mentally and physically advanced beings are kept bound to earth by the gravity of reality, and the still greater nature of a universe able to remind the mighty human being they are not immune to their own self-sabotage.
As the first piece on this particular series, how better to start than a ruminating piece? If nothing else, Dune can be relied upon to seemly create infinite postulations on human beings and the mind.
Herbert, F. Dune. Hodder & Stoughton, St Ives. 1965.
Herbert, F. Dune Messiah. Hodder & Stoughton, St Ives. 1969.
Herbert, F. Children of Dune. Orion Publishing Group, London. 1976.
Herbert, F. God Emperor of Dune. Orion Publishing Group, London. 1981.