Hairy Ticks of Dune

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Like horrific Siamese twins: Hunters I.3

I forget who it was that first observed on the Dune Novels BBS that all the characters in Hunters seem to have lost 50 IQ points during the three years following their "escape from Chapterhouse", but the summary is accurate. Unfortunately, not even the long-dead Irulan escaped the virtual lobotomy.

The epigraph

Insipid is the best description for this (and most of the rest of the epigraphs in the book). But don't take my word for it: compare it with the other quotes from Irulan's work Collected Sayings of Muad'Dib, all of which appear in Dune. I must confess I fail to see why the main concern of the "strongest and most altruistic leader" would be his—or her, in this case, since this section is all about Murbella—legacy. (Especially when legacies can be pillaged and plundered by those who come after.)

The text

When I got my copy of Hunters and started rereading these first few sections, I had to actually go back and make sure that this section had indeed been included among the pre-release PDFs. Because I had no recollection of it at all. That's how forgettable is was (is).

Like a dragon empress surveying her subjects...

WTF? Has someone been watching cheap Chinese dramas about the last Dowager Empress of China? What a silly characterization. But we've dissed this one before, so let's move on.

Chapterhouse was the center of a most peculiar civil war. Reverend Mothers and Honored Matres came together with all the finesse of colliding spacecraft.

Or of bad writers collaborating? I mean, who else would describe the merging of the two groups as being "like horrific Siamese twins"? That would be somewhat questionable in the speech or thoughts of a character in the story (Is this Murbella thinking?), but from the narrator (=the writers) it's inexcusable.

Next comes a something I can't find any mention of.

"Survival at the cost of destroying ourselves is no survival at all," Sheeana had said just before she and Duncan took the no-ship and flew away.

Anyone know of a passage in Chapter House Dune that this could be based on? It's followed by the clause "'Voting with their feet,' as the old saying went." This is a reminder of something Garimi said to Duncan before their departure...and therefore something that Murbella should not know of. Quite a co-inky-dinky, no, that they should both happen upon the same old idiom independently!

Odrade-in-Memory now makes an appearance, for some non-memorable chitchat. We're (hopefully needlessly) reminded that Reverend Mothers can converse with their peeps-within, and told that Murbella often does so out loud. (Cuckoo! Cuckoo!) Fortunately their exchange is interrupted by some real action (Yea!): a rebel Honored Matre is brought in for discipline. Because she has dissed Murbella, the latter has decided to make it personal.

But no...before the action can get off the ground we're treated to more internal Murbellan musings on the "trappings of office" and fashion as a factional statement in today's Chapterhouse society! "...serpent-scribed capes and scarves, and formfitting leotard bodysuits...a canary yellow leotard with a flamboyant cape of sapphire plazsilk moire." (Dayumm! Who's the clothes-closet queane?)

Here's where things got a little interesting for me. I seem to recall that this was around the time of another of Kevin's "Talifan" tirades. In which context it is possible (but valid? You decide) to take the HM prisoner, Annine, as symbolic of everyone who doesn't like the new Dune books.

"I no longer wish to hear what you have to say, [Talifan]. You have already said too much."

Th[ese people] had criticized the[ir author]ship once too often, ... railing against the merging of [the Old and New Canons]. ... [Kevin] could not allow such a provocation to pass unchallenged.

The way [the Talifan] had handled her dissatisfaction—embarrassing [Brian and Kevin] and diminishing her authority and prestige from behind a cloak of cowardly anonymity—had been unforgivable. The [Brother Coauthor] knew [these Talifans'] type well enough. No negotiation, no compromise, no appeal for understanding would ever change [their] mind[s]. The[y] defined [themselves] through [their] opposition.

A waste of human raw material....

Ok...maybe not.

We are next told why Murbella is now addressed as "Mother Commander": because she is simultaneously the legitimate successor of the Reverend Mother Superior and the Great Honored Matre.

Huh?! (Wouldn't "Great Superior" have made as much sense?)

And that while any number of people want nothing more than to see her die, all of the women have "become rather protective of her."

Double huh?!

Cue another flashback, this one to help explain how the current situation came about; something about fighting which involved playground equipment on the main Guild planet.

And then—finally!—back to the action in real time! A hint of bondage sadism, occular intimidation (also with a hint of sadist enjoyment), another reminder of basic Duniverse fundamentals and Murbella is at last ready some more.

But only a few lines. Then she stabs Annine in the throat and sits back down, ready for the next item on her agenda: more musing and chitchat with Odrade, this time without moving her lips.

Remember this for later: "Annine hadn't even made a mess on the floor."

Then, in true overblown operatic melodramatic form, the fat lady takes the stage: "the aged and enormously fat Bellonda leaned over". Any confusion over the identity of this sow (after all, wasn't she losing weight in Chapter House?!) is thus allayed: "Bell had been Odrade's foil and companion. The two had disagreed a great deal, especially about the Duncan Idaho project." (Yes, they disagreed a lot about him...but the actual blood was shed over the Duncan Donuts boxes.)

And what Wagnerian melody does Bellonda sing? Why, that haunting aria, "Die Guildmänner sind hier!" Murbella does an almost Mentat thang: "She knew what the Guild wanted. Spice. Always the same, spice."

Bellonda's chins folded together as she nodded.

This last marks the beginning of innumerable (nah, not really, just as yet uncounted) references to the obsesity of Taca Bella Bellonda.

Begin to lower stage curtain and fade to darkness. The light has gone out at the End of the Duniverse.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bellonda is obsese? Huh, I never caught that.... :)

Sheena never made any such comment before they left in the No-ship, at least not as far as the text in Chapterhouse is concerned. I went back and read the "voting with their feet" section, and yes, quite a coincidence that they would arrive at the same idiom.

The topic on the dunenovels about how the story should have ended got me thinking. So I have been cutting and pasting all the passages about Sheeana and the "bitter medicine", anywhere there is mention of taking the sandtrout skin, and all the discussion of the missionaria and preparation for Sheeana to be a religious figure. I'll post something on it later when I have a coherent argument...

Keep up the good work!

12:55 PM, March 08, 2007 
Blogger Ian Sales said...

Like a dragon empress... pretty much sums up the entire book for me. I wonder what phrase will cause great gnashing of teeth in Sandworms of Dune - "like a dinosaur spaceship...", "like a knight in dragon armour...", "like an omniscient god..."?

6:51 AM, March 11, 2007 
Blogger SandChigger said...

It took me a while to catch on that Bell is carrying around a few extra kilos, too. But once you see it, you can't miss it: it's everywhere!!!

I can't wait to read their description of when Norma possesses Sheeana and shows her how to use her super powers to take on the sandtrout skin and become the Bifurgated Goddess Empress of Dune Reborn.


["bifurgated" not a spelling error here; think about it.]

1:47 PM, March 11, 2007 

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