Hairy Ticks of Dune

There's only room enough in this stillsuit for one of us! ... Wait, come back!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Null and Void: Hunters I.2

Why ask a man who is already lost to lead you? Why then are you surprised if he leads you nowhere?
—DUNCAN IDAHO, A Thousand Lives

It should have been obvious from the House and Legends books that in some essential way Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson—for all their protestations of being the world's biggest fans—just don't get Dune. (If they did, they wouldn't have made the mistakes or changes they have.) But in spite of this, we addicts still flock to the bookstore like hungry little sliggies to the trough, eager to gobble up and swallow down whatever they sling at us.

Not in Kansas anymore...

Section 2 of Part I presents us with Duncan Idaho in the "navigation bridge" of the no-ship, fighting the incomprehensible new physical laws of the "strange universe" the no-ship found itself in when he dumped the navigational databases at the end of Chapter House Dune. I won't dwell overmuch on the first paragraphs of this section—mainly because they're another excellent example of how B&K have changed things and because the writing is just really bad; case in point, the sentences leading up to this gem: "How could they encounter turbulence in space when nothing was there?" Well, obviously they couldn't. Stupid, simply stupid. As for the changes, note that the "new universe" as described in Hunters bears little resemblance to the one described in Chapter House:

Sheeana did not look up when he found her at the temporary flight-control board in the guard quarters. She was bent over the board, staring at it in consternation. The projection above her showed they had emerged from foldspace. Idaho recognized none of the visible star patterns but he had expected that. (Chapter House)

Now he studied external images transmitted from sensors extended beyond the no-field. The view outside had not changed: twisted veils of nebula gas, inside-out streamers that would never condense into stars. Was this a young universe, not yet finished coalescing, or a universe so unspeakably ancient that all suns had burned out and been reduced to molecular ash? (Hunters)

There's a big difference between visible but unfamiliar star patters and twisty clouds of gas.

We're then forced to wade through another recap of Chapter House as Duncan muses on the events that led to their current predicament. There is some new information squirreled away here, though. We're told that a year after the departure from Chapterhouse, the hapless "crew" of the no-ship had decided to christen it the "Ithaca", invoking the memory of Odysseus and his endless wanderings.

I've already posted over at the DN BBS about how contrived (and downright silly) this choice of names is. Ithaca was Odysseus' island home and eventual destination, not his ship. But never mind that little twist or the fact that only the Bene Gesserit on board would be likely to remember the details of The Odyssey or even its name. In a day and age when the public will buy orcs and mutants fighting for the Persians against the stalwart Greeks at Thermopylae, who cares about such triffles? Ah, well. You also have to wonder about the general attitude of a group of people who chose to invoke the imagery of a never-ending odyssey; weren't they being just a bit pessimistic, only a year into their journey? You'd almost think they could see the hundreds of pages remaining in the reader's right hand.

We are also introduced here to Duncan's insipid pining over his lost Murbella. Even though at the end of Chapter House he decides to escape on the no-ship because he realizes that what they had had between them is over now that Murbella has become leader of the Bene Gesserit. Fortunately his reminiscences ("the seawater scent of their 'sexual collisions'" isn't that a phrase that just sticks in your nose?) are cut mercifully short by the sudden appearance of the one character who more than any other relegates this piece-of-shite book to the anals [sic] of pure (and bad) fanfic:

Duncan Idaho, a voice called, soothing and feminine. ... The voice tried to intercede. Duncan Idaho, do not flee. I am not your enemy. ... I am the Oracle of Time.

I'm sorry? The Whosit of What?

In several of his lives, Duncan had heard of the Oracle-the guiding force of the Spacing Guild. Benevolent and all-seeing, the Oracle of Time was said to be a shepherding presence that had watched over the Guild since its formation fifteen thousand years ago. Duncan had always considered it an odd manifestation of religion among the hyperacute Navigators.

Well, Duncan certainly got that last bit right. In "Appendix II: The Religion of Dune" in Dune, Frank Herbert himself told us

Any comparison of the religious beliefs dominant in the Imperium up to the time of Muad'Dib must start with the major forces which shaped those beliefs:
3. The agnostic ruling class (including the Guild) for whom religion was a kind of puppet show to amuse the populace and keep it docile, and who believed essentially that all phenomena—even religious phenomena—could be reduced to mechanical explanations;

An odd manifestation indeed. And the first mention ever of this entity or anything like it...if you exclude the references to the "Oracle of Infinity" mentioned in the House books.

Although the full revelation of who this character really is does not come for several hundred steaming pages, it should be fairly obvious to anyone who has read the Legends Brian and Kevin did not create a super-being there—greater than Paul Muad'Dib Atreides or his son The God Emperor—just to forget and write her out of the stories. No, she's back and she's wack.

I remember reading this section as one of the pre-release online samples. My reaction then still serves as valid evaluation now:


As Bad As It Gets

Now let's just bash the writing some, how about?

"They were adrift," we're told in the first line, but then later when the no-ship hits a "rough patch" (see above), Duncan switches off the auto-pilot. If the ship was under auto-pilot steerage, then it wasn't adrift, was it?

"Threats within threats within threats." Clichés within clichés within clichés.

"According to the bridge's independent chronometers, ...." Independent of what? Logic? Reason?

"The laws of physics and the landscape of the galaxy might be completely altered here." No shit? What galaxy? Can't have a galaxy without stars, boys. Stupid. And if the laws of physics have been "completely altered", how does the no-ship continue to maintain its integrity and function? Does the no-field make it some sort of independent(!) little bubble of reality of its own? That's a new twist, too, no?

"Barely perceptible flashes of orange light appeared in front of the vessel, like a faint, flickering fire." Ooh, St Chenoeh's Fire, perhaps?!

"He felt the deck shudder, as if he had rammed into some obstacle, but he could see nothing. Nothing at all! It should have been an empty vacuum, giving them no sensation of movement or turbulence. Strange universe." Nothing at all! Except whisps and tendrils of gas. Thank Dur for inertial dampeners, eh? Strange universe. Bad science writing.

"The Outside Enemy observers, in their bizarrely innocuous guises of an old man and an old woman...." Subtle, isn't it, how they equate the old couple with the Enemy and let us know in advance that their appearances were just "(dis)guises". You can't be too early in setting up a major revision, after all.

"...four animalistic Futars—monstrous human—feline hybrids created out in the Scattering and enslaved by the whores." The Futars were enslaved by the Honored Matres? I thought the Futars preyed upon them. Oh well.

"The pain was at least as sharp and unendurable as the debilitating agony of drug withdrawal." Personal experience talking here? Let's hope not.

"Duncan's shattered heart had been, and still was, merely collateral damage." Wannabe authors take note: how to date your work!

"The no-ship continued to run." I'm not sure what it is about this one that bothers me; "run" perhaps. Anyway, it's a trite ending to an otherwise non-memorable section. Blah. (But fitting in a way, I suppose.)


Some things that got left out:

"The no-ship wandered the frigid void, far from any recorded human exploration."'s a different, unknown universe, right? So it only stands to reason that they would not know if any human had ever been there before. Unnecessary.

About those "independent chronometers" again: First, why more than one? Also, regardless of how time flows in this new universe, the chronometers will register that flow and the passenger/inhabitants of the ship will experience that flow as normal. There is no way for them to determine any difference.

"His fingers a blur, his concentration sharp as a diamond chip...," the prose as forced as any cross-wise turd.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant and entertaining as usual. I have been waiting for you to continue your literary thrashing of this steamer. Of course, you make plenty of great points. I laughed out loud on a couple of your comments, particularly (for some reason):

"According to the bridge's independent chronometers, ...." Independent of what? Logic? Reason?

(or talent I'm afraid :) )

I would like to make one small note, with a BIG disclaimer that I have not looked this up to back my claim, but I think on the critique of the statement concerning the Futars being enslaved by HM- I think they were referring to those specific Futars, not Futars in general. But, on second consideration, there is no telling what they meant.....

Anyway, astute observations on the enormous difference in Duncan's description of this "new universe" from CHD and Hunters.

Norma, well, what can I say that you haven't already made clear (**rolls his eyes**).

I'm glad I wasn't the only one completely put off by Duncan's pining for his lost whore (and their salty sea stench :) . That became incredibly annoying as the book went on.

We haven't arrived there yet as you move through the novel, but you know I am going to have something to say about the whole Scytale-Duncan relationship. Wouldn't an emotionally unstable, P-whipped Duncan (who just happens to be standing right next you) be a prime target for TRYING THE F*CKING WHISTLING LANGUAGE!!!! Why did we have to hear so much about Scytale waiting to try the whistling language in Chapterhouse, only to have the very thought of it completely abandoned in this book. I'll eat a dead cat if it says in Frank's notes "Abandon Scytale whistling-language plot--oh and change M and D into robots!" (BARF!)

(perhaps I'm just a little surly today--I've certainly taken a beating over on dunenovels lately!)

10:22 AM, March 04, 2007 
Blogger SandChigger said...

One is pleased to be of service. :)

I hope to dredge through a lot more of the suckah during spring vacation. The task is quite daunting, believe me; I just hope I have the stamina to finish before Sandworms comes out!

I still haven't finished scanning the text and left the book in the office Friday, so most of this was just from going through the scan file I have on the PowerBook at home. I'll check the PostIts tomorrow and add notes on anything I may have forgotten in an addendum section.

The opening was lackluster, this second section annoying yet a good indication of what is to come. The only one of the pre-released chapters I remember thinking any good was the one with Sheeana and the worms. (Of course, any good feelings generated there were soon dashed to pieces...especially by her "music-box dancer" pirouette on top of the worm column later on. [And don't even TRY to tell me there wasn't something phallic going on there.])

(Ye Gods...sometimes I read back over the stuff I've written describing the events in the book(s)—like that line above—and seriously have to ask myself: What kind of idiots would buy/believe any of this shit?!)

10:52 AM, March 04, 2007 

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