Hairy Ticks of Dune

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Dem bones, dem bones, gone awry! Hunters I.5

(AKA Duncan in the Labyrinth)

There's not a lot to say about the fifth section of Hunters. This was the last of the prereleases last year, so when I got the book and started reading, I didn't PostIt anything in this one. Nevertheless, upon careful rereading, some things have emerged.


Other than the typo in the attribution pointed out by someone else (Darwil Odrade? Way to go, editors & galley proofers!), there's not much to say about this one. I feel a bit of disconnect between the first and last sentences, but whatever. As "Superman" has recently informed me, these epigraphs are simply provided to help "setting the scene". To be certain, there's little gist for further philosophical speculation provided by those we're given in the new books...and Hunters seems to have reached a new high in vapidity. The image here of crawly things does in some way prepare us for what is to come, of course.

Think of this one as like the Russian's idea of foreplay in the old joke: "Brace yourself, Ludmilla!"


"Old bones rising to the surface of a battlefield after a drenching rain" there's a word picture for you. Unfortunately, so far as I know, bones don't float. No doubt this poor simile is based on the same perceptual misconception and failure to think things through that leads people to report (and believe in) fingernails and hair that continue to grow after death. Duncan Idaho is a veteran soldier, so such allusions would come naturally to him, right? (Cough cough) The rest of the first paragraph is just recap of Heretics and Chapterhouse (and Hunters itself, since we are reminded that they have been fleeing for three years) and also provides an explanation for the prior non-discovery of what is to come (so much space, so few minds).

"...the main decks and compartments were equipped with surveillance imagers...." What exactly is a "surveillance imager"? To me, an imager would be something that displays an image, not something that collects light (or other electromagnetic radiation) and transmits one, as these things seem to be. Seems to me there was a word for those sorts of devices...what was it again? Oh, yeah! Cameras! Another example of a totally unnecessary neologisms used for the sake of exoticism.

Nevertheless, Duncan did not expect to discover a long-sealed death chamber on one of the rarely visited decks.

NOBODY EXPECTS THE, Honored Matre inquisitiveness! OMG! Send the children to bed! There's a death chamber coming! Wow. Um...This is called letting the cat out of the bag, no? We're no more than four paragraphs into the thing yet and already the rest is anti-climax.

Oh well. Onward! The ship conveniently taking the lift our intrepid Duncan Idaho is riding offline for maintenance may be intended to add some sort of nuance of Fate to what follows. (He was meant to find what he finds. We were meant to find that outline!) At the very least it adds 42 words of text. Notice, by the way, that we are never told why Duncan was in the lift tube or where he was headed before it "paused". Also, unless there was some danger of imminent failure that would prove dangerous to the occupant, why wouldn't a lift wait until after reaching its current destination to begin such "self-maintenance procedures"?

After further filler we're next treated to a rather trite analogy between what Duncan is doing in exploring unknown areas of the ship (his original goal? Was he just wandering around looking for adventure?) and folding space without navigational data: fumbling around in the dark.

Doors slid aside to reveal dim, empty rooms. From the dust and lack of furnishings, he guessed that no one had ever occupied them.

Um...unless the no-ship has a really shiteful atmospheric filtration system, if the rooms are sealed and have been never been occupied, there should be no dust: As I recall, most dust is composed of human skin, hair, fabric fuzz rubbed from clothing, etc.—all products of human presence and activity.

I have to wonder as well why the HMs would have located a torture room (cleverly disquised by having been labelled "Machinery Room", no less) so far removed from their other centers of activity on the ship. If they could eat in the same room, I doubt they're the sort as would have been disturbed by having the sounds and smells of such a chamber closer to their main living areas. Were they really the kind of person who could put off the good stuff long enough to thread they way down to this secluded place? Lacks a bit of coherence, methinks.

The lights in the dim chamber came up, as if in eager anticipation.

OK...ignoring the unilluminating anthropomorphism of the illumination, we're told the room is dark (and by the way, how many qualities of darkness are you able to distinguish? Oh, they mean the smell of the air—further evidence against active ventilation, no?—something I always associate with visibility. Could one of the authors be a synesthete?), yet he can discern the "discordant...jarring" color of the walls? That's certainly one super pair of eyes he has there. But then he's been noted for his eyes since the Hayt days, what?

OK, I'm getting bored. Let's see: HMs are sloppy housekeepers, leaving dirty dishes and dead BG strewn all over the place. No, wait, they did have the Suzy Homemaker sense to place all the dead RMs but one into the garbage bin (which was "clearplaz"...and they were in black robes [Ever heard of aba? You can dance, you can dance!], no doubt explaining why The Big D walked past it without noticing in the dark when he first came in. Or he could have been distracted by the wall treatment whose garishness only he could see.

What else? I got nuttin'. Already mentioned The Reverend Mummies; besides, we all know what tough old birds they are—even before dessication—so the bits about how they would have withstood the HM interrogation and even the information they would have been tortured for (BG body control, location of Chapterhouse) is all so much shallowly disguised recap.

Duncan pondered his discovery in silence. Words did not seem adequate. Best to tell Sheeana about this terrible room. As a Reverend Mother, she would know what to do.

Words seemed inadequate., who was he going to talk to there at that moment anyway? And if words do not seem adequate, how is he going to tell Mama Sheeana—who will prove wiser than a multi-lifed ghola Mentat—about it? Pantomime? I'd love to be a fly on the properly painted wall for that!

So, really, what purpose does this "chapter" serve? We know the HMs were a nasty lot; did we really need this extra scene to emphasize the point? Or is this all just to set up the funeral (oh so pivotal in itself) to come?

Stay tuned for the answers...which will be negative.

Damn! Could somebody catch that cat?!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMO this entire chapter is meant to set up an explanation for the orange-flecked eyes of the HMs. Its hinting at the techniques that were used to apparently extract adrenaline to help make'em all crazy and shite.

I, quite frankly, had issues with the whole concept of vast expanses of unoccupied ship just waiting to be explored. I understand the no-ship is rather large, but weren't there entries in the ships systems that identified different use-areas of the various decks? What have they been doing for the last three years?

Has Duncan lost his mentat abilities or something? I mean the average reader, such as myself, quickly put two and two together here and I think most of us surmised the whole adrenaline extraction bit fairly quickly. Duncan has all this data laying out in front of him; isn't it prime computation time?

Honestly, this was one of my least favorite of the pre-released chapters. This entire chapter is something that would have been revealed by Frank in just a couple of sentences IMHO.

6:20 AM, April 17, 2007 
Blogger SandChigger said...

What have they been doing for the last three years?

Evidently precious little...other than giving the ship a stupid name and...building an arboretum for the futars and...watching the spice-making sandworms grow?

Beats me, in other words!

9:46 AM, April 17, 2007 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dont forget, it's not just those three years..... That ship was sat on chapterhouse for well over a decade (prior to the decanonisation of the CH:D novel).

You think the BG wouldnt go take a peak upstairs? ESPECIALLY before they put Duncan, Murbella and Scytale in there.

Or that RM's who noticed that the room slanted slightly in heretics would miss a big gaping gap in the structure?

4:18 AM, September 04, 2007 

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