Hairy Ticks of Dune

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Monday, April 16, 2007

You state these things as if we did not know them: Hunters I.6


I'm stuck for a word to describe this one. Or rather...stuck between two words. Which would you choose to use, "insipid" or "vapid"? I've already used the latter, so let's go with the first, yawn, and move on. (A moving target is always harder to hit. Dur forbid we get a bead on ourselves!)


At around 2,600 words, this section can actually claim to be worthy of being called a "chapter". But only just. And that's probably the nicest thing I'll have to say about it. Let's begin, shall we?

After executing the defiant Honored Matre, Murbella was in no hurry to meet the Guild delegation. She wanted to make sure all traces of the disturbance were cleaned up before any outsiders were allowed into the Keep's main chamber.

Um...what traces? Think back to the scene in which Murbella stabbed Annine: "Annine hadn't even made a mess on the floor." Someone has made a mess here, to be sure, but I don't think it was any of the characters. And if "all traces" is meant more broadly, the use of "cleaned up" is decidedly odd.

This is followed by two wrought paragraphs on why it's hard to be Murbella, Mother Commander, and the reason why she cares (and by extension, we should). Then we get another painfully odd simile (Each step of the overall plan hummed past like connected cars on a maglev train.) before the main event. The cast of characters gathers...and just as it ain't over until she sings, the thing isn't properly begun until the fat lady...shuffles. To the foot of the dais upon which sits Murbella's soostone throne. But soft...she speaks:

"Mother Commander, the Guild delegation grows impatient—as you intended. I believe they are ripe for your meeting."

They are ripe for your meeting? WhoTF talks like that?

And just in case you missed it earlier, we are told again that Bellonda is a balloon (Murbella regarded the obese woman.) and treated to a (another) recap of BG abilities at somatic control and Murbella's speculations as to why Bell has let herself go. No explanation, however, as to why Bell has bloomed after apparently starting to thin in Chapterhouse. (Brian must have left that out of the "Concordance"?) Blubber aside, Bellonda also seems to be suffering from the same dumbing down that afflicts everone else in the Duniverse:

"Bring me spice coffee. I must be at my sharpest. Those Guildsmen will no doubt attempt to manipulate me."

"Shall I send them in now?"

"My coffee first, then the Guild. And summon Doria as well. I want both of you beside me."

If someone asks for a drink, especially a stimulant, after a bit of the nasty and before an important meeting, do you have to be a genius to realize the person probably wants a few minutes to collect themself? This is just stupid. But what can you expect from a cow like Bell? Especially one that "lumber[s] away" with a "knowing smile" on her fat face.

(I sometimes have to stop and ask myself why I am bothering with this drivel.)

OK, let's pick up the pace a bit. We're told (not shown) that Murbella knows how to look intimidating; after she finishes her coffee, Bell (we're now reminded that she's OLD) has the Guild delegation brought in. Enter Doria, the new "whip-thin" foil for Bell, with her backstory. And recap about BG-Guild relations. There's a loose use of "human" (Their highest human administrative official) which could lead the unwary to conclude that Navigators are no longer human in more than just appearance, a conclusion I reject for reasons I won't go into now. Bell and Doria begin to scowl and bicker until Murbella verbally smacks their behinds. (Both advisors fell silent as if a gate had slammed shut across their mouths. Never let it be said that Brian and Kevin are not inventive in their use of language!)

Then enter the Dwarves! I mean, Guildsmen...squat, bald, with "faces slightly malformed and wrong." Odd...I don't remember any mention of the non-Navigator Guildsmen being that different from the human norm. The authors seem to have foreseen such objections and explain: The Guild did not breed with an eye to physical perfection or attractiveness; they focused on maximizing the potential of the human mind. But they're not ALL like that: their leader, Nasi Goreng (OK...not really, but it's almost as bad) is a tall man, bald "as polished marble" except for "a white braid that dangled from the base of his skull like a long electrical cord." A long electric cord? Can anyone find another reference to electrical cords in the Dune books? Here we see another one of what I consider a New Dune hallmark: the anachronous use of contemporary references. (The "maglev train" above comes pretty close as well, IMO.)

OK, tall and well-dressed though oddly coiffured as he may be, the Administrator has "milky eyes" but still seems able to see perfectly well. It's not made clear why this detail is introduced. It certainly plays no role that I could find in Hunters. Maybe it will become significant in Sandworms.

Enter the Navigator, Edrik. We're supposed to think him fishlike, a point reinforced by his travelling in a "great armored aquarium". (There's no mention of how this giant floating container moves, by the way.) And told that he's mostly all brain, his body some sort of residual afterthought. (Who does that remind you of?)

Murbella rose from her throne as a sign that she looked down upon this delegation, not as a gesture of respect.

I'm glad they told us that (in lieu of showing it in the Guildsmen's reactions), otherwise I wouldn't have gotten it. In the cultures I'm familiar with, remaining sitting is the way to show one's perception of a disparity in power.

Introductions are made, blah blah blah, and then we get to the primary goal of this section, rewriting canon:

Murbella knew that most Navigators were so isolated and obscure they could barely communicate with normal humans. With brains as folded as the fabric of space, they could not utter a comprehensible sentence and communed instead with their even more bizarre and exotic Oracle of Time. Some Navigators, however, clung to shreds of their genetic past, intentionally "stunting themselves" so they could act as liaisons with mere humans.

I needn't mention that Frank Herbert never once mentioned any "Oracle of Time" in any of his Dune publications. This is a B&K special, or a misinterpretation of something they found in FH's papers.

More blah blah and recap of the current spice situation and its origins and then we get to the title line:

Murbella curled her own lips downward in a frown. She remained on her feet. "You state these things as if we did not know them."

This could almost read as an accusation from a real fan to the current authors. A bit ironic, no?

More recap and description of the current situation (Chapterhouse desert growing, spice blows have occurred and "stunted sandworms" have appeared) and then this:

In contrast, the Spacing Guild—assuming the days of scarce melange were long over and the market was strong—did not make preparations for a possible shortage.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like the Guild I was told about in earlier books. They were always stockpiling the spice, no?

They go back and forth until we get to the next bit of "canon rewriting": the new fallibility of the formerly perfectly functional Ixian navigational machines, now dismissed as "inferior substitutes" for a real Guild Navigator. (There's also a bit before this about Guild guilt in revealing the "landscape" of the Old Empire to the invading Honored Matres—a transgression used by Murbella to deprive them of further spice allotments from the BG. I haven't gone back through Old Canon yet to find corroboration for this. If you know of something, could you mention it in a comment?) We're told that the Guild never really relied on the Ixian devices. All of which is a clear contradiction of canon established in Heretics and Chapterhouse.

Think about it this way: if the Ixian and Scattering navigation systems weren't reliable, weren't Duncan and Sheeana taking a terrible risk (with no only their own lives but those of many others) in escaping from Chapterhouse in a ship equipped only with such systems? Sorry, but this just doesn't hold together.

But Brian and Kevin aren't through with canon yet:

Murbella had her own deceptions. The extravagant use of melange on Chapterhouse was mainly for show, a bluff. So far, the worms in the desert belt provided only a trickle of spice, but the Bene Gesserit kept the market open by freely selling melange from their copious stockpiles, implying that it came from the newborn worms in the arid belt.

I've already posted about this on both the Dune Novels BBS and my blog on MySpace. It's just plain WRONG. Worms do not produce any spice. Spice is produced from pre-spice mass which is exposed to air and sunlight on the surface following a spice blow. I know of nothing in any of the original Dune novels which specifically states otherwise. If you do, then please let me know.

Before the long night of the Honored Matres, Mother Superior Odrade had dispersed groups of Sisters in unguided no-ships across uncharted space.

Unguided by Guild Navigators, but hardly "shots in the dark". (This is all more recap, by the way.) There is also, by the way, no published source for the Odrade quote ("Remove the single point of failure"). The scene continues with more chit-chat until Gorus (the Administrator) gets froggy and threatens Guild action against the New Sisterhood in a recap straight out of Dune:

Trembling, Gorus said, "Can your New Sisterhood survive without the Guild? We could bring a huge force of Heighliners and take the spice from you."

Murbella smiled to herself, knowing his threat had no teeth. "Accepting your ludicrous assertion for a moment, would you risk destroying the spice forever? We have installed explosives, cleverly rigged to annihilate the spice sands and flood them out with our water reserves if we detect even the slightest incursion from outside. The last sandworms would die."

And just in case you miss the reference, Edrik poles the point into the sand: "You're as bad as Paul Atreides," the Guildsman cried. "He made a similar threat against the Guild." Murbella is pleased and then launches into a rousing speech meant for the ears of both the Guildsmen and the assembled members of the New Sisterhood, finally ending this one.

* * * * *

The main purpose of this section should be clear: establishing Brian and Kevin's changes and additions as canon. No doubt a majority of the Prequelite new fans will blithely go along with this, faithfully accepting it all on the basis of the claims that everything is as Frank Herbert intended, as indicated in the notes he left behind.

But those of us who have dwelt longer in the Duniverse may feel compelled to echo Gorus when he questions Murbella's claims about a coming Enemy:

"We have all heard this, Mother Commander." The Administrator's voice dripped with skepticism. "We have seen no proof."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh boy. Where to start. You have hit all the high points. I find it very interesting that you and I often have very similar views, but as is human nature, different "errors" have different emotional effects on us. I agree with everything you have said, and if I have time I would like to search around in the canon and see if there is mention of the Guild helping the HMs with Old Empire info--I vaguely remember something about that.

But, as to the "emotional effects on us" comment I made, by far, the most irritating and disturbing thing to me in this chapter is the quote you provided:

"Murbella knew that most Navigators were so isolated and obscure they could barely communicate with normal humans."

WTF IS THAT ALL ABOUT! Did they not read Messiah? Did the "conspiracy scene" complete escape them? This "class" of navigators is BASED ON EDRIC. And the Edric I have read countless times in Messiah had absolutely no problems with verbal communication. Now granted, he was manipulated and even given the proverbial bitch-slapping from Scytale, but his speech was eloquent and had no hints of being hindered by isolation. This is retarded. (Oh, and to one of your other points, yes, the Guild is human. All of them. Even the Navigators. THERE ARE NO FUCKING ALIENS IN DUNE! Only humans, and genetic experiments derived from some manipulation of the human genome--futars and face dancers.)

Are the Milky eyes some sort of cover up of the Eyes of Ibad? Just a thought.

Keep up the good work SC!

6:47 AM, April 17, 2007 
Blogger SandChigger said...

Interesting idea about the eyes...but would an Administrator be that addicted?

Rewriting canon...that's the name of the game.

9:47 AM, April 17, 2007 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good work here, Chig, but may I suggest that you take break before you pull all of your hair out?

10:29 PM, April 23, 2007 
Blogger SandChigger said...

Yeah...the sense of humor is always the first thing to go.

I'm fairly disgusted with the whole thing at the moment. :(

1:39 AM, April 24, 2007 
Blogger Unknown said...

I knew it was bad but damn dude, damn

And I paid money for this shit?

Think its too late to return my book?

12:41 PM, August 17, 2007 

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