The focus this week was entirely the Duke Leto Atreides. We saw him deal with his son, his staff, and the unknown. I can’t help but feel that every moment we’re given with him is, in a sense, pointless. I know he’s going to die, so I feel myself writing him off. He’s pivotal to the book, though, in how he has shaped those around him. And the knowledge of his greatness develops what would otherwise be empty tragedy.
There is a a split, but not a dichotomy between how he deals with the issues facing himself and his son versus leading his staff. In the former, he’s compassionate and almost conspiratorial. He sees the man his son is becoming and is impressed but saddened by his (heavily foreshadowed) future. At the same time, he is reserved–he loves his son and withholds knowledge from him in hopes that Paul will be comforted by not having to bear the full doom of their situation.
With his staff, he takes command and doesn’t stand for any nonsense while demonstrating that he is a fair leader. He cares less for ceremony and titles than doing what’s right when it needs to be done. This is demonstrated first with the Freman Stilgar and the second crysknife to pop up thus far in the story. I love scene’s like Stilgar’s (and later Kynes’) introduction to the Duke. The Freman clearly doesn’t care for ceremonial titles, and Leto is not the least bit insulted by their neglect. But everyone else is quickly enraged. It’s a classic moment showing the humanness of a leader, and it plays really well here.
Kynes’ introduction is similar in tone, but it feels more serious to me. He’s an important character, both in the situation at hand and in the book itself. He seems to balance himself between a cold matter-of-fact manner and a more mystically-minded, questioning thought process. There is certainly a lot going on with him (hints!!!).
The whole spice harvest set piece is pretty exhilarating. We finally get a hint of where the spice comes from and we get our first “glimpse” of a sandworm and the destruction and danger it represents. I love the concept, put forth thus far only lightly, of the sand as an ocean. That is, rather than hard, packed ground, it is a shifting medium containing both wealth and danger. The spice crawlers have the feel of whaling or fishing ships, especially in that scene, with the sandworm standing in for some mighty whale or kraken. Plus, Leto exhibits his fairness and concern for people over profits which is a great thing to see even if it feels a little cliché.
Oh! And stillsuits. What a fascinating, disgusting, brilliant concept. I realize that modern space suits aren’t entirely unlike this, but the idea of the stillsuit makes me think of the line, from a Venture Brothers episode, about Doc Venture “basting in [his] own juices.”
Herbert continues his heavy foreshadowing, with the Duke and even with Paul. I have some thoughts about his use of heavy near-spoiler levels of foreshadowing, but I’m going to address it in a later post where it can be tied better into the story.
[If you’re supplementing my commentary with Dustin Harbin’s we’re up to his week 2/2.5. We’ve read most of what he talks about in week 3, but not all of it (one of the major things he talks about is in this coming week). His week 3 commentary is also peppered with little spoilers, so maybe read half of next week’s reading before jumping over there.]
We’re reading to page 162ish this Christmas week. The final chapter starts with “Do you wrestle with dreams?”
Don’t worry too much if you’re behind or ahead. If you’re behind, curl up in a comfy chair some afternoon this week and catch up. If you’re ahead, try not to blaze too far ahead. I know the schedule is slow for this month, but weekly page count doubles starting January 1.