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Answers... and Yet More Questions

Category: Reaction/Review

Published April 4, 2005

Warning: This entry contains spoilers for the conclusions of Dune: The Battle of Corrin and Chapterhouse: Dune. Reader beware!

Last night, I finally finished reading Dune: The Battle of Corrin, the final installment in an awesome trilogy about the Butlerian Jihad, telling the story of Humanity’s struggle to free themselves from the threat of the “thinking machines”. The story had been great from the beginning, weaving all sorts of various threads together into something that showed some very obvious connections to the familiar elements of the Dune universe seen in the original novels by Frank Herbert, but showed some fascinating differences as well. From the Sorcoresses of Rossak and VenKee Enterprises diverging to form the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild (or the embryonic elements of both organizations), to the most obvious (and more fascinating) relationships between Vorian Atreides and Xavier and Abulurd Harkonnen — the evolving story provided both easily-predicted changes and shockingly unpredictable changes certain to please any fan of the original Dune novels.

What I loved the most, though, was the fact that the conclusion of The Battle of Corrin raised so many more questions, even as it answered the ones it originally raised. For instance, where exactly did the Tleilaxu eventually come from, if nutty old Rekur Van was killed in the explosion of the container ship? It was obvious that the shapeshifting robots were the predecessors of the Face Dancers, or at least the inspiration for them. And where exactly did the Tleilaxu come from, seeing as how the Tlulaxa, though having a similar name, were still very different in many ways (such as obviously lacking their cloning capabilities, their axlotl tanks, and their religious fanatacism).

But what’s puzzling me even more, is just where Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson are planning to go with those “lost” copies of Omnius. After all, the Giedi Prime incarnation of Omnius sent out a number of copies of itself out into unknown space... did they manage to take root on some unknown planet, and stay out of Humanity’s way for the next twenty thousand years? Then there’s Omnius Prime’s last transmission into deep space. (What I found really ironic is that, when the situation was bleakest, Omnius took a desperate gamble in order to survive, and just launched itself into space as an ethereal energy wave, with a totally unpredictable fate. How like a Human, don’t you think? It showed, like Erasmus, that even the thinking machines might be capable of some sort of Human-like capabilities.) I think it’s obvious that the authors were setting up for some sort of reincarnated version of Omnius to return at some point in the future and threaten Humanity once again.

Heck, is it even possible that the mysterious menace of Chapterhouse: Dune (the one that was forcing the Honored Matres back into the Old Empire — that is, the Empire founded by Faykan Corrino) was actually a manifestation of Omnius that had somehow stayed out of the way of Humanity for twenty millennia? Paul Atreides sensed some sort of awful threat to Humanity, that he was trying to avoid by creating the “Golden Path”. Then Leto II kept Humanity bottled up, not expanding, for over four thousand years. Is it possible that they somehow (subconsciously) knew about the threat of the suriviving copies of Omnius, who had been able to spread undetected for over ten thousand years, until they were in some way ready to face the threat?

To extend the metaphor further (and I realize that now I’m really reaching), could there be some sort of symbolic parallel between the Holtzman Field scrambler satellites that were keeping Omnius bottled up on Corrin for the last twenty years of the Jihad, and that mysterious “Net” that Duncan Idaho and his fleeing no-ship managed to evade, and might have somehow been keeping Humanity from expanding further into the Universe? (The only problem with that would be those two mysterious individuals from that perplexing last chapter in Chapterhouse who seemed to have ties to the Face Dancers and the Tleilaxu, but even in retrospect had virtually no commonalities with Omnius. And those two individuals seemed to be “in charge” of the Net in some way.)

At any rate, going back to the Jihad...

One thing I really enjoyed (on a dramatic level, anyway) was the supreme tragedy in the “betrayal” of Vorian Atreides by Abulurd Harkonnen. As a history student, I could really appreciate the parallels between the story as told in Paul Atreides’ time, and the original events as they actually transpired. Anyone who had read the original Dune knew that there had to be some sort of falling-out between the two, but because the story as passed down seemed totally contradictory to the attitudes of the characters as introduced at the beginning of The Butlerian Jihad.

When we started out, Xavier and Vorian, and then Vorian and Abulurd, were close friends — virtually brothers in arms, and allies that seemed inseparable. Yet ultimately, both of them caused the rift that would permanently end their friendship and cause the bitterest feud the galaxy had ever known. Abulurd created the spark by breaking military protocol, but Vorian ultimately ended the friendship by refusing to forgive — or at least accept his difference of opinion with — Abulurd for following his conscience. On one level, Vorian was absolutely correct that they had to press the attack against Omnius, regardless of the potential cost in life, in order to eliminate the threat of Omnius once and for all (or at least as far as we know at the moment).

Abulurd’s faith in finding another way to wipe out Omnius was, in my opinion, more wishful thinking than practical planning. After all, despite the near-total depletion of useful resources on Corrin, Omnius showed remarkable capabilities for building massive amounts of armaments to keep its enemies at bay as long as possible. Even if the defeat of the thinking machines was inevitable even before the beginning of the battle, Vorian’s argument — that any postponement of Omnius’ destruction opened up the possibility of a renewed tyranny over Humanity — was perfectly rational. Considering the potential number of Humans that Omnius could kill, given time to develop a new Scourge — or worse! — wouldn’t two million lives be worth sacrificing? Abulurd forgot that war must always be impersonal, but worse, that “...the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" The ultimate goal of the Jihad was the survival of Humanity, and that could only be achieved with the final and complete destruction of Omnius.

But at the same time, Vorian unfortunately abandoned too much of his humanity in his bitterness over Abulurd’s betrayal. Yes, it was a betrayal, but given Vorian’s previous sadness in reaction to the massive nuclear destruction in the Great Purge, the goal of preventing another, though lesser, slaughter, is still a noble goal. It seemed that Vorian’s shunning of Abulurd was almost political in nature. Vorian seemed to forget the meaning of friendship, even.

Then there’s the other questions to follow up...

I was somewhat surprised about the rather abrupt (and almost unsatisfying) resolution of the conflict between Ishmael and El’hiim, aside from the irony that that the original Free Men of Dune would probably not survive to become the Fremen in later years. And that the Fremen only traced their roots to Ishmael’s own small breakaway group.

Just where exactly would House Atreides come from? After setting out for some independent adventure across the galaxy, would he go back and settle down on Caladan, starting a new family that would become a dynasty? Or would his estranged sons, or more likely his later descendants, reclaim the Atreides family name and establish the noble house?

Finally, what exactly was the purpose of leaving the prototypical Bene Gesserit in control of a gigantic computer to keep track of all their genetic records? We know that they will have to abandon the use of computers eventually — and by the time of Dune have a keeper of the bloodline. Is this going to be a seed for some sort of conflict later on?

You almost think that the authors were planning a sequel to the Jihad trilogy... <grin />

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