I’m always thinking about Dune. Here’s some random thoughts I had this morning.
#3. Leto II as a metaphor for Frank Herbert
It’s easy to see Leto II as a stand-in for Frank Herbert. What’s interesting about Leto II and the Golden Path is that it’s clear by the 6th Dune novel that the goal was always for the Scattering (the mass outward migration of humanity) to occur on such a scale that humanity would be beyond the capability of any one force to dominate or destroy ever again.
If you see Leto II as Frank Herbert’s mouthpiece, and also go by Tim O’Reilly’s biography of Frank Herbert, then it’s easy to interpret all of this as the struggle for humanity to grow beyond the trap of Heroism. Leto II breeds a new human, Siona, who cannot be seen by the Oracle, her future is her own and cannot be governed, and that’s what Leto II wants. He craves surprises, as opposed to humans who crave the endless now. He wants humanity to exceed and escape him. He wants humanity to never have to bow to another being such as himself ever again.
#2. Daniel and Marty
I always assumed that this was Frank Herbert and his wife, Beverly. It’s also clear from a comment from Duncan Idaho that they’re some kind of godlike Face Dancers, who have absorbed so many lives that they’ve grown beyond the power of the Tleilaxu Masters and now are a faction unto themselves.
The interesting thing is, at the end of the 6th Dune novel, they comment how irritating it is that Duncan Idaho escapes them. They had a world planned out to test them. I thought of this as Frank Herbert actually glad that his characters, all of his characters, have escaped into the infinite universes to have crazy adventures beyond the powers of Leto II or Daniel and Marty.
What’s interesting too is that by the later Dune novels, it’s almost as easy to see Daniel and Marty as Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. The successor authors taking up the mantle of the Face Dancer Gods. Only, they rewrote things so that Daniel and Marty are actually their other author insertions, Omnius and Erasmus, basically evil robots.
#1. Duncan Idaho
I love Duncan Idaho. He might be my favorite science fiction character, and definitely among my top fictional characters. The hilarious thing is that Frank Herbert also loves Duncan Idaho and reincarnates him for every Dune novel. It’s hilarious because Duncan Idaho was such a minor character in the first Dune novel, he basically shows up and dies.
The Duncan of the 6th Dune novel is the Ultimate Duncan, though he’s not really called that. He’s the fusion of all the Duncans, and the recipient of all their skills and experiences. This manifests mainly in Ultimate Duncan’s near endless musings on Mentat stuff.
But why does Frank Herbert love Duncan? I’ve thought about this after rereading the 4th Dune novel, and I think the thing is that he represents humanity, in it’s most basic and flawed shape. Most Duncans were just humans, always seemingly a different variation, but just human. And in the Dune universe where humanity was evolving into beings with amazing abilities, it was good to have a metric by which to measure them. Duncan functions as the Hobbits, if you will. But more than that, Duncan also represents the things that the Dune humans are always on the verge of losing, for example his capacity to love and to act impulsively. Duncan has all the attributes to be a hero himself, but is shackled by his loyalty to follow others.
I think it’s Duncan’s eventual rebellion that Frank Herbert wanted.
From what I’ve read on the internet, the Dune series is ended by the 8th Dune novel where Duncan fuses with the Thinking Machines created by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, to become the benevolent ruler of humanity and the Thinking Machines. Paul Atreides, reborn, then remarks that he finally has the time to be a devoted husband to Chani. The end.
Now, I may have to read this some day, which exhausts me at even the thought, but really? Duncan becomes Super God-Emperor? Humanity is brought to heel again by a super hero? Paul Atreides retires to a simple life on a desert world with his wife?
It all seems so pointless to me, for a series that is about the rejection of the Hero to end with the ascension of an even more super hero than the God Emperor Leto II. And to resurrect Paul so he can have a “happy” ending? Bringing back Paul practically recreates the entire problem of the first three Dune novels. Also the Bene Gesserit promise to never breed another Kwisatz Haderach, well hello, THERE’S A KWISATZ HADERACH RIGHT THERE!
Yeah. It’s going to be an unpleasant read for me.