Dune is one of the fundamental texts of speculative fiction and I have probably read it a half dozen times over the years. Why re-read it now? I saw the trailer for the movie coming out later this year (and if you haven’t seen it, find it online, it is fantastic) and realized I had not read it since my kids were very little. I thought I might have a different perspective now that my youngest is a teenager and that was certainly true.
When I had read it before, I had sorta glossed over the role of Duke Leto Atreides. Yes, as Paul Ateriedes’ father, he plays a critical role in shaping his son, but I was always more focused on Paul (especially when I first read this as a teenager), on Jessica Atreides, and on the Bene Gesserit in general. Now, hearing Leto say, “they tried to kill my son” and the rage from him is almost palpable, I get it. Watching how he tries to mold Paul by exhibiting the kinds of actions he wants his son to emulate as a leader is the same tactic I use with my own kids. There is a word in yiddish, kvel. It means to swell with pride. I can imagine Leto kvelling when, later in the book, those who knew Leto watch Paul’s leadership and see how he integrated his father’s teaching into his own style.
The subject of parenting, both good and bad is pervasive throughout the novel from Jessica commenting to the Reverend Mother Mohiam to Harah the nurse to Alia to Feyd. And Feyd is someone who I found much more fascinating during this read. He is presented essentially as the dark twin of Paul, someone who is close to being the Kwisatch Haderach. In fact, it is commented at one point that one wonders if he would have been the kind of leader Paul is if he were brought up under circumstances more….congenial than that of House Harkonnen.
As I mentioned at the start, Dune is one of the key books within speculative fiction. If you haven’t read it, I cannot recommend it enough. If you have read, but it has been a while, I would encourage you to do so again. There are so many ways one can view the text of Dune from a political perspective, an ecological point of view, what it says about religion, etc. There are few books in any genre that have as much to say.