Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Chapterhouse: Dune (1985)

Author: Frank Herbert  |  Page Count: 476

'Some never participate. Life happens to them. They get by on little more than dumb persistence and resist with anger or violence all things that might lift them out of resentment-filled illusions of security.'
-Alma Mavis Taraza

The last of the original Dune books wasn't planned to be the last. Frank had hoped to finish the second trilogy (Books V + VI + VII) but sadly he died before it could be written, less than one year after the publication of Chapterhouse. For the reader that means some things are left unresolved at the end of the book. The new directions hinted at don't come to pass as Frank would have directed them.*

Does that mean you shouldn't bother to read it? That's entirely up to you, but if you've read Book V: Heretics of Dune (1984) then I feel it would be folly to stop thereafter because Book VI is an improvement upon its predecessor, bringing the quality back up to a level almost equal that of the first trilogy (I + II + III).

In Chapterhouse: Dune the Honoured Matres of the Scattering are hunting and killing the Bene Gesserit. The Sisterhood is large and spread across many planets but the Honoured Matres are erasing them from the universe on a mass scale.

To ensure the survival of both their Order and homeworld they have the option of setting something in motion that'll change everything, from the very small to the very large, like an interdependent ecology. The book explores the decision making process, among other more personal decisions, some of which are calculable to a certain degree but still dangerous.

The women have a small number of human subjects in their care, under deep scrutiny. Likewise, thanks to Frank's reveals, we're able to watch the watchers in the same manner. The Bene Gesserit view of themselves reveals much about the truth of themselves to an observer. The reader is also gifted a deeper insight into what the Spice Agony is and how it affects anyone brave enough to undergo the trial. (Like the aphorism says, change is the only constant.)

I was left wondering if, like in previous books, some of the passages/testimonials that introduce each chapter (in a sense presented as histories acting as a kind of prescient commentary when placed out of their original time) were from someone who would go on to play a key role in the next book? And if so, would their actions change how I view the things they said in this one?

4½ specialised complexities out of 5

*Brian Herbert (Frank's son) and Kevin J Anderson took up the mantle and attempted to write Dune VII, but rather than one book they did a Peter Jackson and split it into multiple parts (well, two). The books are called Hunters of Dune (2006) and Sandworms of Dune (2007). I've not read either of them because I read two-thirds of their Prelude to Dune Trilogy and found them to be a mere shadow of what Frank achieved, padded out with filler and lacking the multitudinous layers of what Dune should be. If I ever do give their Dune VII a try I'll link to them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Heretics of Dune (1984)

Author: Frank Herbert  |  Page Count: 508

'When things change, your absolute universe vanishes, no longer accesible for your self-limiting perceptions. The universe has moved beyond you.'
-First Draft, Atreides Manifesto, Bene Gesserit Archives

Fifteen-hundred years have passed since the God Emperor's extended reign came to an end. Previously we witnessed Leto II musing upon the role his religion had to play in the great work and the sacrifices he had to pay to ensure it was carried out. Now we're privy to how the various factions that endure respond to that legacy and how they choose to act within its various interpretations.

Each group dreams of dominance while attempting to make the best of what the Tyrant left them. They strive to elevate their place in the universe's new shape. They're hopeful elements adrift in the human current believing their order worthy of filling the impossible gap left by his absence. They even begin to believe the whispering assurances of their own ego.

HoD explores the 'myth of the Messiah' after he's passed, mostly by reference to, and direct experience of, movements within the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood.

The labels we give to things in some ways define and influence them, so it's fascinating to see how place names change over time. Frank incorporated that phenomenon into the book's structure and explores the question of whether or not the new names also change the people that reside there, or do old prejudices remain, hidden, diluted but still potent in the right hands?

Concepts and belief systems can also change and grow in the same manner. The Tyrant, for example, in some circles has become known as the Divided God, referencing the belief that he exists still as separate pearls of awareness in an endless dream. His Golden Path rolls onward.

Many different dependency infrastructures exist within the novel. Much of your reading will require you to recognise them and weigh their importance with regards to the bigger picture. I believe that's the best way to approach it, because those seeking a quick fix or a standalone resolution will be left wanting - the Divided God's story is split across more than one book. (Book VI is HERE.)

4 wordless understandings out of 5

NOTE: I'm aware that the picture on the cover is the same as on God Emperor of Dune (1981). It depicts a scene from Book IV, so was obviously an error on the publishers part (New English Library), but that's how my editions are.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Moon Over Manifest (2010)

Author: Clare Vanderpool  |  Page Count: 351

"Who would dare think the outcast and abandoned can find a home? Who would dream that one can love without being crushed under the weight of it? A miracle cure to heal the sick? Pah. What makes us think any of this could be true? And yet all of us, we participate in this myth, we create it, perpetuate it."

Staged in the desolate years of America’s Great Depression, Clare Vanderpool’s first novel sets out to be a work of historical fiction but flies past such categorization almost instantaneously, instead choosing to consistently dwell pleasingly deep in a pool of careful and subtle characterization. As it opens, Abilene Tucker is on her way to Manifest, Kansas, a town her father Gideon has always colorfully spoken of during their life on the road.

Though the color palette and physical reality of the town may initially seem far more drab than she had envisioned, the intrigue and mystery that almost instantly manifests itself draws her and the reader into a vibrant, intricate, and sometimes foreboding yarn.

The rub is that as an adult reader the twists and turns are almost always easy to see coming. However, this is in actuality a non-issue as 1.) it’s children’s literature, 2.) a focus of the narrative is the power of seeing a story unfold even if you know the ending, and 3.) it had me so focused on what I assumed was the biggest reveal that I didn't see the ending coming at all.

It’s really quite an exquisite work in that it can show young readers how effectively plot threads, events, and objects can be woven together into a dense, satisfying reading experience. It does this with great delicate care much more akin to Watchmen (1987) than John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines (2006), which I personally feel was unreadable because of its hammer-fisted attempts to guide readers into understanding the use and value of metaphors.

I randomly chose this from the shelf when I found myself in a library in need of mental stimulation and it pleases me to think that those in its intended audience can do much the same and be equally as surprised and fulfilled.

4½ Tracks to Here and Back out of 5

Nutted by NEG