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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Aug 14, 2022

Finalist #14 in the Book Review Contest

[This is one of the finalists in the 2022 book review contest. It’s not by me - it’s by an ACX reader who will remain anonymous until after voting is done, to prevent their identity from influencing your decisions. I’ll be posting about one of these a week for several months. When you’ve read them all, I’ll ask you to vote for a favorite, so remember which ones you liked. This contains spoilers for the Dune series. - SA]

The memory of sand’s gold sheen
The worm, the man, the Arakeen
The beast, the wise undying king
His long and gentle wrath
His voice trapped under golden swells
Like screams wrung from uncounted bells
divided god within a hell
His pain a golden path

- From The Collected Songs of The Scattering, author unknown.

The Setting

As God Emperor of Dune begins, our attention is immediately drawn to people. Here, 3500 years after the chronological setting of the first novel, is immediate proof that humanity has survived in the form of a small group of people fleeing through a forest, wolves nipping at their heels.

The wolves belong to Leto Atreides II, the grandson of Duke Leto Atreides and son of Paul Muad’ib Atreides, the Kwisatz Haderach and protagonist of Dune I: The One You’ve Probably Read. At the end of the third book, Leto fused his body with Arakeen sandtrout, the larval form of the Sandworms on which the plot of the series mostly hangs. This symbiosis gave Leto super-human physical powers to match the clairvoyance already enjoyed by his family and allowed him to seize control of the galactic empire.

Centuries of time have seen him evolve into a hybrid of a human man and a full-grown sandworm, and the resultant power and pseudo-immortality have allowed him to extend his father’s dominance of the known universe from a period of decades to an era spanning the better part of four millennia.

The wolves are his not only by right of ownership but also apparently by right of design and creation; near-immortality leaves one with much time to tinker, and he has developed the wolves to a level of sophistication sufficient that they understand the boundaries of their hunting grounds to stop at the Idaho river. It is towards this river and the safety attained through its crossing that the group is fleeing.