How come the guild has not attempted to seize control of the Empire? They have sole control of all long range travel. If they make an attempt all of the worlds in the Empire will become isolated and nobody will be able to move anything anywhere in any big numbers (the smugglers guild has a far smaller capacity than the spacing guild). If they could establish a base of operations on a previously uncolonized planet or on a ship in deep space then it will be relatively untouchable (only espionage could stand a decent chance of damaging it). If it has enough trusted members guild has the freedom to establish mining and production facilities on previously uninhabited planets or simply position themselves out of weapon range and fire/drop large masses towards inhabited planets that resist. Their Heighliners can carry massive amounts of mass. With enough preparation, establishing isolated staging, production and industrial facilities and moving key personnel aboard ships they could challenge all the houses.
Simple. They don't feel the need to. They're already a silent partner and can secretly dictate terms to the Padishah-Emperor. If they actually tried to run the Empire, they would have to actually run it. It's not easy to run thousands of worlds and manage all the Houses. Why bother when you can just have the influence without the responsibility?
This is detailed at quite some legnth towards the end of the first book. Any attempt to gain power creates a situation of such complexity that their prescience can't see beyond it to say whether it succeeds or fails so they refuse to risk their current comfortable position. Easier, as Paul notes, to remain a parasite.
I would also add, that Mohaim points out the Imperium works as a political tripod. The Emperor and his Sardaukar have the military power to police any individual House. The Landsraad has the ability to combine forces against a tyrannical Emperor, nor does the Emperor have the capability to directly govern all of the various worlds without the Great Houses. The Guild has a monopoly on travel and so must be obeyed, but because the Emperor and his designated Great House control the Spice, attempting to overplay their hand would lead to a stalemate where the Guild would lock off travel, but the Emperor/Great Houses would cut off Spice flow, eventually killing the Navigators. Mohaim notes how unstable this is, and that last scenario does almost play out at the end of the novel until The Guild acquiesces to Paul's demands.
If Arrakis is the only source of the most vital commodity in the universe, why was house Harkonnen allowed to run it like an ordinary fiefdom? You'd think it would be jointly administered by all the major power groups as some kind of neutral ground or similar.
All the major power groups keep hands off to prevent a power struggle. The Emperor is forbidden from governing Arrakis, the Guild's prescient navigators know that touching it would be bad in the long run, and the Bene Gesserit prefer to keep in the shadows. Thus, the Emperor gifts it to one of the in-favour Houses, who are charged with keeping Arrakis spice supplies open. CHOAM doesn't care who is in charge, as long as the supply is kept constant, and Harkonnen maintains this by being an influential player in CHOAM dealings.
House Harkonnen's control of Dune is described as a 'quasi-fief' under a 'CHOAM company contract'. In other words, they didn't own Arrakis, they were simply hired to administrate its mining operations (and aside from smugglers and the Fremen, there's nothing on Arrakis but spice mining operations and the ancillary local industry to support the miners and their families). Note that Duke Leto's control of Arrakis was described as 'fief-complete', and House Atreides had to give up their control of Caladan to go to Arrakis, while House Harkonnen maintained their family seat on Giedi Prime the whole time and simply sent one of the family heirs and some troops to Arrakis to run the shop.
And, of course, the Emperor gave House Atreides the 'fief-complete' of Arrakis for the sole purpose of getting them off their secure base from Caladan and onto ground where he could arrange for their destruction at the apparent hands of House Harkonnen, which explains the violation of normal policy re: not letting any Great House actually own Arrakis.
And it's a huge way to exert control over the Great Houses. It's probably the single largest bargaining chip the Emperor has at the start of the series. Look at House Atreides, they knew getting control over Arrakis was a trap, but too it anyways because of the hugh boost it gives the House.
Why was the Baron even within Alia's consciousness? Wasn't Jessica, and therefore Alia only awakened to the female descendants?
Alia was an Abomination, and the full blooded sister of Paul Atreides the messiah of the Bene Gesserit, it is perfectly possible for her to have the powers she shows if you don't sink to the level of saying women are incapable of greatness, and assume that if she wasn't a messiah herself, being the sister of the supreme being enables her to show at least similar powers, and abilities. Finally, one could surmise the baron was simply a gestalt of her consciousness turned irrational that was driving her toward more insanity. Did the Harkonnen side of the family ever strike you as stable and well grounded?
It's a plot hole. In Dune and Dune Messiah, she has the abilities and limitations of a Reverend Mother. In Children of Dune, she's closer to the twins, who have the abilities and limitations of a Kwisatz Haderach. If a Reverend Mother is able to look back into male ancestral pasts, it means that the ninety generation breeding program of the Bene Gesserit has been a complete and utter wash, as opposed to, y'know, asking a sister "You know that place that frightens you? Try looking into it again real real hard this time."
While not explained, its not necessarily a hole. Alia was able to project thoughts into Paul's consciousness in the first book. She describes it as something "Not even [Paul] can do". She's a bit out there.
Alia went through the awakening while in her mother's womb. It wasn't supposed to happen that way. Without any training, she had trouble keeping her own ego above water. Harkonnen offered to shield her from the press of the others when necessary, but that gave him a lot of influence.
A fetus's sex isn't physiologically evident early in the pregnancy, so it's possible that Alia was exposed to the Water of Life before she truly had a gender on anything but a genetic level. As an effectively-neuter being, she would therefore have equal claim on male and female memories.
Alia hears the voice of her ancestor Agamemnon, as well as that of the Baron. This need not be considered a plot hole, as it's entirely possible that Alia is a girl with a Y chromosome. But this would raise the question of why Jessica would allow such a dangerous anomaly in her daughter's development when the Bene Gesserit are able to manipulate their bodily chemistry with precision.
In Heretics, it says that a "failed Reverend Mother", Geasa, took care of ghola-Idaho. If you fail, you die... so?
Continuity error probably. Frank made them occasionally. Think of her as more of a failed Sister.
Perhaps Failed RM = Wasn't allowed to take the Spice Agony. Not "Tried and Died", but "Your tests show you'd never survive."
Canon. One of the Reverend Mothers (Darwi Odrade), recounted that during her training, the Night Watchwoman (don't remember her official position) was prevented from taking the agony due to heart problems, which also kept her awake at night.
Hasimir Fenring was a 'failed Kwisatz Haderach,' but his Bene Gesserit wife didn't rush to kill him or anything. Failure to pass the test of humanity carried the gom jabbar, but failure to live up to an ideal is just a fact of life.
The only person in the Universe who knew Fenring was a 'failed Kwisatz Haderach' was Paul, due to his powers - for the Bene Gesserit, he was just another power-hungry nobleman and also sterile.
Stillsuits supposedly function by letting your sweat evaporate, then immediately distilling the vapors so the moisture isn't lost. But how can such a self-contained system provide for adequate heat loss, which is what the body sweats to achieve in the first place? They're described as form-fitting, with no fins or other heat-radiating accouterments.
Magic! Okay, let's stop being facetious. Like how lasguns or shields work, the mechanism honestly doesn't matter, only the effects. Since you're getting liquid water out of the process, the heat is obviously being dumped somehow. It's the future, stillsuits might be made from some remarkably efficient radiation material.
Same way that clothes that real desert people achieve heat loss. A stillsuit is simply the natural evolution of that concept. It's worth remarking that in the desert, sweat evaporates too fast to achieve adequate heat loss, and the clothes are meant to keep it in contact with the skin for longer.
The construction of the stillsuit is actually noted by Paul (pre-Maudhib) as evidence that the Fremen have access to very advanced technology, considering that the construction of it is incredibly complex and technologically brilliant. That handwave is pretty much all we're going to get on the matter, I'm afraid.
The book says the sillsuit derives energy from the pumping motion of walking. This energy can be used to concentrate the heat in one point, as with standard refrigerators, where the heat can be released more efficiently than with sweat (possibly using the "thimble of moisture" still lost). The salt content of sweat or a coolant in the stillsuit itself can act as coolant, and a sufficiently advanced refrigerator would be very efficient. There would be a noticeable drag when walking or running - it would cost at least 20% more energy - but it's entirely physically possible.
Water evaporating is an endothermic reaction. It doesn't matter how it evaporates, it's still taking up heat. So long as the sweat was still evaporating, it would cool whoever was wearing the suit down. I might need to double check my chemistry notes, though...
In the appendices to the first book, Dune, there's a map of Dune that shows most, if not all, the locations in the book. Its center is the north pole. It doesn't show the whole planet. So, what happened to the south pole? Why is there people only near the northern polar region ? Obviously, the closer to the equator you are, the hotter it is, so it makes sense that there would be no one between certain latitudes, but why do we never hear about the southern hemisphere? The climate in the southern polar regions of the south hemisphere should be similar to that of the northern region of the north hemisphere.
The south polar regions are forbidden going by what I know.
The book internal coherence suggests that it's the south of the northern polar region that is forbidden, not the south pole.
The southern hemisphere isn't forbidden, but Fremen propaganda and misinformation has caused the common belief that they're uninhabitable due to greater concentration of Coriolis storms and lack of major geographic shelters such as the Shield Wall. The Fremen keep it this way by bribing the Guild to keep the price of their orbital topographical surveys at absurdly high levels, to the point that no House-quasi-fief has had the budget to afford it. (It probably helped that the Emperor's official planetologists, Pardot Kynes and his son Liet, were in thick with the Fremen and therefore probably lied to the Emperor as well.)
That explanation does not work after the end of the first book.
That's where the map is, isn't it?
This pisses me off about the entire series: how the books go on constantly about little minutiae in plans and movements, and then second book was nothing but a guy angsting over his wife and deciding whether or not to fuck his sister. Why, in a series entailing very dramatic events, did all the focus go on a bunch of angsty aristocrats?
Did you even bother to read the book, or go any further than Messiah?
I did, but I just got really really bored with it. The first one was good. The second was annoying (thank god it was short), the third one was almost as good as the third, the fourth was the best (except for the Strangled by the Red String), the fifth was overly drawn out, and the sixth was a disappointment. The biggest, most awesome events in human history, and all we get to see is an old crone thinking about her childhood.
What was Thufir Hawat's angle in working with the Harkonnens? How did he want to bring the House down? He had both the opportunities to kill Vladimir and Feyd-Rautha, however this was just maneuvering. Was it to train some Fremen loyal only to him and to use them?
The Atreides were dead, and he wanted revenge on Jessica (who he calculated was a traitor) at any cost, even working with his sworn enemies. It does not quite make sense, but his beloved Duke just died, so maybe he was not thinking straight (which for a Mentat must be fairly hard to manage).
Considering that Mentats are supposed to be the Chessmasters due to their highly advanced ability to compute outcomes of events based on variables and facts available, pretty much proves that he's either holding the Idiot Ball on this particular issue, or that he's just a failure as a Mentat. (Because the spice smuggler Tuek figures things out based on much less knowledge, and Hawit is stupid enough to be openly manipulated by the Harkonnens. I have no idea why this guy is so prized for his Mentat abilities when he's a FUCKING IDIOT! The only possible reason why he's so stupid about this is that he's so prejudiced against the Bene Gesserit that he can't see how supremely stupid he is actually being, and if he's that easily affected by prejudice then he's a waste as a Mentat anyway. And exposure to the spice is supposed to improve mental capacity, not hinder it. Hence, the most probable reason for Hawat siding with the Harkonnens? He's a prejudiced idiot who can't see two moves in front of his face (I'm still fuming over the fact that he dismissed Yeuh out of hand as the traitor... yes, because obviously the Imperial Conditioning can't be broken by a conflict of morals (because training to apply complete moral values based on saving people's lives ISN'T what the entire thing is based on, obviously). Hawit didn't even do a background check to find out his wife was a fucking bene gesserit held prisoner by the Harkonnens (he is completely stunned by this fact when JESSICA tells him). Furthermore he acts so goddamn surprised that Leto has been betrayed and killed when everyone and THEIR MOTHER knew Arrakis was a trap in the first place and he didn't have safeguards in place to deal with that (Yeuh just walked into the fucking shield room and deactivated it that easily...)). Thufir Hawat, YOU FAIL!
Mentats aren't quite super-duper geniuses; they're intelligent humans with a very tightly defined set of mental skills useful to the Imperium. Hawat gets sidelined because the Harkonnens make a dedicated effort to play to his weaknesses. And he isn't the only one not to suspect Yueh on account of his conditioning; it's implied that the Emperor will destroy the Harkonnens out of hand if he finds out they've suborned the only trusted medical school in the universe.
The Mentats aren't even trying to be Chessmasters - they're human computers. They are good at putting two and two together, but in the face of insufficient evidence (or sufficient madness) they fail spectacularly. Why do you think Leto II was able to conquer all the Mentats, and the Bene Gesserit, and the Spacing Guild?
But that's the point. There is very plainly a point being made about love and loyalty. Hawat isn't a superhero like Paul is, and even super awesome magical conditioning isn't as strong as his love is. Leto II talks about that, and Herbert himself does in the epilogue to Chapterhouse. Gender and relationship commentary is all over that series, and the Bene Gesserit, Bene Tleilax, and Honored Matres are all anvils referential not to politics or anything impersonal, but the breakdown of the personal by the impersonal. Leto II talks about that, too.
You're forgetting the Feyd vs Vladimir subplot. Hawat clearly despised the Harkonnens, and there is mention that he was still being secreted messages by Gurney (about the Fremen tactics). He played Feyd against the Baron and vice versa, turning them against each other, trying to bring the House down. See: Slave Boy assassination attempt.
Exactly. I asked the question about Thufirs angle in the first place, the reason I'm wondering is: after he proposes to the Baron to make Arrakis a Prison Planet just like Salusa Secundus, Thufir asks himself if his victory over the Harkonnen will be as complete as the victory over the Atreides had been. So how did he want to do it? I now suspect that he wanted to raise the Emperors anger against the Harkonnen, just as the Emperor did not want to let the Atreides Army get as good as his own Sardaukar.
What I have always wondered is how can stillsuits be so efficient, and water still be a rarity. The human body produces around 500 ml of water per day from cellular respiration, yet stillsuits allow you to lose only 50 ml or so if I remember correctly. In those conditions, it should become more important to go on finding food (which can hardly grow in the desert) than water, which you already have more than enough if properly managed.
Maybe the suits actually release 550 ml per day. Given they say you "lose" 50 ml per day, that's probably just the net result, after factoring in any and all sources and losses of water. That's the only thing an administrator would care about anyway.
If Duncan Idaho was the ultimate Kwisatz Haderach, then how come he didn't predict the events of the whole series?
He wasn't the ultimate Kwisatz Haderach until the very end of the series, where he did start to predict events. Every time Duncan was revived, he kept improving his mind a little more each life. When Duncan somehow gained the memories of all his ghola incarnations, his mind functioned just like a Kwisatz Haderach's. Unlike other Kwisatz Haderach, who were bred into the role, and used their genetic memory, Duncan developed his own body himself, and used his own memories.
If you find words out of the norm weird, I don't think you should be reading science fiction at all...
Those words come from other languages, or from bashing other languages together. There's a good bit of Arabic.
It's not really calling a rabbit a smeerp. None of your first three examples are "rabbits" - they don't exist in our world at all, so they're going to need new names one way or another. I guess Herbert could have called them "That Semi-psychic Witch Cult", "Dunian Arabs", and "Messiah Prophet Emperor", but that would've been weird in a different way, and more confusing than simply giving these concepts a different name.
That's not my problem. I'm just worried that all the characters, settings, and overall plot are too weird. I know I put the question wrong, but I'm just worried that I'm going to end up reading some weird book where nobody says anything that isn't vague, esoteric and vaguely esoteric. In other words, I'm worried I'll end up with the Matrix Sequels in text form.
Oh, I see. Don't read past book one then. I'm not joking, don't. The Matrix sequels are nothing compared to the stuff Frank Herbert pulls out.
Also, there is a glossary of terms used in the book (even the paperback sticks it in), peruse it quickly and you'll be golden.
The examples listed are Latin (bene gesserit="it will have been well borne"), condensed English (Free men), Hebrew mysticism (magical bilocation), and a fairly standard Arabic name, respectively.
Books 4, 5 & 6. 4- Author Tract. 5- We're told a lot of things, shown very little. (at least we got to see Miles Teg kick ass) 6- There's a lot of talk about a secret weapon the bad guys have only for nothing to come of it (except some dead redshirts). The Bene Gesserit are even more elf-like than ever...
Dr. Yueh has Imperial Conditioning, which is supposed to be impossible to break. Then the Harkonnens break it by... threatening his wife. Quite possibly the most obvious way to leverage someone, and the supposedly unbreakable conditioning just snaps. Did they never consider threatening someone's family as a possible danger at Imperial Conditioning School?
He isn't motivated by fear of his wife's safety; the conditioning probably covers that obvious loophole. What motivates him is that 1.) he is angry enough to want to kill the Baron and 2.) by betraying his charge, he has a Hail Mary chance of using him to kill the Baron in a suicide attack. He knows his wife is dead, and says as much.
Knowing in his mind and being sure without a doubt are two different things. He does say that he knows she's likely dead but works on the off chance that she might not be.
This troper understood the leverage to be a result of whatever loyalties his Bene Gesserit wife would have used to bond him to her - given how they seem to like ensuring things go their way Wanna would have Yueh wrapped around her little finger - which would be more powerful than anything the Imperial Conditioning was designed to counter.
It's my understanding that the conditioning wasn't broken by threatening his wife. They tortured her in front of him - this got him pissed off enough to want to kill the Baron, which broke the conditioning. Once that was done they controlled him by saying that they'd stop torturing her + let her go if he did what he did.
I think that Wanna, as a Bene Gesserit, did indeed have Yueh wrapped around her little finger. It might have even been like the sexual addiction that the Honored Matres employed. What the Harkonnens did to her likely played off of Yueh's need for her.
I thought it was that he didn't know whether she was dead or alive that broke the conditioning. He needed to find out whether she was alive and in agony or dead and to avenge her. It was the uncertainty that broke the conditioning.
Is it even logistically possible to supply billions upon billions of people with spice on a regular basis from a single world, when you're not even sure if it's a never-ending resource?
Depends on how much is actually needed - is it ever stated just how much spice a Guild navigator consumes to acquire and keep their abilities?
If I remember it correctly, it is stated somewhere that a briefcase of spice melange can buy you a planet. It is also not clear how many people use the spice, so it is difficult to say how big the supply problem is.
Not quite a briefcase: the actual quote was that the price of a planet could be carried in your hand luggage. (Imagine a large suitcase full of cayenne pepper or turmeric.) Dune portrays a feudal society, so nobody outside the nobility and their closest advisers will ever get anywhere near the spice. (The Dune Encyclopedia says that there were about a hundred Great Houses and at most one million Houses Minor, probably less, so the total market for spice might have been on the order of ten million people throughout the Imperium.)
It says in the appendix of the first novel geriatric and immunity boosting properties of the Spice (the reason most people would consume it in the first place) need only a very small dose to be consumed periodically, like a 20th century medical drug. The only consumer big enough to matter is the Guild, whose Navigators practically eat, drink and breathe Spice derivatives only.
Why would the other houses, much less the Emperor, allow the rabid House Moritani to keep doing their thing? Wouldn't they want a mad dog to be put down rather than have it turn on them at the drop of a hat? Especially since their actions affect the entire Imperium, such as the destruction of the Ginaz school, which was supplying Swordmasters to all houses.
The books were written by Kevin J. Anderson. Based on my own experiences with another series he wrote, he probably just didn't care.
The original books don't even bother mentioning what (if any) FTL method was used prior to the Holtzman drive. You can't maintain an interstellar civilization without a reliable method of getting from planet to planet quickly. The prequels written by his son aren't much better, just saying ships accelerate very fast. However, that's not FTL, and there's no way accelerating fast can get you to a remote star system in a month.
Throwing the crap prequels out, the Holtzman drive is probably considerably older than the Imperium (and thus computer-driven before the Jihad and the installation of the guild), and may have been the thing that unified the scattered human-inhabited worlds in the first place.
My big question is "why does any noble house allow a Bene Gesserit anywhere near them?" Okay, you have a secret organization that only seems to have a token effort at hiding that it has some manner of mysterious self-serving agenda, the individuals of which are all beautiful women who are killing machines capable of mind-control voice and controlling which chromosome goes into the sperm cells that impregnate them, apparently, as well as intense control over every nerve and muscle and emotion they have as long as we're still in the narration and not the action of the book. So with this in mind, why do these noble houses all seem to be taking in Bene Gesserit?
They're useful. The Reverend Mother's truthsayer abilities are incredibly useful for the Emperor, even the lesser members of the Sisterhood have political skills and aptitude that are very useful for the heads of ruling Houses. And as bad as having a consort/retainer with their own agenda might be, making an enemy of them is even worse (if you're not a once-in-a-trillion genetic anomaly with prophetic powers, that is). Besides, given the "control over every nerve and muscle," some House heads may not be making the decision with the big head, so to speak.
Jessica was deeply in love with Duke Leto. It's made clear that the Bene Gesserit are shocked by this; that sort of thing just isn't supposed to happen. Duke Leto was deeply in love with Jessica. Nobody is remotely surprised by this; Bene Gesserit girls are apparently just that good. (And not merely on a physical level: they are trained to understand politics to an almost superhuman degree. Their desirability to an ambitious/ horny nobleman is overdetermined.)
It's worth mentioning that the Bene Gesserit's main goal is the advancement of the human species through genetic pairings. As a result, if you wanted to have an extremely healthy heir and didn't mind getting him/her the old-fashioned way with a mistress who can control every muscle in her body, the Bene Gesserit option is pretty damned appealing.
Keep in mind, also, that the Bene Gesserit very rarely use any of their powers openly. Most of the things that would make people suspicious about them are commonly dismissed as mere rumor.
In the first book, Jessica uses the Voice on Thufir Hawat as a way of making a point to him — that she could control everyone in House Atreides by herself, but she doesn't want to, as it would be completely counterproductive and a betrayal of trust.
So the original Bene Gesserit plan was to have Jessica bear an Atreides daughter, then wed that daughter to the Harkonnen heir (presumably Feyd-Rautha), and that union would produce the Kwisatz Haderach. Seems to me that there's a rather large flaw in this plan - what in the name of all that is holy would compel the Atreides and Harkonnens to wed their offspring? If it weren't for the Great Convention, either Caladan or Geidi Prime would have been reduced to molten slag long ago by the other side. I suppose the Harkonnens could have been blackmailed (assuming, of course, that the Baron stopped laughing long enough to notice), but I don't believe for a moment that Bene Gesserit mind control would be enough to compel Duke Leto to marry his daughter to a Harkonnen. Jessica would be lucky if Leto simply threw her on the next transport to Wallach IX! And while I know that marital alliances were common to end disputes, both in RL and in-universe, the Atreides and Harkonnen don't want peace between their houses. Of course, it's possible that the Bene Gesserit hadn't realized the true depths of the emnity between the two houses.
How deep does that enmity really run? Neither party is really willing to wage war against the other without some sort of clear incentive (i.e, the Sardaukar aiding the Harkonnens in the takeover of Arrakis). Every time the Duke or Baron speaks out against the other, they're in the presence of subordinates that are in various degrees of indoctrination. If it was to their political or economic advantage (and bear in mind, we're talking about a group that is a silent partner in CHOAM and powerful enough politically to deny the ruling Emperor a legal heir), they would certainly do it.
Presumably the plan was for the Atreides daughter to be raised as a loyal Bene Gesserit. She'd willingly seduce Feyd-Rautha much as Lady Fenring did. Leto might have an "unfortunate accident" so his daughter (read: the Bene Gesserit) could take over the house.
Would the Imperium tolerate a Bene Gesserit in charge of a noble house? I actually don't recall reading about any house ruled by a woman implying a heavily patriarchal system.
It is very unlikely that the Bene Gesserit planned on leaving the Kwisatz Haderach with either of the major houses. If the original plan had gone forward that Lady Jessica's daughter would have been trained as a Bene Gesserit & would have seduced Freyd (not apparently that hard) which is *precisely* the way Jessica herself was bred, as revealed by Allia's genetic memory in later books. The Kwisatz Haderach would have been conceived without the knowledge of the Harkonen or the Atredes and would have been raised in some far-flung Bene Gesseric temple under close supervision and profound secrecy.
Is there a particular reason why the Bene Gesserit only care about noble genes? Are they naive enough to assume that authority equals good genetics? It's also surprising that their breeding program has lasted this long, given how many houses don't shy from sending assassins against the others.
Nobles 1.) control all the political and economic activity and 2.) are the only ones likely to breed with someone from another planet. The Bene Gesserit may in fact serve to "destratify" the genome, mating with "human" commoners and nobles alike in order to improve the species.
Given that the nobles are likely to have fewer children than the commoners, there is still a high likelihood of an entire family line being wiped out by a successful assassination attempt. The Bene Gesserit don't exactly try to prevent these from occurring.
No, but they have been shown to attempt to "save" bloodlines in danger of loss, especially when it's a key gene in their breeding program.
It is easier to control the bloodlines of nobles. Every royal family in the world can list their ancestors far back in time.
And there are fewer of them (as noted in one of the above entries, there are probably only about a 100 million nobles or so. That's hard enough to make plans with, but compared to trying to take into account the genes of trillions of people...). Plus, it's a self-strengthening process — after centuries of Bene Gesserit meddling, authority may well be fairly close to equalling good genetics, because the people in (feudal, inherited) authority are the people the Bene Gesserit have focused their breeding plans on.
The history of the universe for the last ten millenia said only people with best of the best talents (scientists, generals, politicians, spies) raised themselves to nobility and power after the Butlerian Jihad. From a Certain Point of View, each scion of a Great House was more or less a potential superhero.
One of the points of the books is that the Fremen are tough because of their environment. They also know the ways of the desert. However, how does that make them an effective army on other planets, which are not Single Biome Worlds? If anything, the local forces would be more effective in environments like plains, woods, swamps, or snow. Especially since they mostly rely on guerilla tactics, and those require intimate knowledge of the area. You can't go from a guerilla force to a conventional army at the drop of a hat. The beginning of the Children of Dune miniseries also shows them fighting on other worlds while still wearing the traditional desert robes. Not very effective combat clothing outside of the desert.
They're tough, but not that tough (Paul outclasses pretty much all of them at the age of 15). Remember, as far as the Arrakeen battles go, the Harkonnen military is pretty much a conscript force, the Sardaukar have declined in strength, and no one takes the Fremen seriously. By the end of the novel (and the next two books), they've been extensively trained in Atreides military tactics and Bene Gesserit infighting. At that point their main attribute is their religious fanaticism, which means that Paul and Alia can replace any losses with more well-trained, highly loyal troops. By the time all these die off, so has pretty much any resistance to Atreides rule or religious practice.
One book, Paul of Dune I think, does show that the Fremen are having a lot of trouble on planets with wetter biomes.
Can anyone explain the Noble House Ranking System to me? I may have missed something but I always assumed that: Baron = small fief, Count = medium fief, might have several Barons under him, Duke = Large fief, might have several Counts under his direct control. So, why is Baron Harkonnen's nephew, Rabban, a Count and the Baron on an equal playing field with the Dukes of Atreides? Or did Herbert just assign random/cool sounding titles to the characters?
Counts can't be siridars, which is the imperial term for a planetary governor; Hasimir Fenring is a count, but he has no executive authority over anyonenote (although Count Fenring and Lady Margot were formerly the Emperor's ambassadors to Arrakis, which may hint at the kind of position counts usually hold), and Count Rabban governs Arrakis not as his own fief but strictly as a regent of the siridar-Baron. Leto is, presumably, a siridar-Duke. I get the impression that siridar-Dukes traditionally concentrate their authority on a single planet, while siridar-Barons traditionally have authority over one homeworld and one or two other tributary worlds — which would explain why Duke Leto was required to move to Arrakis, while the Baron never had to. The Emperor is probably siridar-governor of a whole handful of planets, but then again his house (Corrino) is the only one rich enough to own so many.
Cite? Herbert and his bastard-spawn use various "noble-sounding" terms more or less randomly. Some connections can be implied ("Duke" outranks "Baron" may outrank "Count") but the peerage of the Imperium isn't explained in any great detail.
You are making a minor detail more complicated than it needs to be, but there is a small issue. House Atreides was headed by a Duke who was siridar of Caladan, and House Harkonnen was headed by a Count who was siridar of Geidi Prime. Hasimir Fenring was a Count, governing what the Emperor needed him to at the time (Arrakis and Caladan, both temporarily). House Harkonnen could match House Atreides through economic manipulation. It should not have been that way, but he played the system and his lowly title stopped matching his status. The problem comes when a Baron's subordinate nephew is a Count of their ancestral home. No idea why that is.
The official noble rankings are Baron -> Viscount -> Count -> Marquis -> Duke. Those noble rankings however were more a matter of formal etiquette than anything. Baron Harkonnen had Giedi Prime, Lankiveil and Quasi-fiefdom of Arrakis, while Duke Leto had Caladan, reason being that in the Imperium, economic power was the bigger determiner than noble rank.
How comes that Guild isn't controlling everything. I understand that powers of Emperor (Super Soldiers), Landsraad (We Have Reserves)and Bene Gesserit (Manipulative Bastard), but Guild isn't since it is only faction capable of reliable ftl (unless you use AI which is big no-no in Dune universe). Basically the Guild could have destroyed every other faction by simple denial of service and conquering Arrakis (presumaby by hiring mercs or by secretly having an army) and suffer no retribution whatsoever (since all the factions would have been isolated in their own star systems).
Mentioned in-book that they've used their limited prescience to continually choose "safe" courses for their future. What you've laid out is fraught with risk (it exposes the Guild's dependence on melange and Arrakis, the secrets of FTL are out there, and there's no guarantee that a closed-off faction won't say "screw the jihad" and develop a nav computer).
Okay it carries some risks, but from what I have seen it is pretty obvious that most of the major players are already aware that Guild depends on melange (only thing you need to do is to have someone review sales of melange and you probably find that guild is buying the most of it) and as for nav computer development, there are only few planets which have advanced enough R&D labs to even think of such a resarch (Ix and perhaps Riches) not to mention they would have to start it from the scratch (since all AI plans were undoubtedly destroyed)which would take years or decades, not to mention poor self sufficiency of most planets which means that supposedly many planets would be forced to either capitulate or starve.
Paul explicitly calls them out on this. Their limited presence has make them really, really risk adverse. They *could* have seized power at any time but could never figure out a way to do it with out any risk. His preciense sees the same problem as theirs, any attempt to seize control lead to a prophesy snarl that you can't predict your way out of. While they decided to just become parasites he gathered an unstoppable army, lured his enemies into one place, and then rolled the dice that it would work out. He could have died, but being "human" saw a calculated risk that ended in a total win or instant death as being a good gamble while the Guild Navigators were all too timid to try.
In Dune Messiah there is a scene in which Alia takes a great dose of Spice and has a vision of her future children, but can't see their father. Duncan speculates that's because she would have them with Paul. But Alia had no problem with seeing Paul in her other visions. So who was this mysterious figure? I can't remember if it was explained in any other book.
I don't believe it is followed up, but she does marry the first Duncan Idaho ghola. Many thousands of years later a serial clone of Duncan Idaho attains precience, which it is well established makes you invisible to precient visions. It is perhaps a bit of fan-wank, but I always took it to mean that even though the current Duncan wasn't precient and would never be, the fact that his genetic clone would eventually be played all kinds of havok with precience. It is commented on in God Emperor that Leto II was fascinated with him for some reason no one else understood. He may have deduced Duncan's eventual importance based on these odd visions.
Ok, I get the handwave that personal shields necessitate the use of blades in the post-Jihad galaxy (I'm sure anyone creative enough would've come up with dozens of other ways of killing people remotely). But what's the deal of going up against an army of robots with swords, even if they're pulse swords designed to short out their systems? It's understandable with the crazed Jihad fanatics (religious fanatics are never sane), but the Swordmasters of Ginaz are supposed to be trained warriors. A trained warrior would likely use a ranged weapon against them given the choice.
How do you scientifically create a person invisible to prescience anyway? I mean, most of the way they explain precognition and whatnot goes way over my head, so some explanation would be useful.
In the Dune Universe, prescience hides prescience. If you are prescient, then other people can't see you or your influence on the future (and others can't see yours). It's why, in one of the earlier books, they bring a Guild Navigator in on a plot against Paul. With the Guild Navigator, Paul can't "see" them. Leto II's plan was to breed enough low-level prescience into people that they'd be invisible to prescience but not so much that the prescience locks them into a path (like it did to him and Paul). The goal was to free humanity from the "curse" of prescience and give them total free will.
He also apparently hoped to instill humanity with an instinctive dislike of centralized government and enough precience-invisibile humans to make sure no future Pauls or Letos could ever conquer everyone as he had.
Leto Atreides is a Duke and Vladimir Harkonnen is a Baron. Assuming the noble titles match to their historical counterparts, the former is the highest noble title next to the king himself (or Emperor in this case) and the latter is one of the lowest noble titles. Given this, shouldn't there be a bit of a power disparity between Duke Leto and his arch-enemy? It never seems to come up just how much lower the Baron's title implies he is in the feudal hierarchy.
It's been a while since I've read the books, but couldn't Paul have avoided the jihad by just talking to the Fremen and saying "Look, please don't scatter across the universe killing people in my name, got it?" Or are wild primitive barbarians just not so reasonable?
Not only would telling them not to do it have had no effect, at a certain point he makes it clear nothing short of his own death, the death of his mother and the death of everyone who knew about him amongst the Fremen with him would be enough to stop it. Why is that? Good question. Perhaps its meant as a commentary on how the movement surrounding a 'Messiah' tends to take on a life of its own which eclipses the individual at its center. Paul himself never gives a clear answer as to why 'Hey, guys, don't commit a genocidal Jihad in my name' wouldn't have been enough, but clearly for the book's purposes it would not have been.
Dune Messiah never suggests that Paul tried to stop the carnage. He was resigned to Fremen atrocities, despite his immense sway over his followers. Even Chani observed that he could have commanded them to stop.
It's frequently implied that doing so would have caused much worse carnage in the long run, making it a lesser of two evils sort of deal - consolidate Paul's Empire quickly with terrible bloodshed, or let it collapse into a grinding civil war with unimaginable bloodshed. Paul couldn't bring himself to do what was truly necessary - the Golden Path - and was struggling to find a way forward through his visions.
Why would a Death World with little moisture necessarily turn an entire planet's population into a Badass Army? This was discussed above in terms of environment, but even in a desert it doesn't necessarily make sense. Certainly such conditions would make the entire planet into experts at desert survival, and would make for an extremely resilient population, but survival doesn't necessarily turn you into a warrior who can make mincemeat out of armies of regular soldiers. If anything, I would think the desert environment would select for Fremen who were experts at hiding; fighting (accepting the existence of stillsuits and their help in curbing the issue to some extent) uses up a lot of moisture in the form of perspiration, making it extremely wasteful compared to just staying out of sight in the face of danger.
Apparently, Guild Navigators using prescience to safely navigate is considered a bad thing by Herbert. How is this bad? Would any of us use this method of travel if there wasn't assurances that it's safe? If they didn't use prescience, could they still assure a safe journey?
Using prescience to safely navigate isn't bad in and of itself. The problem is that A) Only one group controls all navigators. If they don't like you then you don't get to leave your planet. This means they have a really disproportionate amount of power for a bunch of living FTL computers. and B) The Guild has started running all it's affairs via prescience, but whenever they contemplate changing their own future they get a "Divide by Zero" error because the way prescience works will not allow anyone to predict their own predictions. This causes the Spacing Guild to strangle the rest of the galaxy with the status quoe. He sees breaking their monopoly as being just as important as breaking the Emperor.
Why doesn't Jessica show any signs of psychological trauma from her Bene Gesserit upbringing? Not only would she have survived the gom jabbar ordeal at a young age, but she experienced emotional abuse all her life from Reverend Mother Mohiam. Despite these early traumas, Jessica doesn't exhibit depression, anxiety, PTSD, low self-esteem, or any other conditions associated with childhood abuse.
Because part of her upbring is also heavy emotional training to the point of brainwashing and heavy conditioning. She shows only what she wants to show and she wants to show what she have been trained as acceptable to show.
There is a scene in the Children of Dune novel where Leto II reveals to Jessica's great consternation that even decades after she's left the Bene Gesserit, there are still mental triggers buried in her head that can be used to yank her emotional state around like a kite on a string, without her even noticing it. Jessica isn't showing normal psychological reactions because her psyche isn't remotely normal; an organized conspiracy of the known galaxy's greatest mind-fuckers have been screwing with her head-wiring literally from birth, just like they do to all their other members.
Dr Yueh promises to Duke Leto to protect his son and Jessica in return for using Leto as a weapon against Vladimir Harkonnen. If he meant to do this, why did he spend the first few chapters lamenting that Paul would be lost despite later promising to place him among the Fremen? He doesn't show that he has learned something new about the Fremen when arriving upon Arrakis. Perhaps it was only after he arrived on Arrakis that he realised the potential of the Fremen, but what would have been his response to Leto's initial refusal if he thought that Leto's son and partner were doomed?