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Literature / Chapterhouse: Dune

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Give me the judgment of balanced minds in preference to laws every time. Codes and manuals create patterned behavior. All patterned behavior tends to go unquestioned, gathering destructive momentum.
Darwi Odrade

Chapterhouse: Dune is the sixth and final installment in Frank Herbert's Dune Chronicles. It was published in 1985 by Putnam and rose to #2 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Chapterhouse: Dune continues shortly after the events of Heretics of Dune. The Honored Matres have overrun the Old Imperium and destroyed all Tleilaxu worlds and the planet Rakis, cutting off the supply of the precious Spice. With the Bene Gesserit forced to flee at every turn, Mother Superior Darwi Odrade is fighting for time to put her plan to save the sisterhood and the Imperium in motion.

On Chapterhouse, the last remaining sandworm has begun the Spice cycle anew, turning the once lush and fertile world into desert. In addition, the sisterhood has the last remaining Tleilaxu Master, Scytale, in their possession, giving them the technology of the Axlotl tanks in order to make both gholas and artificial spice. Odrade chooses to use this technology to restore Miles Teg to lead the sisterhood into combat. Odrade and her inner-circle deduce that the Honored Matres are on the run from something even worse out in the Scattering.

The Honored Matre Murbella, brought back to Chapterhouse, trains as a Bene Gesserit. Duncan Idaho, locked in the no-ship in order to avoid prescient detection, continues his relationship with Murbella and serves the sisterhood as Mentat and weapons master. Duncan has several odd visions and dreams of alien technologies and an elderly couple watching from afar. Sheeana also continues her training and initiation into the sisterhood, where the Missionaria has plans for her.

Will Odrade's plan come to fruition in time to save the Bene Gesserit sisterhood? Who are the Honored Matres and why have they returned from the Scattering? Who does Duncan keep seeing in his visions and what do they want?

Note: Chapterhouse: Dune has an open ending, leaving many of the plot points introduced in Heretics and in Chapterhouse unresolved. Frank Herbert died shortly after publication, but 15 years after Chapterhouse: Dune was published Frank's son Brian announced that he had found plans for "Dune 7", which culminated in Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Some fans however still insist that either the notes for "Dune 7" don't exist or that the authors didn't follow them.

Chapterhouse: Dune contains examples of:

  • Action Girl/Action Mom: Murbella
  • A Father to His Men: Miles Teg, who notably greatly resembles the original Duke Leto, also inherits this trait from him.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In the original books, it was not that the computers were inherently bad, it was that humanity chose to destroy them because they were making humans lazy and limiting humanity's potential, effectively making them dependent on sentient machines for survival. Computer AI was later demonized. Chapterhouse examines this more than other books in the series, with cyborgs and with robotic servants on Junction.
  • Alternative Calendar: The calender used in the book begins from the establishment of the Spacing Guild's monopoly on space travel, with BG standing for "Before Guild" and AG being "After Guild".
  • Amazon Brigade: Honored Matres and the Bene Gesserit.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The true nature of the elderly duo Daniel and Marty. It's hinted that they belong to an advanced strain of Face Dancers.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The Honored Matres devastating world after world in the old Imperium.
  • Anti-Magic: Due to Leto II breeding the Siona gene into humanity, a substantial portion of the human population (including all of the Bene Gesserit) cannot be seen within prescient visions, thereby preventing the prophet's trap. No-Ship technology also applies.
  • Anyone Can Die: Lucilla, Odrade
  • Arc Words: "The Golden Path" defines the entire series after the second book, and only becomes more and more powerful as you fully come to realize what it means.
  • Artificial Human: Any Tleilaxu-creation, including the Face Dancers, Gholas, clones, some Mentats, and human-animal hybrids.
  • Ascended Extra: Duncan Idaho, in the first book, actually dies only to become the only character to feature in all six novels of the original series.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: The Honored Matre power structure.
  • Badass Army: Teg’s Bene Gesserit military
  • Badass Bookworm: Teg again, the Mentat-Bashar
  • Because Destiny Says So: Even without much more than a basic metaphorical prescience, Odrade does this herself through pure planning!
  • Becoming the Mask: Happens to Face Dancers that spend too long imitating a person.
  • Big Bad: Great Honored Matre Dama, known as "Spider Queen" to the Bene Gesserit.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: There are no female Tleilaxu. This is because the axlotl tanks are their females, having been engineered into being just gigantic wombs on life support.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Bene Gesserit are portrayed as scheming witches like in the earlier books, yet since Heretics of Dune, they have inherited Leto II's responsibility of safeguarding humanity's future. This puts them in opposition to the Honored Matres, who seek tyrannical control over the universe.
  • Body Horror: Guild Steersmen mutated by spice, the Axlotl tanks.
  • By the Eyes of the Blind: Inverted. Siona and her descendants cannot be detected by prescience.
  • The Casanova: Duncan Idaho, though he pales in comparison to other honered matres.
  • Cat Girl: The Futars introduced in Heretics of Dune are the creation of Lost Tleilaxu returning from the Scattering. They're basically humanoid cat-people, and are kept as pets and feral weapons by the Honored Matres, despite being designed originally as weapons against them.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Odrade
  • Challenging the Chief: The Honored Matres. Logno to Dama and then Murbella to Logno.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower:
    • The Bene Gesserit train themselves to alter their blood composition, manipulate others by voice alone, being able to hold their breath for long periods of time, delay aging, neutralize any poison or drug, possibly see the future, and intense martial arts. They only get the future-vision and molecular control from the Spice. Everything else is pure Charles Atlas, with a few hints of selective breeding.
    • The Honored Matres are revealed to be even more intense in their results in certain areas, but lack in others. The two groups eventually unify into one, combining the strengths of each.
    • Mentats as well are "human computers". They are trained to possess photographic memories and deduce perfectly logical conclusions from the barest minimum of information. A Mentat Advisor is one of the most valuable assets that a noble house can have. Miles Teg is a mentat generalissimo. But just try using one as an iPod.
  • The Chessmaster: Odrade, as well as Daniel and Marty.
  • The Chosen One/Messianic Archetype: Sheeana, though she doesn't get to fulfill that role, being instead set up for it as a decoy to get the Honored Matres to destroy Arrakis. Her ability to command sandworms is still useful, though and there was some hint there may still be a role for her in that direction.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: After his transformation under the T-probe in Heretics, Miles Teg has this ability cranked up to eleven, to the point where he can see the positions of the normally undetectable no-ships.
  • Compelling Voice: The Voice, as used by the Bene Gesserit.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Odrade’s plan takes a huge amount of variables into account.
  • Cultured Badass: Pretty much everyone.
  • Cyborg Helmsman: Odrade has one on her trip to Junction, one of Teg's soldiers.
  • Darwinist Desire:
    • The Bene Gesserit are still breeding to produce stronger genetic stock, but are actively avoiding the breeding of another Kwisatz Haderach.
    • Teg speculates that his genes were influenced this way in order to give him his Super-Speed and Combat Clairvoyance.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: For The Chosen One, the Messianic Archetype, and hero tropes in general.
  • Deus Sex Machina: Mainly used by the Honored Matres as a form of mind control, making men sexually dependent on the Honored Matre who imprinted them to stay sane. The Bene Gesserit learn to do it from Murbella, who trains Duncan and Sheeana, who in turn train others to do the same.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Logno manages to slip poison into Dama's drink in order to assume the role of Great Honored Matre toward the end of Chapterhouse. Not that it does her much good.
  • Duel of Seduction: With technique and counter-technique.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: The Bene Gesserit stress emotional control at all times as both proof of humanity and a basic survival tool with the Litany Against Fear. Unlike Vulcans, they're more than happy to use emotion as a tool to manipulate others — their emphasis is control, not denial. And it later turns out to be a weakness that Odrade (and Murbella) must reverse.
  • The Emperor: Purposely averted in the shadow of Leto II's 3,500 years of rule, there’s no single unified governing force in the old Imperium.
  • Energy Weapon: Only useful without Deflector Shields, which are ubiquitous, so almost a subversion/aversion. In the battle on Gammu, Duncan uses the combination of lasguns and shieldsnote  as miniature nukes to efficiently destroy the Honored Matre forces.
  • Freudian Trio:
    • Id: Bellonda, by far the most emotional and impulsive of the trio. Really weirdly played as she's a Bene Gesserit-Mentat, so one would think she'd be the most controlled and stoic of the group.
    • Ego: Odrade, practical and balanced, she allows her emotions to come through but only when it's effective for her purpose.
    • Superego: Tamalane, the model of the old school stoic Bene Gesserit, mellowed out in old age to the point of needing to be replaced and countering Bellonda's more visceral recommendations.
  • Galactic Superpower: The Empire that reigned from the Butlerian Jihad to Leto II's planned Scattering.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Whoever chased the Honored Matres back from the Scattering.
  • Human Resources: The Tleilaxu by using all their females as artificial wombs for their genetic products.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Exaggerated with Miles Teg, who, after a run-in with a T-Probe in the previous book, has developed the ability to detect no-ships and no-chambers, as well as Super-Speed, and is a Bene Gesserit-trained Mentat on top of everything else.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Frank Herbert's original Dune novels all contain the word "Dune", and three out of six follow the formula "X of Dune".
  • I Know You Know I Know: Whoooooooooo boy....
  • Intrinsic Vow: Gholas. ...All of them.
  • Invisibility Cloak: No-Chambers and No-Ships. Not your average cloaking device; even prescient scryers cannot find you. Except Miles Teg.
  • Kill and Replace: A favorite tactic of Face Dancer shapeshifters.
  • Last of His Kind: Scytale, the last true Tleilaxu Master, and one of the few remaining Tleilaxu after the destruction of Tleilax.
  • Living Lie Detector: Truthsayers are people with an innate talent for sensing truth and trained so as to be able to use it reliably. Some Bene Gesserit can notice the visual and auditory cues that denote a lying person. Many courts employ Bene Gesserit who are also trained for "Truthsense" for this specific purpose.
  • Master Poisoner: Common with the Honored Matres
  • Mind Probe:
    • Many, many variations, including the Ixian Probe, its successor the T-Probe, and the abilities of Face Dancers to take a memory imprint of their victims even after death. They are so common by this time, that anyone with secret knowledge takes a special drug named "shere" that is designed to foil mental probes.
    • Shere doesn't work with post-God-Emperor Face Dancers: the only way to stop them memory-printing you is to destroy your own head before you are captured.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Futars are some sort of human-feline combination.
  • Neck Snap: How Darwi Odrade is killed.
  • Occult Blue Eyes: Inverted with the Honored Matres' eyes, which turn orange when agitated.
  • Once an Episode: The Litany Against Fear, which is recited in its entirely at least once in every one of the original books (not all the prequels and sequels, though).
  • One-Gender Race: The Tleilaxu (all male). Exactly how this is achieved is eventually revealed with significant squick.
  • Organic Technology: Due to the prohibitions against advanced technology, humans were forced to develop their own talents to fill the void. Mentats act as human-computers, the Spacing Guild navigates space through prescience in the place of computers, and the Bene Tleilax use their females as wombs for their genetic products.
  • People Jars: Genetic clones (and other creatures) are grown in 'Axlotl tanks'. Subverted when the tanks are revealed to be 'people' as well.
  • Phlebotinum Overload: Shield and lasgun interaction results in nuclear explosions.
  • The Plan: Odrade’s plan to bring the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres together.
  • Precious Puppy: Tleilaxu chairdogs! They bleed and squeak when Honored Matres abuse them.
  • Psychic Powers: Prescience (precognition), Other Memory and memory transfers, Miles Teg's clairvoyant sensing of No-Ships, most of these are not explained as "psychic" powers, but a natural consequence of Genetic Memory and Charles Atlas Superpower levels of mental training.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • The Bene Gesserit take this to the extremes. With complete control over their biochemical makeup, they can slow down or speed up the aging process at will or choose to look younger or older while chemically being another age. They rarely take advantage of this, however, because such power can be intoxicating and dangerous. If someone outside the inner-Bene Gesserit organization were to notice the true extent of their powers it could lead to their destruction from superstitious outsiders as well as loss of influence over the Empire.
    • Duncan Idaho. He has clocked up at least 5,000 years through hundreds of ghola-incarnations, although most incarnations only possess the original Duncan's memories, each is blissfully unaware of the many copies that have existed between the original and himself. Then the final Duncan finds a way to awaken the memories of all the ghola-incarnations to create a chain of memory-lifetimes. And having realised that, he uses it on Miles Teg.
  • Really Gets Around: Arguably subverted by the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres, whom really do have many sex partners, but only because the Bene Gesserit are engaged in a subtle breeding program and the Honored Matres use their sexuality as a form of conditioning. Both only do it professionally.
  • Silent Scapegoat: Leto II. Even the Bene Gesserit, thousands of years after Leto sacrifices himself, don't realize what it was he was trying to accomplish.
  • Sole Survivor: Scytale, last of the Tleilaxu masters.
  • Space Jews — Literally. As much as the other major religions have shifted in 20,000 years, there are still people who observe Passover, speak ritual Hebrew, and have a conception of a nation of Israel. They managed to survive by first going into hiding, then pretending to be revivalists.
  • The Starscream: Logno. Not that it does her much good, because Murbella kills her a few pages later.
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration
  • Thanatos Gambit: Odrade allows herself to be killed so the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres can unite.
  • Theme Naming: While (Nearly) all the Bene Gesserit have names of the form Something-us (Female Name) (Surname), they moved away from the style by the time of Leto II's reign.
  • Time Abyss: The Bene Gesserit, Tleilaxu Masters, pre-born, and Duncan Idaho once he awakens his genetic memory. Although they have 'normal' biological lifespans, their collective memories go all the way back to pre-civilization humanity (except in the case of Duncan, who only gets access to memories of his previous lives - which is still thousands of years of experience).
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The Advanced Face Dancers against the Lost Tleilaxu, and then the Old Empire Tleilaxu.
  • Unhappy Medium: Darwi Odrade, especially since, unlike Paul, her knowledge of how dangerous this is predates the beginning of her own recurring prescient dream.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Face Dancers.
  • You Can See Me?: The Honored Matres get a nasty surprise when Miles Teg pinpoints and eliminates all their supposedly undetectable no-ships in the final battle.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Any Honored Matre who kills the Great Honored Matre becomes Great Honored Matre herself.
  • Your Head Asplode: Logno's death. Murbella slams her to the floor so hard that her head gets "pulped".