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Literature / Heretics of Dune

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Some people never observe anything. Life just happens to them. They get by on little more than a kind of dumb persistence, and they resist with anger and resentment anything that might lift them out of that false serenity.
Mother Superior Taraza

Heretics of Dune is the fifth installment of Frank Herbert's award-winning Dune Chronicles. Published in 1984 by Putnam, Heretics of Dune was a New York Times Best-seller the same year.

Heretics of Dune is set 1,500 years after the events of God-Emperor of Dune. The death of the God-Emperor led to a long famine in the Old Imperium. Spice and other commodities became scarce in the aftermath and humanity, free from the grip of Leto's control, spread out into the Scattering. In the present time, the Bene Gesserit are the main organizing force in the Old Imperium, forced out of the shadows and into governing directly. The Tleilaxu are the other major power in the Imperium, having developed not only a method to produce artificial Spice in vast quantities, but also enhanced Face Dancers capable of duplicating both the likeness and persona of their victims. The Spacing Guild has mainly been side-lined with the advent of Ixian navigation machines.

Creeping back into the old Imperium from the outskirts of the Scattering are the Honored Matres, a hyper-sexual sisterhood that dominates through sex and violence. They greatly outnumber the Bene Gesserit and begin to storm the old Imperium. Meanwhile on Rakis (formerly Arrakis or Dune), a girl has been discovered that can control the sandworms. The Bene Gesserit have engaged in an ambitious project to utilize the girl, Sheeana, to their own ends. To aid their efforts to control Sheeana, the sisterhood has commissioned a new Duncan Idaho ghola from the Tleilaxu, though the Tleilaxu are playing their own game. Training Duncan for his role are Reverend Mother Lucilla and retired Supreme Bashar Miles Teg, the former commander of the Bene Gesserit military. Reverend Mother Superior Taraza meanwhile coordinates the events, with Reverend Mother Darwi Odrade as her representative on Rakis.

Which of the major powers will survive? Will the new Honored Matre sisterhood come to dominate the old Imperium? How does Sheeana control the worms and what role does she play in humanity's future?

Heretics of Dune contains examples of:

  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Literally, although girl rather than guy, in Murbella. Losing to Lucilla fails to humble her because she believes her to be the Great Honored Matre herself, but Duncan has later a true surprise for her in another field of competition.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Played with. Murbella jumps to the conclusion that Lucilla must be the Great Honored Matre because she wears their uniform and defeated her with apparent ease, as the Honored Matre order has a Darwinist structure and therefore only the top dog (well, bitch) could be so strong. However, Lucilla is not really as strong as Murbella thinks, as she actually failed to match the speed of an average Honored Matre and only won by catching her off guard; it's rather Murbella's naivety and arrogance, believing that only the Great Honored Matre could beat her, which lead her to rationalize that Lucilla attacked slowly on purpose to humiliate her.
  • Badass Army: Teg's Bene Gesserit military.
  • Badass Bookworm: Teg again, the Mentat-Bashar.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Lucilla appears to Murbella wearing a Honored Matre's robe and defeats her with apparent ease in a scuffle, so Murbella instantly assumes she must be the supreme Honored Matre in a surprise visit. The disguise is fueled by Murbella being a cocky newbie, because Lucilla wasn't actually that dominant — she only won because Murbella was distracted attacking someone else, and Murbella still finds Lucilla's attack so slow that her only explanation is that it was done so on purpose to teach her a lesson. Anyway, Lucilla opts to nicely roll with it and act her part with authority.
  • Big Bad: The Honored Matres
  • Big Eater: Miles Teg undergoes a transformation that unlocks his Super-Speed powers, and as a consequence, has to consume many, many normal human portions to satisfy his hunger. Justified as his metabolism is accelerated to compensate for the increased energy demands. This is commented upon with amazement by the people who observe him eat.
  • 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.
  • By the Eyes of the Blind: Inverted. Siona and her descendants cannot be detected by prescience.
  • Came Back Strong: Miles Teg after the T-Probe.
  • Cat Girl: The Futars 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 Chessmaster: Taraza/Odrade (Dar & Tar) and Teg.
  • The Chosen One/Messianic Archetype: Sheeana in the final two books, 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, Miles Teg has this ability cranked up to eleven, to the point where he can see the positions of the normally undetectable no-ships.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Miles Teg is so prepared, he puts a lot of the Reverend Mothers he deals with to shame.
  • Duel of Seduction: Murbella is trying to imprint Duncan when the latter taps into his own, secret seduction training and turns the tables on her, who was clearly not familiar with being on the shorter end of the technique.
  • Effective Knockoff: The Bene Tleilax finally manage to create synthetic Spice in their tanks by this point of history.
  • 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.
  • Extreme Libido: Both Murbella and Duncan develop this for each other after they duel to imprint each other sexually. Duncan later describes their sexual encounters as high speed collisions.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Waff kills one of the Honored Matres with a dart to the eye.
    • "Tormsa's eyes exploded in blood."
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: When Murella is going to finish Burzmali off, Lucilla impedes it by knocking her on her back with a "standard Bene Gesserit sabard", which seems to be some kind of strike to the stomach.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Foldspace
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The capstone of Leto II's Golden Path, in the form of a message he leaves for the Bene Gesserit on Arrakis along with a massive stockpile of spice. In it he declares the Bene Gesserit to be shepherds of humanity and charges them to continue his plan for the greater good. Fridge Brilliance makes it even better - a post-God Emperor sandworm leads the Bene Gesserit to the place where the message is hidden, so in essence, Leto himself pointed it out to them.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Murbella.
  • Identical Grandson: The Atreides "look", which is so distinctive that Miles Teg looks like his ancestor Duke Leto I, 5,000 years later. Teg was bred by the Bene Gesserit to look like Leto I in order to help a certain someone regain their memories. Keep in mind that the Bene Gesserit plan actions far, far, far in advance.
  • Identical Stranger: Odrade and Lucilla are from parallel Bene Gesserit breeding lines, and have very similar faces despite at least a decade's age difference and not sharing any direct family. When the two meet for the first time, Odrade is struck by how jarring the resemblance is. Downplayed, however, since their body types differ significantly, with Odrade having a tall, lean, athletic frame while Lucilla has a more "solid," curvier build.
  • Invisibility Cloak: No-Chambers and No-Ships. Not your average cloaking device; even prescient scryers cannot find you. Except Miles Teg.
  • Manchurian Agent: Duncan Idaho once again has a little surprise built-in by the Tleilaxu in hopes of countering the Bene Gesserit’s plans. However, he ends up snaring Murbella of the Honored Matres instead.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Patrin" or "pattaran" means a path-marker in Romani. Patrin showed Teg the way to the Harkonnen no-globe.
    • Darwi Odrade: "Odrade" is a slurred pronunciation of "Atreides" that crept up in a local dialect over the past 15 centuries (the T became like a D and the S dropped off).
  • Minored in Ass-Kicking: Lucilla is primarily specialized as an imprinter, but her Prana Bindu level is high enough to dump a young Honored Matre on her arse. Even if Lucilla only caught her off-guard and it was not a protracted fight, with her inner thoughts even implying she would have not prevailed in a fair fight, this is pretty much the only time a Bene Gesserit beats their theoretically superior opponents.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Miles Teg's exposure to a T-Probe gives him improved prescience and Super-Speed just in time to save his life, though the T-Probe was meant to kill him.
  • No Woman's Land: Tleilax. Because all their females have been pressed into service as axolotl tanks.
  • The Plan:
    • Taraza’s plan to lure the Honored Matres into destroying Rakis.
    • The Bene Tleilax again, up to eleven, since they've spent millennia constructing the image of evil stupidity to hide the fact that they're secret Zensufis (not to be mistaken for Zensunnis, from whom the Fremen descend — Heretics is most explicit about this).
  • Pressure Point: Lucilla uses pressure points behind the ears to knock out Murbella.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Schwangyu sells out Teg, Duncan, and Lucilla to the Tleilaxu so they can attack the keep on Gammu where Duncan is being trained. She is killed in the attack.
  • Ruder and Cruder: This book features far more profanity than the rest of the series - the Honored Matres are regularly referred to as "whores", and most jarringly, Waff makes a comment about "slig shit".
  • Sex–Face Turn: Murbella, a superhuman girl trained in an undefeatable technique to enslave men with sex versus Duncan Idaho. They basically end up psychologically married, and after being captured by the Bene Gesserit, Murbella defects to them.
  • Super-Speed:
    • Honored Matres' prana training gives them incredible speed. An experienced Bene Gesserit like Lucilla barely manages to dodge an attack by a newly robed Honored Matre that wasn't even aiming for her, and only the way the latter moves leaves her positively fascinated.
    • Miles Teg gets a different, higher form of this power as a result of a botched interrogation — implied to be a result of the unique mechanics of the interrogation device unlocking a latent genetic talent. His speed also includes prescience, accelerated reflexes, slowed time perception, a form of Super-Senses (explained as an amplification of his Mentat training), and massive boosts to his metabolic rate and the oxygen storage capacity of his blood to handle the increased energy demands. The effect also turns him into a Big Eater, which is played for both drama and laughs. Fortunately, he can turn the ability on or off at will.
  • Take That!: Frank Herbert slipped in a jab at a certain popular film franchise derived from his work:
    From the most ancient times, the knowledgeable had preferred to surround themselves with fine woods rather than with the mass-produced artificial materials known then as polastine, polaz, and pormabat (latterly: tine, laz, and bat). As far back as the Old Empire there had been a pejorative label for the small rich and Families Minor arising from the knowledge of a rare wood's value. 'He's a three P-O,' they said, meaning that such a person surrounded himself with cheap copies made from declasse substances.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Duncan and Lucilla have a very hard time getting along, and Lucilla has a slightly better time dealing with Miles Teg, though not by much.
  • Time Skip: 1,500 years since God-Emperor of Dune
  • To Win Without Fighting: In the Back Story Miles Teg was a famous Bene Gesserit military commander.
    Teg's reputation was an almost universal thing throughout human society of this age. At the Battle of Markon, it had been enough for the enemy to know that Teg was there opposite them in person. They sued for terms.
  • Undying Loyalty: Teg inspires this in all of his soldiers. He meets many of his ex-soldiers on Gammu, and all of them are still loyal enough to steal a no-ship and go to Rakis with him.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Leto II calls out the Bene Gesserit in the message he left in the spice hoard, condemning them for not creating the Golden Path themselves, forcing him to become a sandworm and rule for 3500 years of misery to ensure humanity's survival.
  • 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.