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Literature / Heretics of Dune

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The Bene Gesserit crush Leto's pearls... of awareness.

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 famine times 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, now with the capability of making artificial Spice and with enhanced Face Dancers capable of capturing their victim's persona as well as stealing their likeness. 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. Mainwhile on Rakis (formerly Arrakis aka 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?

Dune contains examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: Unless you count the Sandworms, and their implied creators. Even then, the sentience was added after the fact, by Leto II.
    • Plenty of non-sentient species are also mentioned in passing. There's a lot of life in the universe, but none of it talks back.
  • Action Girl / Action Mom:
    • Sheeana
    • Odrade
  • Addiction-Powered:
    • Guild Navigators breathe great quantities of melange/spice, giving them limited powers of prescience, enough to find safe passage when their ship is traveling faster than light. The general population doesn't gain this benefit.
    • The Mentats derive their enhanced mental abilities (said to exceed even the most advanced electronic computers) via consumption of sapho juice; however, a Mentat must endure lifelong training (and probably genetic enhancement as well) before the sapho juice can have its stated effect.
    • Bene Gesserits depend on some drugs and the Spice for some of their abilities, each Reverend Mother is addicted.
  • Aerith and Bob: While the first book introduces many distinctly-European names, such as Paul, Jessica, Gurney, and Duncan (even Baron Harkonnen, whose first name is Vladimir), the names get far more exotic as the cast fills out throughout the series. Notable examples include Darwi Odrade, Waff, many Fremen.
  • 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. In Heretics, this is still a concern, though it is loosening.
  • 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.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The Honored Matres devastating world after world in the old Imperium.
  • Ancient Astronauts/All Myths Are True: A variant in that humans themselves fill this role, with the Bene Gesserit purposely spreading myths based on heroic and religious archetypes throughout fledgling colonies to make use of the people there later.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Although they are more visible than most ancient conspiracies, the Bene Gesserit definitely count: they have manipulated practically all existing religions in the Dune universe to be tools for their purposes, to the point a Bene Gesserit can basically go to any planet and detect different cues and codes within the local religion's tenets to know exactly what to say and do to present herself as a paragon, prophet or even messiah of the local religion. This is how Lady Jessica insinuates herself and Paul into the Fremen culture. Of course, Jessica had no way of knowing Paul would become an ACTUAL messiah.
  • And I Must Scream: Leto II's awareness supposedly exists in each of the sandtrout and sandworms produced from his body. In his words, he is a pearl of awareness locked in an endless dream.
    • The Axlotl tanks of the Bene Tleilax are no better.
  • 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: Taraza, Miles Teg
  • 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.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Miles Teg… and how! Supreme Bashar of Badass.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Various factions each have their own, mostly secret languages that are dead to other populations.
  • Author Catchphrase:
    • "Ah-h-h-h-h."
    • "Plans within plans...wheels within wheels..."
  • Badass Army: Teg’s Bene Gesserit military
  • Badass Bookworm: Teg again, the Mentat-Bashar
  • Badass Family: Atreides
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Inverted, Subverted, Justified, and Invoked. All depends on your personal interpretation, and which characters you examine. Frank himself said one of the main themes of the series was putting all your faith into one person and following them blindly. You can follow someone, but to utterly submit to them leads to total destruction.
  • Becoming the Mask: Happens to Face Dancers that spend too long imitating a person.
  • Big Bad: The Honored Matres
  • Big Eater: Miles Teg in Heretics of Dune 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.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Paul slaughters billions under the godhead of the Madhinate, and his son Leto II is the greatest tyrant in history; yet both claimed their actions were necessary to avoid an even greater catastrophe — the complete and total extinction of humanity. (And considering that Paul and Leto both share an ability to see into the future, they are probably right.) The Bene Gesserit are similarly portrayed as scheming witches, yet by the time of Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, they have inherited the responsibility of safeguarding humanity's future.
  • 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.
  • Came Back Strong: Miles Teg after the T-Probe
  • The Casanova: Duncan Idaho, dear god. Described as having a devastating masculine appearance and animal magnetism. Brought back to life as a ghola hundreds of times to be used as a stud in various sex-related schemes that resulted in thousands of children and eventually millions of people with his genes. This comes full-circle when the Tleilaxu conditioning he receives from his last incarnation allows him to seduce an Honored Matre.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Taraza
  • 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 in the later novels is a mentat generalissimo. But just try using one as an iPod.
  • 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.
  • Cloning Blues: Gholas (clones of the dead), especially the multiple incarnations of Duncan Idaho.
  • Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: Perhaps the most famous example in science fiction. Due to thousands of years of space migration, various religions and cultures have merged, split, then re-merged again and again. The Fremen are Zensunni, a combination of Sunni Islam and Zen Buddhism. Though most of this occurred naturally, it eventually was pushed this way by an ecumenical council that produced the "Orange Catholic Bible". The title suggests a reunification of Catholicism and Protestantism (the militant, anti-Catholic Protestant Irish Orangists), although it is actually far more ecumenical, incorporating "Maometh Saari, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism and Buddislamic traditions".
    • A few religions manage to survive intact through the millennia, most notably Judaism.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: The Kwisatz Haderach has the ability to (among other things) see into the future. Mentats can also see the future by way of "projecting" the possible outcomes of a given choice, but their role is not usually that of a military strategist.
    • 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.
  • Compelling Voice: The Bene Gesserit have the Voice. Jessica uses this in the first novel to facilitate the escape of her and Paul, by making the guards kill each other. The fear of this prompts various defenses, including stationing deaf-mutes as guards for important people and, later, conditioning people to reflexively kill at the first sign of Voice being used. In the original novel, the Bene Gesserit have to study the target of the Voice in order to adjust their pitch accordingly.
  • Conlang: Many of the phrases and terms used throughout the book have some basis in real-world languages. The Fremen speak a clear development of Arabic. Galach, the official language of the Imperium, is described as an Anglo-Slavic hybrid with some other tongues mixed in for good measure — and it shows... in the rare instances when we get to read some actual untranslated phrases from it.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: A lot of the tech, justifying the Feudal Future / Punk Punk feel of The ’Verse. Much of this is deliberate due to prohibitions against thinking machines and the dominance of shields in warfare.
  • Crapsack World: Dune is a universe of tyrannical regimes, war and constant backstabbing. And even the most moral factions aren't that moral either — see Black and Gray Morality.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Miles Teg is so prepared, he puts a lot of the Reverend Mothers he deals with to shame.
  • Culture Chop Suey: A classic example. Millennia of galactic colonization have created completely new unrecognizable ethnicities and modified versions of current Earth religions.
  • Cultured Badass: Pretty much everyone.
  • Darwinist Desire: the Bene Gesserit are still breeding to produce stronger genetic stock, but are actively avoiding the breeding of another Kwisatz Haderach.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: For The Chosen One, the Messianic Archetype, and hero tropes in general.
  • 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 I Is 3,500 years of rule, there’s no single unified governing force in the old Imperium.
  • Eye Scream: "Tormsa's eyes exploded in blood."
  • Face Your Fears: The Litany against fear promotes doing this whenever possible.
  • 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.
  • Follow the Leader: The Bene Tleilax finally manage to create synthetic Spice in their tanks by Heretics of Dune.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Only useful without Deflector Shields, which are ubiquitous, so almost a subversion/aversion. (A lasgun shot hitting a shield is highly unpredictable, and can cause either a nuclear-level explosion or only destroy both shooter and shootee). Also, lasguns are presented unusually realistically for sci-fi (except for the universe-physics-specific shield bit). In Leto II's future, lasguns have come back into general use after he banned shields, leading to a massive arms race after his death.
  • Galactic Superpower: The Empire that reigned from the Butlerian Jihad to Leto II's planned Scattering.
  • Ghost Memory: Bene Gesserit acolytes receive the total line of their predecessors' memories when undergoing the Water of Life. Later books have Bene Gesserit placing their foreheads together to exchange genetic memory in times of extreme danger.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: The Dune universe is positively riddled with words seemingly inspired by or derived from Arabic and Farsi (most of the future religions have some Islam in them). Even Hebrew shows up once or twice. Amongst other things, K'fitzat ha'derekh (compare to Dune's Kwisatz Haderach) is a magical ability ascribed to some real-world Chassidic holy men — specifically, the ability to teleport.
  • Genetic Memory: Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers (and Wild Mothers such as the Fremen's and Rebecca) get genetic memories of all their female ancestors, the Kwisatz Haderach gets them for all his ancestors, as do children of these two. Gholas can gain past life memories this way too, by being manipulated into doing something their original self would never have done.
  • Gender Bender/Hermaphrodite: Face Dancers are described as "Jadacha hermaphrodites" (a term with an unknown meaning) and "mules" due to their sterility. They are able to change appearance and gender at will, and perform the role of either gender, but cannot reproduce.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: The appendix to Dune lists several "awareness-spectrum narcotics" that increased the user's understanding and mental abilities, including melange (by Guild Navigators), the Fremen "Water of Life" (which affected Paul Atreides and his sister Alia), and the drugs used by Bene Gesserit Truthsayers (who were Living Lie Detectors).
  • Human Resources: The Tleilaxu by using all their females as artificial wombs for their genetic products.
  • Hyper-Awareness/Sherlock Scan/Spider-Sense: The Bene Gesserit use their hyper awareness as a tool for manipulation. Descriptions of Bene Gesserit thought processes in the novels are often comparable to chess masters watching the world around them like one big chessboard, and calmly noting their accruing advantage. At one point a Bene Gesserit correctly deduces that there is a hidden room on the other side of a large banquet room by noting the subtle geometry of the walls of the room and the objects in it as being specifically designed to produce a slight echo where those in the hidden room can listen in.
    • Even with mental processing as incredible as that, the Bene Gesserit still only learn those abilities as a supplementary skill for their main areas of expertise. The mentats, however, specialize specifically in Hyper-Awareness and so are infinitely more adept then even the best Bene Gesserit. Then you take a Bene Gesserit and train her (or occasionally him) as a Mentat...
  • Ice-Cream Koan: The phrases of the Zensunni sect from Dune are said to intended to be Ice Cream Koans, similar to Zen as mentioned above. Instead of providing enlightenment though bypassing rational thought and accepting paradox; they're intended to teach the student to recognize nonsense and obfuscation, regardless of how logically-constructed and reasonable it may appear, and to see through to the "true" underlying reality. Zen emphasizes acceptance of the irrational. The Zensunni philosophy underlying most schools of thought in Dune emphasizes the extremes of rationality and mental development (eg. the Mentat human computers, and Bene Gesserit observation techniques).
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Instant Oracle: Just Add Water!: The Guild Navigators adapted to life in a spice-filled environment which granted them precognition and the ability to navigate at FTL speeds. They spend most of their lives inside of zero gravity tubes filled with spice laden air rather than a tub of water, but same concept.
  • Interrogating the Dead: The Ixian Probe can read the minds of the recently deceased.
  • 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 Tleilaxu Face Dancer Shape Shifters.
  • Living Lie Detector: Bene Gesserit can notice the visual and auditory cues that denote a lying person. Many courts employ Bene Gesserit for this specific purpose, as "Truthsayers".
  • Longevity Treatment: One of many uses for spice, when it is plentiful lifespans of three hundred years aren't uncommon.
  • Mainlining the Monster: Sandworms are the source of the invaluable Spice, without which galactic civilization would collapse. While keeping them captive is unfeasible to say the least, the need to preserve their species runs at odds with the Fremen drive to make Arrakis more liveable for humans, making it a major political issue.
  • 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 sneering 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.
  • Mega-Corp: Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles (CHOAM) is a trade organization that deals with all exchanges between planets. The Spacing Guild is a monopoly on space travel and controls the prices. They also have a majority of the stock in CHOAM, which just goes to show how much Spice is entwined in human politics, at least until Paul takes over the whole kit and kaboodle.
  • 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: One of the Bene Tleilax' most popular exports are sligs, hybridized pigs and slugs. The combination supposedly makes for tender, succulent meat. Goes well with Caladanian wine.
  • Mobile Factory: Harvester factories move across the desert refining spice from sand.
  • Monochromatic Eyes/Technicolor Eyes: A result of high-level Spice addiction, when enough ingestion saturates the blood stream and stains the eyes. Described in the books as "blue-on-blue".
  • The Navigator: An entire guild of them, who depend on spice to guide their ships.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Miles Teg's exposure to a T-Probe gives him Super Speed just in time to save his life, though the T-Probe was meant to kill him.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Both subverted and played straight. Deliberate breeding programs are used to create humans with intelligence, reflexes, lifespan, capacity higher consciousness and physical capabilities far beyond those of current-day humans, but a religious taboo is kept in place on genetically engineering anything recognizably inhuman or unable to interbreed back into the larger human population. Thus, the characters and societies remain human while simultaneously having greater advancements over modern man than modern man has over homo erectus. The Tleilaxu, however, have no religious taboo on inhumanity and gleefully make a living selling inhuman humans genetically-engineered for specific purposes.
  • No Woman's Land: Tleilax
  • Numbered Homeworld: The planet Ix (pronounced as spelled) developed from millennia of language-development to the point that the original prefix was lost, and Ix came to be pronounced as a word rather than as "IX", or 9 in Roman numerals.
  • Occult Blue Eyes: The influence of Spice turns people's eyes an unnatural bright blue. The turning blue is implied to be a normal biological reaction of humans exposed to spice. However Spice also gives psionic abilities to at least some humans which links the two together in people's minds.
  • 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.
  • Painting the Medium: Some words like "SPICE" and "VOICE" tend to be printed in capital block letters to give them a sort of mystical echo (see above for DEATH in the Discworld novels). However, there are no capital letters in the Hebrew language, so the Hebrew translation has these words printed in bold and in a larger typeface than the rest of the sentence. This method makes them even more creepy and resfonant than the original, if at all possible.
  • People Jars: Used and subverted in which genetic clones (and other creatures) are grown in 'Axlotl tanks'. The tanks are revealed to be 'people' as well.
  • Phlebotinum Overload: Shield and lasgun interaction results in nuclear explosions.
  • 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).
  • Polluted Wasteland: The dark world Giedi Prime, the home planet of the Harkonnens, is heavily pollluted from over-industrialization. One of the final two books makes a point that this was so bad that now, over 8,000 years after the Harkonnens were overthrown, the ground will never lose its greasy texture.
  • 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.
  • Psycho Serum/Super Serum: The Spice is both a boon and bane for humanity, politically, culturally, and biologically. Leto II spends his entire (extremely) long life trying to get humanity over its spice addiction. He succeeds — sorta.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Mainly due to the effects of the Spice, many people extend their life far greater than would be possible without. The Emperor Shaddam is described by his daughter Princess Irulan as looking around 50, though being in his late '80s. He dies due to work-related stress rather than old age.
    • 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. Leto II ends up doing this, living up to 3,500 years before being (willingly) assassinated.
    • The pre-Born count in a different way. While chemically and physically true to their age, exposure to the Water of Life in the womb awakens their Genetic Memory. This leads to a personality being composed solely of their complete lineage of ego memories, upwards of hundreds of thousands of generations. Leto II and his sister Ghanima are both nine when they begin wresting control of the empire from their similarly-affected aunt, and must constantly chastise anyone that presumes them to be mere "children." They never had a childhood, nor a life of their own. Only the memories of billions.
    • And finally 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.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Heretics of Dune sees Miles Teg gain Super Speed, but needs to become a Big Eater to compensate (Several characters lampshade his Big Eating). He also gets his hands badly bruised and torn from hitting his enemies at such speeds.
  • Sand Worm: Possibly the Trope Maker.
  • Send in the Clones: Duncan Idaho dies in the first novel, only to return over and over again first as a ghola, then as a ghola-clone. God-Emperor of Dune even has several Duncan gholas throughout the story, though all but one were played with through flashbacks and mentions.
  • 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.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Spice is formed via the excretions of the sand trout mixed with water.
  • Spear Counterpart: The all-male Tleilaxu are eventually revealed to be this to the all-female Bene Gesserit (they also call themselves the Bene Tleilax).
  • Spice of Life: The Spice itself, which is the most valued commodity in the entire universe. To a lesser extent, water on Arrakis (the planet where spice is harvested). Frank wrote both as a metaphor for water itself and oil.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Advanced Face Dancers at the time of Heretics of Dune make a memory-print of their victim's mind and therefore mimic them perfectly. Too perfectly, as it turns out. Leave one in the job long enough and he forgets he's a Face Dancer.
  • The Spock: Mentats. Although not all of them are by any means moral and logical.
  • Standard Time Units: Years are known as "Standard years", or SY, and are described as being about 20 hours less than the "so-called primitive year".
  • Starfish Aliens: The sandworms, which are gigantic (as in up-to-half-kilometer-long) wormlike creatures that live in the desert. They also have a larval form, which begin as microbial "sand plankton" that serve as food to the adults, and grow into a small roughly diamond-shaped form called sandtrout AKA "Little Makers". The sandtrout are later revealed to seal away all the water on the planet, which is highly toxic to the adult form, and secrete the precursors to the addictive and Psychic Powers-granting Spice, which triggers their transformation into the sandworm "Makers".
    • They also inhale carbon dioxide and breathe out fresh oxygen, working as a substitute for the nearly non-existant plantlife on Arrakis. This also justifies why such a Single-Biome Planet can have a breathable atmosphere. The byproducts of the worms are suspiciously Terran-friendly indeed. Various characters lampshade this occasionally, even suggesting the idea that sandworms may be in fact Lost Organic Technology for terraforming planets (created a long time ago by humans, presumably).
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration
  • Super Soldiers:
    • The Sardaukar, the original Fremen when organized, the Fish Speakers
    • Leto II's Fish Speakers, an Amazon Brigade, become more feared than the Sardaukar.
  • Super Speed: In Heretics of Dune, Miles Teg gets 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 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.
    • Keep in-mind, his super speed is super compared to his contemporaries, which are already much faster than the characters from ‘’Dune’’ which in turn were faster than today’s humans.
  • Sword Fight: Swords and knives are the main weapons used in ground combat. Justified: shields stop projectile weapons, and explode like nukes when attacked with lasguns.
    • This is inverted during and after Leto II's reign, as he bans shields within the Empire in order to force warfare to start evolving again. By the time of Heretics, ground and space combat are much, much deadlier as lasguns and even nastier weapons are in full use.
  • Take That! with this passage:
    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.
  • Theme Naming: (Nearly) all the Bene Gesserit have names of the form Something-us (Female Name) (Surname), which is slightly odd considering -us is a male suffix. Though this seems to be less common after Leto II’s reign.
  • Time Skip: 1,500 years since ‘’God-Emperor of Dune’’
  • To Win Without Fighting: In the Back Story of Heretics, 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.
  • Trilogy Creep: An interesting example. Dune was actually conceived as one long book, with the sequels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune fitting directly after the first. Messiah was fleshed out while writing Dune and eventually became its own novel, which due to its expansion then warranted Children to be expanded as well and also became its own book. God Emperor of Dune and the last two in the series, Heretics and Chapterhouse are genuine examples of a trilogy creep, though the fact that the story is now over 10,000 years past in the originals, it's fair to say that they're a trilogy of their own.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The Advanced Face Dancers against the Lost Tleilaxu, and then the Old Empire Tleilaxu in Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: Dune was originally conceived as one large masterwork, with the two sequels of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune entwined into the story. Considering the original is 412 pages, the second 222, and the third 592, they were obviously split. This creates an interesting case of the first book being easily stand-alone, while the two sequels are more closely connected but can still in a way also be stand-alone. They also allowed for God-Emperor of Dune, basically a midquel that set up the last two books in the series to be written. It's just kinda hard to say where Two-Part Trilogy begins and Trilogy Creep ends, or even what was intended to be a simple, honest trilogy.
  • Unobtainium: The Spice.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The universe features wheels-within-wheels plots and dense mythology, although the poetic descriptions can make the book enjoyable even to those who fail to understand it.
  • Voice of the Legion: The billions of ego memories within genetic memory-awakened individuals can appear like this, especially to the pre-born.
  • Voluntary Shape Shifting: Face Dancers
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Justified in that after the Butlerian Jihad, complex autonomous machines are forbidden for millennia. Even regular old calculators are replaced by (highly-paid) people known as Mentats.
  • 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.


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