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Planets seems so small


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When I read the Dune books I have the feeling that Herbert does not take into account how large a planet really is. It seems only as if each planet is an island on one planet.

An example is in Heretics when there is bad weather somewhere on gammu. Teg is sitting inside somewhere, and is woundering how many other gatherings there are inside other places on gammu in this bad weather. Now why would it be bad weather all over gammu?

Of course this is a minor example, but I get the same kind of feeling when I read the other books. For instance on Dune they often walk the distances. And I find it incredibly that they can walk such big parts of the planet, if the planet is as big as Earth. (sorry I don't have an exact reference to this)

Anyone else who has thought about this?

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Well, not any part of the planet is populated or of any importance to the plot. Remember that Gammu as Giedi Prime was an industrial waste world that regenerated for thousands of years thanks to Caladanian ecological influence. Perhaps at the time of Heretics, most of the planet's solid surface consists of woods that were planted to restore the ecological balance. Mind that people in the Duniverse are generally more concerned with ecology and environmentally aware than we are, because this dependence is far more obvious. Besides, in the feudal Old Empire, people probably lived mostly in small rural communities, or compactly populate larger towns and cities.

With Dune, Fremen also did not populate the entire planet, since their sietches were located in rocky ridges that form only a part of Arrakis' surface. When they had to traverse great space, they used worms. For everyone else, there were 'thopters.

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Sure storms on saturn are quite big. But I doubt that it is likely that a habitable planet would differ that much from earth, but it could be an explanation.

Perhaps what you say, MrFlibble, was the case on gammu, but since barony survived since the old days, don't you find it likely that the other cities on gammu also survived? and I also get the impression that they travelled quite large distances when they were on gammu.

If you look on the map of Dune I think you will find that sietches are quite scattered on the planet, but as I said previously I can't find any exact reference to fremen walking a long distance from one sietch to another. I guess I haven't really thought about it untill now, and haven't read Dune for a long while.

But it wasn't really the point to discuss the examples I mentioned, I don't think they are such a big deal. It is just that I get that overall impression after having read five of the six novels that it is not taken into consideration how big a planet is. and of course the planet has to have almost the same size as earth, in order for humans to live there.

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I don't actually remember anything hinting that any of the characters traveled over half a planet on foot or something ??? On any planet, the characters' movements could be restricted to an area as large as an average European country, or as small as a city. This is especially true for Arrakis, where habitable areas (excluding sietches) were scarce. It is also mentioned in the books that most people in the Old Empire didn't travel much, and I guess the Honored Matres would first take the largest cities and other centres of power and importance on a planet in their conquest, and those could not be numerous anyway.

The difference between the Earth and any of the Duniverse planets is that each planet was like a modern-day country, since it was governed by a single Siridar or a person acting on behalf of such. That is, there would be only one capital city and everything else, like in a real feudal society, would concentrate around it. Of course, small, compact communities would be numerous, but usually characters in Dune are of such a rank or social position they have nothing to do in these unimportant places.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't have any scientific references, but my impression is that habitable planets could have a significant range in size, depending on how close to their sun they are, and what kind of star they have, how old it is as well. So, assuming all habitable planets to be the size of Earth might be the error here.

I never noticed any issues with Frank Herbert's books, but what you describe is woefully apparent in the five prequels I've read. Whole planet economies are summed up in one principal export. Planets have only one kind of terrain (islands, forests, Caladan's water-richness, etc.) There's no acknowledgment of a larger world of variable biomes. I think a planet like Arrakis, with its single desert landscape, would be a rarity in the universe.

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I guess they would have to be the size of Earth in order for it to be habitable, if you take gravity into concideration.

I don't think humans could live on a planet the size of mercury for instance, but that's only what I believe, I don't have any exact reference I just recall having heard it somewhere.

Tleilaxu are a bit shorter than others, right? I guess that is because they have larger planets.

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I thought that the Tleilaxu Masters' appearance was specifically engineered to produce a false impression of them being harmless. Just as their skin was modified to protect them from scanning.

And BTW, didn't the Bene Tleilax control only one planet, namely Tleilax? Its size is never mentioned though, if memory serves well.

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forgot to reply about one thing in the last: driftingcloud, do you really think a desert planet is a rarety in the universe? isn't mars a desert planet? My guess is that most planets are desert planets. but one with oxygen is perhaps rarer, since the worms produce it.

Nope size never mentioned, I just figured that a strong gravity would result in shorter people. don't know if its correct, just seems logical  ??? But I guess you are right that they were engineered that way  ;)

Bene Tleilax were a people, not a House, and I figure a people would be larger than a house. so since most houses have more planets I guess the Tleilaxu also would. At least in Heretics I got the impression that they were equal to the Bene Gesserit in number of planets.

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Well Arrakis is only a desert planet because the sandtrout drain the planet of water before they become worms, if memory serves. Hence Rakis becoming a verdant world in GEoD and then back to a desert planet when Leto's sandtrout are released.

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Arrakis was unique for being a desert planet without (almost) any vegetation and[/a] with a breathable atmosphere. And because of the Spice, of course ;)

Bene Tleilax were a people, not a House, and I figure a people would be larger than a house. so since most houses have more planets I guess the Tleilaxu also would. At least in Heretics I got the impression that they were equal to the Bene Gesserit in number of planets.

Don't forget that the Tleilaxu had a secluded society, and they were officially only manufacturers of bio-engineered products. They probaby had their official representatives on many planets, but their society and industry was concentrated on Tleilax, most which was forbidden to visit for the off-worlders. They in fact opposed their homeworld to the rest of the powindah universe.

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I've only read House Harkonnen, and honestly, I don't remember. Something about Piter, that the TL could grow another clone of him should the Baron dispose of the current one.

Talking about warfare, I believe that unless the BG used HM methods, the Tleilaxu could resist fairly well, with all the technology and bio-weapons available to them. Although a BG-trained person, especially a Reverend Mother, could detect Face Dancers, infiltrating the ranks of regular military forces employed by the Sisterhood would not be impossible. Besides, Face Dancers were physically stronger than any regular human.

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I am not sure what HM methods are, could you please explain?

But anyways that discussion is over, because I found an exact reference in Chapterhouse, page 285 in the UK-edition:

"I am a beggar come to your door, Mother Superior," he said in that whining elfin voice. "Our planets in ruins, my people slain. Why do we go to your quarters?"

And there is another reference at the same page to why the Tleilaxu look as they do. It was not to look harmless, it was the opposite, as you can see from this quote:

"Odrade found Scytale vaguely repulsive. Why did they choose to be so grey? Genetic knowledge could have given them a far more acceptable appearance. It was deliberate. They want to stire up antique fears."

So I guess this settles it  :P

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HM burned entire planets just to make an example. This fate befell both Rakis and Tleilax, among other planets. With all the powerful weapons the TL had, they could not protect themselves against the brutality of HM onslaught. This is why Scytale was the only Tleilaxu survivor - everyone else perished when their planet was incinerated.

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Their planets you mean

I'm still not sure. I've actually found the context you quote, but it could be a misprint: "Our planets in ruins" instead of "Our planet's in ruins". Somehow I had the impression that the TL had only Tleilax under their control when I read the books, but that was quite some time ago. I've got to re-read them, information is scattered throughout the hexalogy. Whatever the case, Tleilax was their central planet, the heart of their society forbidden to any off-worlders. In my opinion, seeing how secluded and secretive the Tleilaxu were, they wouldn't risk grounding colonies on other populated worlds (like the BG did), because these could expose their social structure and religion which were to be concealed. Of course I can be mistaken, but that's my impression.

HM means Honored Matres. I thought that was obvious ???

EDIT: Wikipedia article states that the Tleilaxu "exclusively control a number of planets in the Imperium, but they are originally connected with the planet Tleilax, the sole planet of the star Thalim", but no source is mentioned.

Another issue is whether they actually lived on the planets other than Tleilax (within the same social structure), or used them for industrial or trading purposes only. The difference is that the Bene Gesserit have a network-type society, with each chapter on a planet being a cell in the net (of course, they still had their nerve center, the Chapterhouse, but each chapter could normally function if isolated from others). The Tleilaxu, on the other hand, had a single center, Tleilax, which was literally the heart of their society and religion. Just a simple comparison: a Bene Gesserit Sister could live her entire life without visiting the Chapterhouse, while every Tleilaxu Master originated from, and resided on Tleilax.

EDIT2: I've found a passable quote by simply googling. It is from Heretics of Dune (unfortunately, exact pages are not given):

The city that lay beneath his high window he saw as a symbol, one strong mark on the page of Tleilaxu design. Other Tleilaxu planets, other great cities, interlinked, interdependent, and with central allegiance to his God and his city, awaited the signal that all of them knew must come soon.

So they had other planets as colonies, which were probably designed after Tleilax. Still they're far more centralised and rigind in structure than the "democratic" Bene Gesserit.

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Yeah I think you are also right in a sense. Let me see if I get this right: The only independent Tleilaxu are the Masters. There are only a limited number of Masters, who controls a huge number of Face Dancers. The Face Dancers have no will of their own, and therefore you could say that the only real Tleilaxu are the masters. And then you can say that they only have this planet, since the masters all come from there, and they go there regularly. My impression is that there are no ordinary people among the Tleilaxu, only face dancers and masters.

But despite this, they did control more planets, perhaps only economically as you point out. When thinking about it I find it hard to believe that the other tleilaxu planets are only inhabited by face dancers  ??? Like 10 billion face dancers on one planet.

As for that quote being a misprint, I think he would rather have said "Tleilax in ruins" or something like that. I guess he meant the planets they controlled. Perhaps only production planets, but they were still planets under Tleilaxu controll.

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The Tleilaxu hierarchy was quite complex, but never revealed completely in the books, if memory serves. Apart from the Masters, also Domel (the subordinate caste) and Masheikh (high-ranking independent Tleilaxu) are mentioned. Possibly there were other castes. Face Dancers are rather more products than "people", but it's quite difficult to tell since most of the Tleilaxu seem to have been biologically modified in a way (Masters are gholas, after all). Also, Scytale rose from a Face Dancer at the times of Muad'Dib to the position of a Master.

The only possible way for the Tleilaxu to conceal their great plan was to hide their life, so I couldn't imagine them living among other people on a planet like the Bene Gesserit did (although they, too, separated themselves from the others to some extent). Probably all Tleilaxu planets preserved the design of Tleilax and also were forbidden for visit to the powindah. Their planets were likely to include both regular accomodations and production facilities, but I cannot remember anything about this for sure.

Regarding you quote, I only meant that it contained too little information and could still be a misprint. As for the purport of the sentence, Scytale of course means all of the Tleilaxu planets, since he's the only remaining Tleilaxu in the Known Universe.

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