This round might turn out to be my favorite for these two books. On the one hand, in Dune, Paul Atreides literally depends on his supporting characters and they are vital to his development throughout the book. On the other hand, Paul continuously becomes more and more detached from basically everyone, as he ventures deeper and deeper into the desert. The same pattern of deep attachment to those close to him but near total withdrawal from the rest of society is present in This Immortal's Conrad Nomikos.
Paul's friends are interesting cases. He has a cadre of military minded advisors who are certainly as close as family, but always focused on his training. His parents too are very aware of his future. I thought they seemed more like career mentors than parents or friends. Still, he knows these people nearly as well as he nows himself and is willing to share nearly anything with them.
His connection with the Fremen is a little deeper maybe. At lease with Chani anyway. I enjoyed Paul's instant connection with Chani and was disappointed that Chani wasn't present very often. Thinking about it again, it almost seemed like she was more of a symbolic figure demonstrating that Paul couldn't or wouldn't be controlled. Whatever...I liked when Paul met Chani in the dark desert and I liked when they were together.
Conrad was such an inscrutable character. He might have been the most aloof person I've ever read about. Still, in the beginning of the book we get a pretty touching look at his new relationship with Cassandra (also he may be a huge pedo). Then, when he learns that she's likely dead after a major earthquake it made the beginning so much more bittersweet. And his reaction, one of the most shockingly violent scenes in the book, makes it clear how deep his attachment was.
But then...The Redhead comes to his tent. I didn't have a problem with it actually, until he reiterated that it was she that came to his tent. I'm sorry, but if that's how you're going to react to the death of a loved one, you take responsibility for your actions.
The friendship that I really loved though, was with Bortan.
“Bortan? That name is familiar.”
“Your dog. I used to ride on his back when I was a child and beat with my legs upon his great armored sides. Then he would growl and seize my foot, but gently.”
“My Bortan has been dead for so long that he would not even chew upon his own bones, were he to dig them up in a modern incarnation.”
“I had thought so, too. But two days after you departed from your last visit, he came crashing into the hut. He apparently had followed your trail across half of Greece.”
Bortan is basically the coolest dog ever. Like so many others in Conrad's world, he has significant mutations, including armored sides and apparently super-wolf tracking abilities. He is also fiercely loyal, as evidenced by the quote from this book review and also the following:
“It is good for a man to have a dog,” said Hasan. “I have always been fond of dogs.”
Bortan was sniffing him as he said it.
“You've come back, you dirty old hound,” I told him. “Don't you know that dogs are extinct?”
He wagged his tail, came up to me again, licked my hand.
“I'm sorry that I can't scratch your ears. You know that I'd like to, though, don't you?”
He wagged his tail.
I opened and closed my right hand within its bonds. I turned my head that way as I did it. Bortan watched, his nostrils moist and quivering.
“Hands, Bortan. I need hands to free me. Hands to loosen my bonds. You must fetch them, Bortan, and bring them here.”
He picked up an arm that was lying on the ground and he deposited it at my feet. He looked up then and wagged his tail.
“No, Bortan. Live hands. Friendly hands. Hands to untie me. You understand, don't you?”
He licked my hand.
“Go and find hands to free me. Still attached and living. The hands of friends. Now, quickly! Go!”
He turned and walked away, paused, looked back once, then mounted the trail.
“Does he understand?” asked Hasan.
“I think so,” I told him. “His is not an ordinary dog brain, and he has had many many more years than even the lifetime of a man in which to learn understanding.”
“Then let us hope he finds someone quickly, before we sleep.”
It struck me that having been away from each other for so long, Bortan still immediately left to find help. What a good boy.
Yeah, Bortan is awesome. He made me smile every time he made an appearance.