DUNE movie poster

Everything you love from pop culture, including #StarWars, has been greately influenced by Frank Herbert’s Dune saga. Continued by his son, Brian Herbert, and his co-author, Kevin J Anderson, the Dune universe spans many eons and storylines that all mash up together to give a complex storyline that at the center of it, remains timeless. It is the struggle to free the mind, the ties that binds us across time and space to family, culture and the sense of finding ourselves in an ever changing landscape.
When you read the saga, especially the original saga started by Frank Herbert, you don’t feel like you are reading a space opera but rather a historical tale. Something that has been persevered thanks to the voice of history and the cruel efforts of one family against the sands of time. Frank Herbert, inspired by Isaac Asimov’s FOUNDATION saga (of which an adaptation has also been made, albeit it is as a series for the streaming platform Apple +), understood the importance of ancestral memory or rather history. If we are to move forward, we have to take into account the past. But more than that, we have to be careful how we choose to remember and who we choose to follow.

*SPOILERS* (Thou Have been Warned!)

The film comprises only the first half of the first book. As such, we don’t get to see Paul fighting Feyd or meeting Princess Irulan to force her into marriage to solidify his future bloody imperial reign. Paul does come to be self-aware near the end of this film, but he’s also terrified by what he knows he must do in order to save humanity from extinction and into the golden path. In the books, we get a better sense into his psyche. This being a visual medium, the director did a good job highlighting this via the acting of Timothee Chalamet and his visions.
I was worried that the film would not be opening like the eponymous book with Irulan’s narration; yet, this slight distortion ended up working to better get a sense of where the Fremen are coming from and what lays ahead for Paul. Chani’s role is a big one in future books and determines his cowardice and cruelty to their future children and his neglected wife, Princess Irulan (the daughter of the Padisah Emperor Shaddam IV he will end up deposing and exiling). Though the latter aforementioned characters are not seen here, they are referenced in subtle ways which leaves the door open for a better understanding of when they are finally introduced in part 2.

That aside, the film is a visual spectacle. It is a masterpiece.Though there are not ETs here, everything feels alien. Humanity has moved beyond the confines of our solar system. The imperium is similar to other empires in our history, but it also feels like something completely different. Despite the other similarities between feudalism and the way the Houses are structred, this is not a space feudalism. It is something else. And this feeling is exactly what one feels when reading the books. It feels familiar but also something completely detached from our reality. We are meant to be part of the ride, but not meant to be fully integrated into this new universe of evolutionary wonders and horrors. Humanity has moved past A.I. In its stead, they have splintered into different factions, all under the rule of the Imperium. Some humans seem no different than their ancestors on earth from more than ten thousand years ago, but others might as well be classified as alien because they have modified themselves to such an extent that they are almost a separate species. At the center of it all, is the one substance that powers the entire universe: the spice melange. Found in only one planet in the known universe: Arrakis (also known as Dune), everyone fights for control of this precious substance. He who controls the spice controls the universe.Beyond extending life, persevering youth, opening consciousness and allowing other super-human abilities, the spice has helped humanity stay away from the temptation of falling prey to technological curiosity and dependence. But there are one group of humans who have claimed the desert of Arrakis as their own despite not being native to the planet. These are called the Fremen. Originally, they formed part of the humans who fought the machines in the last machine war or Butlerian Jihad. They settled on Arrakis and called themselves the Free Men. Through time, they formed an enclave which grew until becoming the Fremen we see in the film. Their religion is a mixture of Zen Buddhism and Islam, with tinges of the ever more complicated mixture of Abrahamic religions and other religious philosophies found in the OCB (the Orange Catholic Bible, which has become the new official bible by the ruling houses). Though this is not explicitly mentioned in the movie, enough hints are dropped here for viewers to know and find out more about the underlying religious and philosophical currents in this universe. What these rebels don’t know though is that the prophecy of their messiah is nothing more than religious engineering by the powerful sisterhood known as the Bene Gesserit. Insidious and extremely dangerous, this religious organization does what it can for power. Although they want to save humanity from future extinction, at the end of the day, they want power and believe that the super human messiah they have long been awaiting for will be theirs to control. But as what happens with every human calculation: something goes wrong.This is where Paul Atreides comes in.

He’s the Dune Messiah, the Kwisatz Haderach, the prophesized savior of the Fremen, the Muad’Dib, and future savior of humanity. He is also part of a carefully engineered genetic planning by the Bene Gesserit. His mother, a Bene Gesserit herself, has worked in tandem with the Sisterhood to orchestrate this. However, the calculations were disrupted by Lady Jessica (Paul’s mother) decision to fall in love with the Duke Leto of House Atreides and give him a son rather than a daughter. The Bene Gesserit in their infinite wisdom and conniving nature, have been in charge of mixing bloodlines for thousands of years until their end result. To achieve their ultimate power, the last move on the chessboard would depend on the daughter Lady Jessica would give Duke Leto. This daughter would be given in marriage to a Harkonnen (the Atreides’ main enemy) heir and the result be a Kwisatz Haderach which, with the support of both Houses, overthrow the Padisha Empire, declare himself Emperor and thorugh him, the Bene Gesserit would rule and bring forth the Golden Path. But Lady Jessica chose love over duty. It is this simple choice which upset their plans, but also set in motion a crueler fate in order to achieve this “Golden Path”. Paul comes to find this out near the end of the movie and resents his mother for this. Yet, he realizes that he has no other option but to do what was meant of the Kwisatz Haderach in order to save himself and his loved ones. The Dune Movie does a good job in showing all of this. Hopefully this will lead people to become more interested in this world and the historical and philosophical influences which inspired Frank Herbert to write his space opera. This, along with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, is the original Star Wars. But while in Star Wars, the alien worlds and species still feel human, here, set tens of thousands of years into the future, the world feels more alien. It is more grounded in scifi, while still being relatable because of the timeless conflicts that have plagued mankind since its creation.

When Paul “awakens”, it is not only he who does but the rest of us as well.

If I were to have a concern it’d be that Irulan’s role is minimized in future adaptations. She is an extremely important part in the saga. The old saying that the “pen is mightier than the sword” is demonstrated through her. While it’s through the fanatical hordes of Fremen’s crysknives and their religious fervor which places the galaxy into submission, as well as the near-omniscience of the God Emperor Leto II (Paul’s son) that the Known Universe is pushed towards the Golden Path, none of this could have been possible without the eloquence and intellectual curiosity of Princess Irulan. Princess Irulan is everything we dream in a historian. Despite being uncomfortable in her own skin, being mistreated by Paul and suspected by the rest, she quickly redeems herself by taking on the task of raising her twin stepchildren and preserving knowledge for future generations. If the next sequels are to continue being masterpieces and represent the importance of history, they need to expand on Irulan’s role as they have already pledged they will do on Paul’s love interest, Chani. The second novel (DUNE MESSIAH) does a good job expanding her role. The director has stated that he plans to add more dimension to her character other than being a love interest of Paul. This was good to hear. However, I hope this doesn’t fall into the common old Victorian trope of elevating one female character at the expense of the other. This would be detrimental and contrary to the intention of what the director’s claims and what Herbert intended in the first place.

With this being said, I hope things go well and we get to see more of the marvelous worlds that the known universe in Dune has yet to offer us in future sequels, and does justice to all the characters. If that is so, then let the spice flow!

Book Review: Athena: The Warrior Queen of Yavdolo Volume 1

Athena novel

Parallels universes, alternate timelines, post-apocalyptic futures, and a light at the end of the tunnel. There is no shortage of sub-genres within science fiction and that is because science fiction offers us a world of endless possibilities!

But amidst all of the chaos that these sub-genres contain, a great number of them always contain a light at the end of the tunnel. And that is what this novel offers. Staring on a grim note, hundreds of years after the exiles of Earth fled their world which had once been a beacon of hope and freedom, the novel evolves into a tale of growth, love, and loss as we are introduced into an unforgettable heroine.
These themes remain universal and likely will until the end of time, or at least as long as mankind exists. And this is why this tale will resonate with everyone because more than being a simplistic tale of good and evil, it is a coming age of story about a woman who refuses to bend over against the obstacles put in her path.

Athena’s journey is far from over. With every step she takes, she grows stronger. Doubt doesn’t enter her mind because she keeps her focus on what truly matters. Her will power, the ferocity (which she shows to her enemies), and belief in herself are what make Athena into one of the strongest people her world has ever known.

Fantasy and science fiction lovers will fall in love with her character, rooting her until the very end. In this, Helen R. Davis, like fantasy giants, has created a new world full of wonders and mystique which will leave you have stepped into another realm that by the end of it, you won’t want to leave.

A highly recommendable read!

Bittersweet Symphonies

Anne and Padme tragic romance

There is something universal in myths and these stories that appeal to us. Perhaps its because that is how we want things to have happened, in the case of history, or how we dream our lives would go. But while both are fun and entertaining there is something problematic when the stories get too romanticized and we think ‘oh well they could have been happy if only these people didn’t stand in their way’ or something along those lines.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Star Wars and I love Tudor history but one thing that irks me is when the fans go all crazy and start saying these are the OTP. Henry was in love with Anne. Anakin was in love with Padme and no more discussion. I think there should be room for discussion simply because both show four deeply flawed characters. And that is how love is in real life. People are not perfect, we are flawed and we have a lot of issues. Some more than others. Anakin is a person with so many issues that it was impossible for him and Padme to have a good relationship. Not only that, did they ever knew each other? Physical attraction is an important component into falling in love.

Anne was noted for being exotic. She wasn’t your typical beauty (blond, blue eyes, fair face, etc). These traits were associated with how the Virgin Mary was presented. Even if you missed the hair, but had all of the other traits you were still considered a beauty. Catherine of Aragon met all of these requirements and she was beautiful. As she got older however and eight pregnancies and many miscarriages, she lost her figure. That isn’t to say she was ugly by any means. King Francois I’s words that she was deformed are unwarranted as they were aimed against Henry.  And it was common practice to attack your enemies by attacking their spouses or closest female relatives. If you look at portraits of Catherine from the late 1520s, including miniatures, you will find that she was still very attractive. Henry however needed a son. And when he locked eyes with Anne, he was intrigued by her. Here was a woman who so different from the others in his life, who like Catherine was smart and religious, and just like her was very opinionated.

One of the strongest features about Anne Boleyn were her dark brown, almost black orbs. They were remarked a lot. Nicholas Sander later in  Elizabeth’s reign said that she was ugly that she had to use other means to get Henry interested in her (implying she used magic). But Sander was writing against her daughter, so he had an agenda. But even he admitted that she was one of the most educated and fashionable ladies of her times.
*Anne wasn’t the first to introduce French fashions to the English court, but she was the one who made them more popular.

After Henry VIII made his intentions to marry Anne Boleyn, this is when things got pretty ugly. Catherine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V’s mercenaries had sacked Rome in 1527. This put Henry in a complicated spot. There was NO way that the Emperor was ever going to let Clement VII grant the King of England his much desired annulment. Henry sent Thomas Cranmer who’d once been a staunch Catholic to Rome in the hopes of convincing the Pope. The problem with the Papacy was this: It didn’t declare, not just Clement, in favor of Henry, but neither did it rule in Charles’ favor. The latter as the former was equally angry because of this. And to make matters worse for Rome, so was Catherine. She sent an angry letter in December 17th, of 1530 in which she urged him to reach a decision, dramatically saying that the future of their faith was at stake. The pope didn’t listen and things continued on hold until after Henry’s marriage to Anne (early 1533, though late 1532 according to other sources) was made official by Cranmer in May of 1533, and their firstborn, Princess Elizabeth was born in September of that year.

This was too late but it would have made little difference if it came earlier. If Henry wasn’t going to get what he wanted, he was going to take it no matter what. His passion for Anne was such that it was only superseded by his need for a male heir. (Which let’s be fair, the Tudor dynasty NEEDED.)

Anne Boleyn and Padme nonsense

Towards the beginning of the 1533, it was being rumored that Henry VIII had married Anne and that she was pregnant with their first child. The rumors didn’t lie. Anne was crowned Queen of England in a ceremony that outranked her rival and predecessor, Katherine of Aragon. While Katherine was crowned with the crown of Edith as was customary for Queens Consorts of England, Anne was crowned with the crown of St Edward which was reserved only for Kings. Henry didn’t want to leave any question of the legitimacy of his marriage and his unborn child which he hoped was a boy. Four months later she gave birth to a healthy baby girl who was named Elizabeth after both her grandmothers. Although Henry was disappointed, he heavily doted on her. But after two, possibly three miscarriages (once again the sources differ) and Henry’s infatuation with a new lady-in-waiting who like Anne before her, denied to give herself up to him, he began to grow tired of her and the rest as they say is history.

Where does that leave Anakin and Padme, though? And how is it that two beloved couples whose union spelled tragedy for many around them, including themselves be elevated to the status of ‘one true pairing’ or ‘one true love’? The answer is simple. Because deep down, we all yearn to relive that fantasy through the avatars of our favorite historical and in the case of Star Wars, science fiction characters. But their love wasn’t true love. True love doesn’t exist in real life. People fall in and out of love all the time. There is nothing wrong with that. George Lucas read Joseph Campbell’s ‘A hero of a thousand faces’ which explained why so many cultures’ heroes and anti-heroes share similar paths. There is definitely something in human psyche which makes us yearn for these similar stories and while entertaining, we must learn to distinguish myth from reality.

We have two men who were widely praised by almost everyone. Who despite their arrogance later in life, were once humble and dedicated to their friends and family, and were very much unlike their predecessors and their contemporaries.

Anakin Skywalker didn’t mind talking to “lower life forms”. Obi Wan would as so many other Jedi, sneer at people below them. Anakin did not and from the “Clone Wars” TV series and Matthew Stover’s novelization of Episode III “Revenge of the Sith” we learn that he was worshiped by nearly everyone and called the “hero without fear”. Here was a Jedi that everyone could relate to. Someone who was cocky but who didn’t look down on those who weren’t Force-Sensitive and who cared deeply for his friends, secret family and apprentice Ashoka Tano. His good looks and his charisma eventually faded away when Anakin was scarred by the fires of Mustafar when his former mentor and friend, Obi Wan Kenobi cut his arm and legs and left him for dead. Henry VIII like Anakin was very humble, widely praised by everyone, including the Venetian Ambassador on his joint coronation with his first spouse, Katherine of Aragon. He said that he was very handsome and his old friend and mentor, Sir Thomas More said that there was no better prince than him. To everyone, Henry was everything a prince should be and he surrounded himself by the best minds in Europe, “new men” and he was very approachable unlike most of his predecessors. As Henry became more obsessed with fame and securing the Tudor dynasty through a son, his charisma slowly faded away as well as his looks and the fall from his horse in 1536, some historians like Suzannah Lipscomb have theorized, worsened this.

Indeed, here were two men for whom everyone expected the best. Sir Thomas More could not have hoped for a better King; and you can hear the sadness in Obi Wan’s voice when he yells at his former apprentice and friend: “You were the chosen, it was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them!” But Obi Wan and Sir Thomas More, despite their virtues, were lying to themselves if they didn’t think that power wouldn’t go to their heads. Henry needed a male heir to secure the Tudor dynasty, but as he became obsessed with power, he became hugely unstable and so did Anakin. Anakin never knew love or acceptance except from his mother. Like Henry, his mother became the model for which he judged others, especially his wife. Perhaps Anakin did love Padme, but it is my view that he was more in love with the idea of falling in love just like the King of England.

This idea stemmed from their love of chivalry. Anakin tells Qui-Gon-Jinn in Episode 1 The Phantom Menace that he dreams of being a Jedi. He has heard tales of these knights with their shining lightsabers, freeing people from bondage. Master Yoda tells his offspring, Luke Skywalker that all his father could ever think of was adventure. A Jedi, he explains to Luke, should be more than that. Similarly, the same thing could be said about Henry. A King has to think more adventure and chivalry and be practical when he has to. Henry VIII however wanted to be another Henry V, he wanted as Lord Mountjoy put it, achieve immortality.

Well, for all intent and purposes they did. But not in the way they would have liked to be remembered. While many excuse or condemn them, we must all agree that their actions can’t be forgotten. Vader didn’t give the order to blow up Alderaan but he sure didn’t lift a finger to stop it. Henry VIII didn’t orchestrate the dissolution of the monasteries (that was Cromwell’s brainchild) but he didn’t put a stop to it either.

And let’s not forget their wives.

Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII Padme Anakin

In Henry’s case, his second wife as we’ve addressed became his obsession. She was different in appearance and his rebuff only intensified his interest for her. Many still are of the opinion that she was a homewrecker while others put her on a pedestal and say she was the feminist of her day. Both of these views are wrong. Anne was a woman of her time, with the same prejudices and she was also deeply religious. Although she didn’t seek to become Henry’s mistress and wife, she realized that there was no way to refuse Henry for long. If she continued to do so, his wrath could be unleash on her family or worse (for her), nobody would marry her and marriage was an important goal for any highborn woman in the sixteenth century. After all, no man in his right mind would propose to a woman the king was after. So Anne accepted. And as soon as she became Queen, she did her best to further the Reform. Her disagreement with Cromwell unlike what was shown in BBC’s “Wolf Hall” was not over her loss of influence or power, but because the money from the dissolution was being used to enrichen the King. She wanted to use the money for educational programs that could promote the Reform. Her brother was a known Reformer as well, and the King’s ambassador.

Anne Boleyn and Padme killed by their husbands
After nearly three years of marriage, Henry’s love for Anne faded away in the same manner that Anakin’s did for Padme. While the latter seemed to regret his decision when Palpatine tells him what his actions led to, he doesn’t mention her again. This was a woman he was obsessed with, he dreamed of, and as he tells Obi Wan, a woman whose presence was “toxic” and he wanted so badly. She was his angel, a larger than life figure. And like Anne, Padme had faith and conviction and was one of the founders of the Rebellion which her daughter later spearheaded and with her son, helped bring about the end of the Empire. This is reminiscent of Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, another strong woman who continued with the Reform, albeit she was more pragmatic, and didn’t want a strict Protestant establishment because she had learned from her brother’s reign the chaos that had brought.
Both of them never really knew them. And when they became an obstacle, they tossed them aside and made no mention of them ever again. Anakin wanted unlimited power yet he ended up becoming a slave of Palpatine and while Henry VIII became the Supreme Head of his new church, it can also be argued that he became a slave to his own fantasies and madness. And that is how they ended up being remembered as two equally magnificent and terrible figures.

Darth Vader and Henry VIII horrible bosses

The two killed their former mentors and trusted friends. Sir Thomas More was executed for not recognizing Henry as Supreme Head of the Church while Obi Wan for not recognizing Anakin’s new allegiance and calling him “master of Evil”. And everyone else who failed to live up to their expectations suffered the same or a worse fate.

Anakin and Henry marred by destiny and murder

These were men who went from charismatic to terrible. And the people that worked for them dreaded a promotion because they remembered what happened to their predecessors, Ozzel, Needa, Cromwell, More, George Boleyn, Anne Boleyn, and so many others. With these two, the odds were never going to be your favor.


  • Star Wars and History by Nancy R. Reagin and Janice Liedi
  • Boleyn Women by Elizabeth Norton
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Star Wars saga, episodes 1 -6 created by George Lucas
  • Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith novelization by Matthew Stover
  • The Clone Wars and Rebels TV Series
  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
  • Henry and Anne Boleyn: A Love Story? By Lissa Bryan
  • The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

The Martian is a space epic!


The movie is without one of the best flicks I’ve seen this year. Together with Everest, it is one of those flicks that pushes the human spirit to the limit. Just how far are you willing to go, to achieve something that will last a lifetime? In Everest it was a personal goal, in Martian, the goal is to leave behind something for humanity. The human spirit knows no bounds. Even though Mark Whatney is stranded millions of miles away in space, he tells himself “I am not going to die here” and he figures out a plan to grow crops “in a place where nothing grows”. I don’t want to spoil the whole movie because I hope people go see it, and get as excited about science as I was, and some kids in the theater were. (Yes, some kids were there despite the strong cursing. But come on guys, kids get exposed to violence all the time. Surely you they can stomach a few swearing that I bet they do when nobody is watching.)


The movie is also very true to the book; Matt Damon lives up to the hype and so does the rest of the cast. There is politics, some intrigue but also hope (which is something that’s often lacking in today’s movies). It is done in a very realistic way, where it’s not just good guy vs bad guys, but just people trying to find out a solution to bring him home, others to make him survive long enough so he can wait for the next ARES mission, and others who don’t want to sacrifice everything for one man. In a typical Hollywood movie, the latter would be the villain, a cold hearted, nasty suit who doesn’t care about anyone but his own ego. But that is not the case here. Jeff Daniel’s character, Teddy, is the director of NASA and he cares for Mark’s safety as much as the rest, but as the leader of a public funded organization, he has to look out for the team first and he is not going to risk everything for one man. In contrast we have another leader, the Commander of Mark’s team, Louis (played by Jessica Chastain) who feels guilty she left Mark for dead and wants to make up for that.
The ending differs from the book and it feels like one additional chapter, but it works perfectly.


I just want to add something more because after I got out of the theater I felt like they were also some similarities with Ridley Scott’s other science fiction movie ‘ALIEN’ (1979). The interior of the Mars base and the ARES look a hell of a lot like the Nostromo and its proto-prequel ‘Prometheus’ (2012). The opening of the movie has that mystery music that works up the suspense like the first one did for Alien, and the letters even appear slowly. The slogan for Alien was ‘in space no one can hear you scream’, the slogan for Prometheus was something along the lines they went searching for our salvation that turned out to be our doom. MARTIAN is all the contrary. It keeps the suspense of the first movie and there is that fear of the unknown. In Alien the fear was that you are stuck in a planet where everything works against you and you find a space monster that is hell bent on killing you. In The Martian, you are stuck on a planet where the science is well known, but you are all alone and nobody knows you are alive until much later and even then, there is no guarantee they can come and pick you up, so you still feel helpless because as Mark says towards the end ‘its space, it doesn’t cooperate’. And there are those similar space suits and rovers like the ones used on Prometheus but whereas the first two were about caution and the dangers of exploration, this is about hope and ingenuity.