Ah, the Harkonnens. The villains of Dune’s universe. Baron Harkonnen is among the most disgusting (human) villains of sci-fi, with his flesh and his floating chair and his self-serving evil. But this story is not about him—it takes place thousands of years before he is born. We see his ancestors fleeing from “thinking machines”, a name that sounds almost quaint in the Google age. But we do not have AI overlords, and Google engineers have not left their bodies behind to become brains in jars (!) that pilot mechanical bodies and are out to capture and torture humans, so I suppose we have it pretty good.
I don’t really have much to say about this story. It was short, well-written, and set up a family revenge plot quite handily. I’m looking forward to learning more about these machines in The Butlerian Jihad, up next. It promises a religious war with machine intelligence on one side and humans on the other, the beginnings of the Fremen, and the discovery of Arrakis and the spice. Should be fun.