Fictional character biography
Erasmus serves as a synchronized robot under Omnius, the computer evermind for all thinking machines, before he falls into an ice crevice and becomes trapped. Unable to free himself, he devotes his time purely to thought. No longer able to synchronize with Omnius, he gains an independence unknown to other thinking machines. After twenty years, he is rescued from the crevice. Omnius wants Erasmus to re-synchronize with him. Erasmus argues that he might be more useful as an independent robot studying humans' irrational behavior, something Omnius can not fully comprehend. Omnius agrees, and Erasmus soon becomes obsessed with learning human nature. He conducts thousands of horrific experiments on slave humans captured from defeated League Worlds. As with Josef Mengele, the scientific value of the majority of his experiments is highly questionable. Despite being a machine and an enemy to humanity, his single greatest achievement is the creation of the Mentats. The first is his protegé and "adopted son", whom he names Gilbertus Albans.
It is Erasmus who sparks the fanatical Butlerian Jihad. Before the Butlerian Jihad, he had made a bet with Omnius, arguing that the human slaves of the evermind were not, in fact, "tamed" completely but would rebel if given the chance. To prove his point, Erasmus drops off cryptic messages to various human work crew leaders to hint to them that there is a (in truth non-existent) resistance movement and that they should start their own cells. The experiment backfires spectacularly when one of these humans, Iblis Ginjo, actually manages to build a large resistance cell as a direct result of Erasmus' suggestions. Next, Erasmus becomes obsessed with understanding the "non-tamed" human Serena Butler, culminating in Erasmus callously flinging her infant son Manion off of a multi-story balcony because he feels the child is a distraction. Serena's emotional reaction is to shove a sentry robot off the same ledge while trying to kill Erasmus. A large crowd of human slave laborers witness the whole event and, as a result, rise up in rebellion led by Ginjo. The rebellion spreads across Earth rapidly. Ginjo sets his own revolution plans in action by equipping an army with makeshift weapons from construction tools and succeeding in killing one of the last six Titans, Ajax. Erasmus flees in disgrace, but the Earth-Omnius was later destroyed and thus unable to transmit the information of Erasmus' responsibility for the situation to the rest of the Synchronized Worlds, so he is never punished.
One of Erasmus' goals is to be able to understand and experience human feelings, something he can not totally understand in humans. It could be said that he finally achieved this by saving Gilbertus Albans, due to "love" for his "son". Erasmus deactivates the Bridge Of Hrethgir, which Gilbertus is among, even though the robot knows it means the defeat and end of the A.I. Empire.
At the end of The Battle of Corrin, Gilbertus removes Erasmus' gelsphere CPU from his body, and keeps the gelsphere hidden. If it is discovered, the incredibly strict anti-A.I. laws just being put into effect would result in Gilbertus being put to trial and sentenced to death. In addition, the likely backlash would almost certainly destroy the nascent Mentat School.
Gilbertus' actions imply that Erasmus has, in a sense, "survived" the battle. But the subsequent fate of the gelsphere remains unrevealed.
Erasmus returns in Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune with Omnius as part of the pair Daniel and Marty as a threat to all humanity. The two have been reconstructed from data in the signal sent out by Omnius, after the signal's reception by one of the probes sent out from Giedi Prime. His manipulations are a large part of Hunters of Dune, which ends with the start of the Thinking Machines' invasion.
In Sandworms of Dune, it is revealed that Erasmus has been secretly manipulating Omnius and the Face Dancers, essentially putting him in control of the new machine empire. Once Omnius is disposed of by Norma Cenva, Erasmus encourages Duncan Idaho, the Ultimate Kwisatz Haderach, to forge peace between the Machine Empire and humanity. The two share experiences, making Duncan a new evermind. Erasmus, through Duncan and his many Ghola lives, finally gains an understanding of what it is to be human. After fifteen thousand years of searching for and gaining knowledge, he finds that there is very little left for him to learn. Fearing that his existence will become dull and meaningless, he once again shares with Duncan, using the many deaths the Kwisatz Haderach experienced in his lives to create a real death for himself. Erasmus quietly, and happily, dies in the form of Marty.
Erasmus's presence lingers in a similar fashion of the Bene Gesserit Other Memory with Duncan Idaho, to help guide and advise him as he joins man and machine after being separated since the Butlerian Jihad.
Rod MacDonald of SF Crowsnest has described Erasmus as "a particularly unpleasant robot, with a penchant for dissecting humans to see how they tick." MacDonald goes on to opine that together with fellow sentient machine Omnius, Erasmus is a pivotal character in the context of the entire Dune series who helps carry what emerges as the principle underlying theme: "man versus machine!"
John Snider of scifidimensions.com is not so enthusiastic. As Erasmus did not explicitly appear in the original series, and despite Brian Herbert having access to his fathers notes Template:Herbert notes concerning the new characters he had planned to use in wrapping up the epic, Snider suspects that Erasmus is not the sort of creation Frank Herbert had originally conceived. Snider specifically notes that it "doesn't fit" or "add up" for Erasmus and Omnius to be the Daniel and Marty characters that appeared at the end of Frank Herbert's final novel Chapterhouse Dune, a revelation made near the end of Hunters of Dune.
Notes and References
- Rod MacDonald. "Book Reviews: Dune: The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herber & Kevin J Anderson". Stephen Hunt's SF Crowsnest.com. http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/articles/books/2009/nz13987.php. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
- John Snider. "Audiobook Review: Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson". scifidimensions.com. http://www.scifidimensions.com/Aug07/sandwormsofdune.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-18.