If you’ve ever been to Arrakis, you’ve heard the whisper: Sandworms, the Maker, you may have even heard of Shai-Hulud. You probably know them as an existential threat, the kind of enemy you can’t hope to kill, as well as an ecological necessity – their very existence spawns the Spice Melange on which our survival depends.
But the Maker is more than teeth that produce spices. It’s a god figure, a creature to be respected, and – most importantly – a way to traverse the Arrakeen Desert. That’s right, Shai-Hulud can be ridden – but what’s it really like to ride?
Full disclosure: The freemen flew me to Arrakis to try riding a sandworm. The Spacing Guild provided my transportation, and the Fremen provided my food, shelter, and precious life-giving water.
What’s new with the 10191 Arrakeen Sandworm?
Not much. Most sandworms old enough to drive are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old – little has changed for them over their years in the sand.
But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Maker is a reliable means of transport, easy to predict and manageable to drive – as long as you know what you’re doing. Worm riding can be a struggle for amateurs, but with a little practice it becomes second nature.
What are the specifications?
Sandworms can grow hundreds of feet long, and some believe worms can live up to 1,000 feet in the planet’s most remote deserts. My tester wasn’t that big, somewhere in the 250m range, making it a little more nimble than its bigger brethren.
How does it look?
I’ll be honest: sandworms aren’t pretty. They are design over form, gray and drab with thick, plated skin. But every part of the Maker’s appearance has a function: its mouth to absorb nutrients, its plates to direct the worm to its destination. Shai-Hulud may not be a beauty, but he gets the job done.
How does it drive?
I said my Maker was smaller than many, which made for a more nimble ride. That’s faint praise, though – none of the sandworms are really agile, all are slow to react and require whole-body effort to maneuver. Even with skilled riders on the back, Shai-Hulud still understeers at the limit, and every ride is more about reaching your destination than having fun along the way.
Power is sufficient; worms are geared more towards torque than top end, which can often confuse the “butt dyno” to read higher than it really is accurate. However, the real trick with sandworms is control – at first the idea of controlling a Maker with your two little hooks seems absurd. With a little practice under your belt, however, it all becomes second nature: the Maker hooks fall easily into the hand and steering from side to side becomes more of an intentional dance.
How’s the interior?
I have not tested this. If you want to get eaten by a sandworm and find out what it’s like, be my guest. I hear it’s hot.
How does it compare to the competition?
For long-distance travel on Arrakis, the Maker’s closest competitor is probably your standard ornithopter. But those need fuel and maintenance, and you’re not likely to find another full of fuel waiting when yours falter. Worms, on the other hand, take care of themselves – and if one gets tired, you’re just a whack away from finding another ride.
For short trips, an ornithopter may be more convenient. But for long hauls across the Arrakeen desert, the Maker is unparalleled. There’s a reason why the Fremen, those most accustomed to desert life, don’t keep fleets of ‘thopters’ at all times.
Riding Shai-Hulud is a rare opportunity, one I’m grateful to have been given. Large, high-capacity sandworms really feel like the future of long-haul transportation in a way that makes ornithopters obsolete – so limited in size, carrying weight and fuel range. The Fremen know Dune best, so it’s no wonder they chose the ideal mode of transportation across the vast, open desert. Bless the Maker and His water, bless the comings and goings of Him.
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