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  1. #1
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    January 2011 Book of the Month: Dune by Frank Herbert

    New Year, Old Classic.

    Dune is seen by many as a seminal work of SF.

    From Wikipedia:

    Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert, published in 1965.* It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune is frequently cited as the world's best-selling science fiction novel.

    Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary fiefdoms are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the Imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and the heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the "spice" melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe. The story explores the complex and multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the Empire confront each other for control of Arrakis and its "spice".

    Herbert wrote five sequels to the novel Dune: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. The first novel also inspired a 1984 film adaptation by David Lynch, a 2000 Sci Fi Channel miniseries and its 2003 sequel, computer games, a board game, songs, and a series of prequels, interquels, and sequels that were co-written by Kevin J. Anderson and the author's son, Brian Herbert, starting in 1999.
    *though first published in a shorter form in Analog magazine from December 1963 - February 1964 as 'Dune World'.



    So: is Dune worth its reputation, 47 years on? Is it still worth a read? What is its enduring popularity?

    Discuss!

    Mark
    Mark

  2. #2
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    About the best thing I can find to say about Dune is that the concept of an entire planet covered in sand and riddled with gigantic worms is really quite good. That and the fact that I never have to read it again

  3. #3
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Like many, I read it many years ago and enjoyed it a great deal. I may have re-read when the (then) SciFi channel aired its miniseries.

    It was an interesting initial read since I was approaching from an academic sense; the book was on the required reading list for my Science Fiction Literature course and was one of the primary books discussed in the course. I recall being fascinated with the depth of world building.

    I've had it my head to re-read the book for the past few years, and to continue with the remainder of the books in the series written by Frank Herbert.

    On a side note, I met my wife in the SF literature course, so for that reason, this book will always have a special spot for me. Conversely, my wife did not like the book at all, she didn't finish it.

  4. #4
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I should start my reread of this in a few days. Had to finish up Storm of Swords, which was my winter break project, and the fantasy BOTM, which isn't a reread.

    My recollections of my decade-old read of Dune are that I really liked it and that it read very quickly for me. I'll try to remember a little more about what I thought of it then, but that's all I have in memory so far.

  5. #5
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob B View Post
    It was an interesting initial read since I was approaching from an academic sense; the book was on the required reading list for my Science Fiction Literature course and was one of the primary books discussed in the course.
    The principal problem I had with Dune was the quality of the writing. I wonder how you would critique Dune on a SF Literature course as I found the general style leaden and tedious. Herbert's descriptive passages were overblown but unexciting and the character prose was archaic and pompous.

    I am fussy when it comes to writing style I'm afraid so it doesn't then really make much difference to me that the plot may (in places) be quite interesting and well developed. I imagine it would have been a much better book had Alfred Bester written it!

  6. #6
    I enjoyed my recent (couple of years ago) re-read a lot more than I thought I would. I'd seen it as a chore as a kid, and couldn't remember what had happened in the series (ha).

    There's many element such as the analogy to the spread of islam spread throughout the books that I even noticed when I'd studies islam. I bears a couple of reads to get it right without a doubt.

  7. #7
    Registered User Colonel Worf's Avatar
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    That's funny, because I can't stand Bester's writing.

    I'm going to reread the book (my favorite novel) in a few days, but I just wanted to chime in about it first.

    Dune is the only book where I can name pretty much every character years after reading the book. Paul, Leto, Jessica, Alia, Vladimir Harkonnen, Feyd, Piter, etc. Every character is completely fleshed out. There aren't any cardboard characters in this novel.

    As far as worldbuilding goes, riding sandworms in a desert and being addicted to spice and all this other stuff that goes on, is genius.

  8. #8
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colonel Worf View Post
    That's funny, because I can't stand Bester's writing.
    I only use him of an example of an author with a more 'exciting' and readable style (IMO). I don't really care for his books that much. I just wondered how an admittedly rich and intelligent plot like Dune's would have come out in the hands of a more skilled stylist.

  9. #9
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ropie View Post
    The principal problem I had with Dune was the quality of the writing. I wonder how you would critique Dune on a SF Literature course as I found the general style leaden and tedious. Herbert's descriptive passages were overblown but unexciting and the character prose was archaic and pompous.
    [showing my age]It's been more than a decade and a half,[/showing my age], so I can't recall the specific discussions or my exams in specific. However, in a broad sense, we looked at Dune (and the remainder of the books we read) from a thematic sense and an impact to SF sense.

  10. #10
    Registered User Colonel Worf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ropie View Post
    I only use him of an example of an author with a more 'exciting' and readable style (IMO). I don't really care for his books that much. I just wondered how an admittedly rich and intelligent plot like Dune's would have come out in the hands of a more skilled stylist.
    I've never really thought of Herbert's writing style as being anything less than perfect. It's the first adult novel I ever remember reading and just being completely blown away by, so I might be biased. I guess a reread will tell.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob M
    [showing my age]It's been more than a decade and a half,[/showing my age], so I can't recall the specific discussions or my exams in specific. However, in a broad sense, we looked at Dune (and the remainder of the books we read) from a thematic sense and an impact to SF sense.
    I wrote a paper on Dune in high school (and used it again for college. ) I think Dune was the first book where the masses realized science fiction wasn't all about scantily clad women and ray guns.
    Last edited by Colonel Worf; January 7th, 2011 at 12:40 PM.

  11. #11
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    47 years on, Dune is still amazing. I will admit that my first exposure to it was seeing the film at the cinema when it first came out in 1984 (I was 12) and falling in love with it right then.

    I don't think I actually tackled the book until my late teens, but I re-read it last year and I still loved it. I never got into the later ones, and gave up altogether after God Emperor, but the original will always be special to me.

  12. #12
    Tasty or your money back! Moderator fluffy bunny's Avatar
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    I'm a couple of chapters in on the reread. Some of the things I'm noting are:

    - The little prologues to each chapter are a nice touch and add a nice sense of destiny to the novel

    - There's a lot of information thrown at you in the first few chapters. Some would call it throwing you into the thick of the action. Others would call it infodumping with style.

    - The characters are pretty well fleshed out. I didn't like the book when I first read it over a decade ago, but I enjoyed it more on the reread approx 5 yrs ago. There's a nice sense of familiarity and some of the scenes (eg gom jabbar, intrigue, fremen scenes) are nicely handled. If the measure of a book is how memorable it is a few years down the line, Dune checks quite a few boxes, even if the ending is as rushed as I previously remember.

    character prose was archaic and pompous
    I see where you get this impression from. The characters always seemed more theatrical to me (in the same way as 70s Doctor Who) rather than gritty and uberrealistic as per novels written from the 90s onwards. That style does appeal to me although I can see how it could alienate some.

  13. #13
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I'm a quarter in and finding it very readable and as interesting as I found it something like a decade ago when I first read it.

    As fluffy says, many of the scenes so far (if not all of them) feel fresh in my memory here on the reread. There are images from later in the book coming back to me in advance as I read the earlier parts. One thing that's bugging me at this point is that I can't remember the relationship between the worms and the spice...want to say it's their waste, but could just as easily be eggs or some such. I'll get to that soon, I suppose.

    Another thing that strikes me is that the book in no way reads to me like something written almost 50 years ago. Many older books I read, particularly in SF, feel very dated, even things from, say, 30 years ago. Other than a few words here and there that wouldn't be used in the same context today, there's little to my eye that really dates the text.

    I'm certainly not finding anything to be overblown or pompous. Examples, Ropie, of what you mean?
    I'm not finding the characters to be particularly

  14. #14
    Registered User Roland 85's Avatar
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    I have extremely fond memories of it, but it's been about 15 years, I guess, and that wasn't in English either. I've been meaning to reread it for a while, but with the catching-up and rereads I have to do this spring due to the ungainly amount of new stuff that's gonna see publication in the next few months, I'm not sure I'll find the time...

  15. #15
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael View Post
    Other than a few words here and there that wouldn't be used in the same context today, there's little to my eye that really dates the text
    I clearly remember that great tranches of mysticism make up a lot of the content, which definitely gives it a 1960s feel, so in that sense it is quite dated.

    I'm certainly not finding anything to be overblown or pompous. Examples, Ropie, of what you mean?
    I can't think of anything specific, Erf, and I don't have a copy of the book anymore. They were general points I noted when reading it a couple of years back that have stayed with me. I can live with a bit of pomposity in the character prose, but the huge number of pages that really not much happened between events gave the book an overblown feeling.

    I've got to say as well - this is fantasy IMO. There's some science in the Fremen suits and the space travel elements but the vast majority of this story is mystical hokum and magical quests.

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