Dune is a sci fi monument, the new ones are......carrying the story on if nothing else. The original were amazing each book stood by itself, with the exception of Heretics and Chapterhouse.
Dune is a sci fi monument, the new ones are......carrying the story on if nothing else. The original were amazing each book stood by itself, with the exception of Heretics and Chapterhouse.
Im not quite halfway through and this book has realy grown on me. It did take awhile to get used to the writting style, especialy all of the new terminology. I do sometimes forget Im reading scifi, the story centers more around human motives and weaknesses. Lasguns, the sheilds and stillsuits are just there in a matter-of-fact way.
I do wish I could have read this before seeing the movie. I've probably seen it 10 or so times. I keep comparing what the book says to the scenes in the movie. And the movie seems to have followed the book pretty close, I usually know what major events are coming up.
One thing that bugged me.Spoiler:
On Arrakis, the shield generator protecting the castle... Did it seem odd to anyone else that only 2 people were guarding it? (The doctor only had to kill 2 people to gain access, so Im guessing) And that it was seemingly just down the hall in some room? I would think such an important part of their defence would be heavily barricaded and defended by at least few soldiers.
Ill try to finish up before the end of the month and post my final thoughts.
Just started my re-read of this book. I didn't finish it the first time I read it, years ago.
There were a lot of things I didn't like but I'm going to finish this time and withold judgement till the end.
I'll say this. At about 80 pages in I have to admit I love the terminology of Dune. The Spice Melange The Butlerian Jihad Gom Jabbar Bene Gesserit
If nothing else, Frank Herbert had a talent for creating cool terms that are fun to read and say out loud. They sound mysterious, exotic. They feel real and not at all dopey.
I have a question for those sci-fi readers more knowledgeable than myself. When Dune hit the shelves in 1965-66 was there anything else like it? It seems to be vastly different from the 'rocketship to mars' type stories I've read from that era. It would appear to me that Herbert's universe contains more history, more terminology, more political intrigue than in other sci-fi of the era. Can anyone point to a writer or book from the mid-60s that approaches this level of complexity in world-building?
I wasn't in any shape to be reading Dune when it broke, I was just a baby, but having since read it and so many other books from that time I can't think of anything that matches it in complexity. Remember, during the 1960s you have the new wave movement and works like A Clockwork Orange which are moving away from the same old campy space opera... thank goodness.
That's why in another thread I've said Dune is the sf equivalent of Lord of the Rings. Herbert researched the book for years as did Tolkien with LotR.
Certainly there are sf books that are, I think, better than Dune, but none with the same depth of world building.
I finished Dune yesterday and WOW. The book was sooo much better than the movie. The movie is still good, but after reading the book the weirding modules just seemed silly. As did alot of the other changes they made.
Ive never read a book that had so much detail. But you didn't have to read 100's of pages of descriptions to get it. Everything was incorporated so well into the story.
Im afraid that I will be judging my future reads against Dune for quite a while.
I'm pleased people are enjoying it.
It took me two or three goes when I was about 16 to read it. If I remember right, once I got past 80 or so pages I was hooked, it just took a couple of goes getting there.
Dune works for me as a mix of old pulp style characters with superb world building, from the setting to the terminology.
Of course, it all makes more sense of the time it was written when you swap 'spice' for oil, CHOAM for OPEC..... Herbert's work as a reporter no doubt raised an interest.
It is odd putting it into context. I've got it in Analog from 1963/4 when it was 'Dune World'. Other authors in the issues around were Poul Anderson, John Brunner, Norman Spinrad, Randall Garrett, Christopher Anvil.When Dune hit the shelves in 1965-66 was there anything else like it? It seems to be vastly different from the 'rocketship to mars' type stories I've read from that era.
I like Anvil and Garrett but would say that they were more typical Analog fare of the time. Brunner, and to an extent Spinrad, are more 'on the edge'. Try Brunner's 'The Shockwave Rider' as a prophetic tale of the Internet, or 'Stand on Zanzibar' which seems to divide readers but is well liked by some. (Me, I tend to think of it as a case of style over plot.)
The late 1960's were the time of the New Age, when things were changing. There were other authors who were changing it: Ellison, for example.
But in terms of space opera, then I'll have to think a bit more.
I've also recently finished it. There are a lot of memorable scenes in a book that I liken to summer blockbuster. For some scenes you do see why they were changed for films - eg giving away the identity of the traitor before he's committed his act of treachery. With all that said about the memorable scenes, for some reason the ending doesnt stick in my mind as much as the character development at the beginning and the end of the novel. The blackmail thing still seems kinda rushed IMHO.
Last edited by fluffy bunny; January 31st, 2011 at 10:32 AM.
Just as an aside: this thread got me reading older Frank Herbert, namely The Dragon in the Sea: review here.
Interesting: there's a strong riff on religion here, as there is in Dune, and a point about the overuse and exhaustion of resources: for spice, see oil.
Last edited by Hobbit; February 7th, 2011 at 08:01 AM.
I'd like to get a couple final thoughts in about Dune. Yeah, I know we're a week into February!
I was very disappointed in Dune. This was a re-read for me and I still think the book is just deplorably bad. I'm not trying to ruffle any feathers. This is my honest opinion.
First, the constant info-dumping is a problem. Herbert has to deliver a staggering amount of exposition and he does not always do it artfully. What you end up with is long drawn-out conversations where people are explaining world-building concepts to one another. The dialogues between characters in which this exposition is fed to the reader seem to drone on and on until I sometimes feel like I'm attending a lecture on Arrakis given by maybe not the most exciting scholar on the subject.
Herbert repeats story beats over and over. I don't know if this was to catch up readers who were jumping on when the book was in serial form but for me it became very monotonous. The info-dumps I mention above wouldn't have been half as irritating if they were not delivered four or five times in different chapters. The reader is told something. And then told again. And then told again in a following chapter. Enough! We get it! Move on!
The book often deflates its own suspense for no reason. One example is that we are given the identity of the traitor, Yueh, early in the book, long before the betrayal occurs. Herbert then has his characters repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) have long conversations where they debate the identity of the traitor among them. These might have been more interesting if I, as a reader, was also trying to puzzle it out along with them. But I'm not. The author told me who is going to betray them. So I find myself grunting "Grrr, it's Yueh! Come on! It's obviously Yueh!"
In other passages, Herbert tries to manufacture suspense in awkward ways. An example is when Paul and his mother are lost in the desert after they crash their 'thopter. Paul and Jessica purposefully went out into the desert to find the Fremen. This is stated repeatedly. They hope Fremen find them. They hope to ally themselves with the Fremen. Yet, when they finally do come in contact with the Fremen (who just saved their lives, btw) Herbert tries to make the scene suspenseful by sort of pretending that Mother & Son might be in danger here, that the Fremen might kill them. But I'm not fooled, Mr. Herbert. You've said (over and over and over) that Paul is their messiah. They came into the desert to find the Fremen. Why is this meeting so suddenly fraught with peril?? Why don't Paul and Jessica just say "Oh, here you are! We found you! Thank god!" Instead they act petulant and face off with the Fremen like there's going to be a fight.
Being gay is equated with being evil in Dune. Every evil male Harkonnen is said to have feminine features or a feminine mouth. Every chapter the Baron is in ends with him licking his lips while thinking of boys. Hey, I know it was written in 1966 but if you're progressive enough to be so forward thinking about ecology then you're progressive enough not to portray gay sexuality as a passtime of degenerate perverts. Honestly, a little of this kind of thing would have been fine and the Baron would have come off as a dirty old man. Quite appropriate. But when every single evil male character you introduce is 'feminine' and you repeat the Baron's lip-licking "I want a BOY!" dialogue over and over, it becomes offensive.
I could go on but I've already ranted a lot here. I'd be interested in hearing counter-opinions. I was really looking forward to digging into this book again and finding what so many find appealing about it but, damn, I think the thing is a real mess. Thoroughly underwhelmed.
Well, Break, it's always good to have an opposing opinion. And we do keep these debates going after the allocated month, so that's fine.
Think what you're saying here goes back to one of my first points: that Dune has trappings of the old space opera but then takes them forward, admittedly not quite as far as you would like, it seems!
I will agree, like Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (Being debated this month!), that Dune has dated. In the context of its time it was at least for me pretty impressive. There is a broad scope and a grandeur there that I enjoyed, though as you have pointed out, the book has some significant issues as well.
It does make me wonder: what the equivalent of Dune would be today?
Last edited by Hobbit; February 7th, 2011 at 04:26 PM.
I guess my disappointment is deepened because there's obviously such a rich imagination on display here. The story-teller was perhaps not equal to his story. I give Herbert major props for his beautiful, intricate setting.
I just wish he'd trusted his readers more. Perhaps, at the time it was written, such a deep and imaginative world would have been hard for a reader to take in all at once? Is that why Herbert repeats exposition and story beats over and over ad nauseum?
I've read science fiction from 1960s and stuff that pre-dates that era and a lot of it isn't as detailed as Dune. Even Foundation, a much superior book imho, doesn't go so far in creating fully-realized cultures with their own lexicon and unique belief-systems.
Last edited by Hobbit; February 7th, 2011 at 04:26 PM. Reason: Gores? Corrected.
I suspect that part of that may be due to the genesis of the tale itself: from Analog, though considerably expanded.I just wish he'd trusted his readers more. Perhaps, at the time it was written, such a deep and imaginative world would have been hard for a reader to take in all at once? Is that why Herbert repeats exposition and story beats over and over ad nauseum?
The other thing to bear in mind is that at this time a hardback SF novel, and a hardback novel of such length, was not common. Books were usually less than 200 pages; Dune was more than double that.
Though it's not perfect, there is something that keep readers reading it. And I suspect what you've mentioned - setting, politics, technology, and possibly even the mystical stuff (much less keen on that myself!) - might be the lure.
Coming to this particular discussion quite late. Sorry. I haven't even been properly lurking of late.
Someone asked me a couple of days ago if a certain book was considered a classic. I replied, "It must be. I was required to read it in school." I guess it seems a little odd that many read Dune for the first time as a class assignment. My first reading was in the serialized form in Analog. I still have all the chapters, along with the geat Shoenherr art.
Much of the criticism of Dune (and there is certainly plenty of that) originally stemmed from what some saw as a glorification of the 1960s drug culture. That seems to have faded and now there is criticism of writing style, old fashioned ideas, sexism, etc. But I think any author who wrote anything more than a few decades ago could easily be painted with the same broad brush.
I have always loved this tale, especially the larger than life characters and the convoluted political and societal dilemmas. World-building is done quite well in my opinion. Oddly, I find that much of the discussion I see these days about Dune has to do with which movie version one likes the best. My thinking has always been that neither of the extant versions comes close to capturing the epic nature of the story. And I'm not including Herbert's sequels. I've read them all. Dune Messiah was a worthwhile sequel, but the other four were soporific at best. And all the Brian Herbert add-ons are to be assiduously avoided to my way of thinking. Perhaps unfairly, Herbert always was saddled with great expectations after Dune. I'm afraid he never lived up to those expectations again.
So I'm left with a classic original tale which is seen in many different ways by its readers, depending on when they read it, what else they read before and what cultural frame of reference they are coming from. My own experience was completely positive.
One small final criticism: Despite the intricate societal framework in which the story was told, Herbert failed to follow up with anything like a comprehensive examination of major concepts, ranging from the Bene Tleilax or the mentats to the original Butlerian Jihad (Reading Dune was the first time I ever saw the word "Jihad"). Unfortunately, his kids weren't equal to the task.
Last edited by clovis-man; February 14th, 2011 at 11:39 AM.
Late to the party, but I feel I have so much to say having read this book. I wish I'd been around at the time it was being actively discussed. Still, here are my thoughts for posterity's sake.
I owned a copy of Dune many years ago. It sat sun-scorched in my window sill for one long summer waiting to be read. When I eventually sat down to read it, being an ordered individual, I started with the appendices which were at the front of that edition. 'The Ecology of Dune'. Without a love for the world or its story at that point, it went right back on the window sill after only a few pages, and so I sadly never read the novel until now, many years later. As the Princess Irulan tells us, 'beginnings are such fragile times'.
I purchased a copy of Dune again recently from a charity shop. I always felt I'd missed out on something good by giving up on those boring appendices, and was glad to get stuck in again over a scorching hot Easter weekend. Ignoring the appendices entirely to begin with, I went straight for the story. I didn't notice the slow start others have commented on.
As with other 'classics', I have taken my time getting around to reading Dune because of being desensitised to its presence over the years. Having finally read it I can begin to understand why it has the reputation it does. I'm also sad I didn't read it before now, but some who read it in their teens or for school do not appear to enjoy it, so perhaps it was best saved until I could appreciate it. I honestly think it would have been too long and 'foreign' for my younger reading tastes. I think I would have grown up thinking of Dune as boring, which would have been a massive waste.
Herbert is a talented world-builder. Anybody can fill a binder with notes and research and deserve credit for effort and depth of detail, but not everybody can craft something like the world of Arrakis, along with a great story, in a five hundred page novel. The ecology of Dune, combined with the religious and societal shades of the Desert Planet, made the setting entirely believable and enjoyable to be lost in. I didn't experience the 'info-dumping' that other readers have mentioned here. I can't think of one scene in the book that is wasted or overloaded with world-building. One scene I've heard mentioned as boring and overloaded is where Kynes is lost and dying in the desert as he receives lectures from a perceived ghost of his dead father. It's only a few pages! The man is hallucinating. The relationship with his father is described well enough for us to know that standing by and lecturing is precisely how Kynes would conjure up the image of his father. We learn about Kynes' plans to bring an Eden to Arrakis, even as he dies in the sand. Poignant, effective, and if we didn't learn it here in such an appropriate manner we'd have had to suck it through a straw in multiple previous scenes, far less likely to be appropriate places to do so, or read the Appendices. Horror. I would encourage anybody who thinks Dune is full of info-dumping to consider the sheer scope of the story and setting that Herbert achieves in five hundred pages. Can you think of a single other book that comes close?
I found the characters in Dune to be reasonably distinct, have appropriate back-stories depending on their importance, and each evoke some kind of emotion or attachment, be they villain or otherwise. I did not find the females to be weak 'handmaidens', and I did not find all the villains described as feminine. Only Count Fenring is described as having a 'feminine mouth', and this is because he is a genetically engineered eunuch. He's not even in a villain if we view the story sided with Paul, as I think is intended. The Lady Jessica was a strong individual who made sacrifices for those she loved (who happened to be male through no fault of their own) and suffered no fools. She could have handled even Hawat had she wanted, but explains in the scene following Idaho's drunken commotion how the Bene Gesserit would rather rule from behind a curtain. She says she exists only to serve, but I interpreted this as an adroit way of saying, "No, we'd rather pull strings out of sight". She refers to The Duke as a potential "puppet" then, to ensure the reader gets her point. The Reverend Mothers are all strong, commanding individuals who hold positions of power within their own lives, be it among the Fremen, or as the guiding power beside the Emperor. Alia is certainly not weak for a little girl, and Chani is as strong as the rest of the female cast. Their roles in the feudal society created by Herbert reflect that of women in the royal court through history. Maybe it would be interesting to flip this around and have men in the subservient roles. Maybe, but I think Herbert was doing other things with Dune and so can be forgiven for using the feudal roles we know so well from the rest of the fantasy canon. As for villains, yes, the Baron Harkonnen was a dirty old man with a penchant for sex with young boys. Not men, boys. Herbert didn't use homosexuality as a trait to make the Baron vile, he used pedofilia. I think in 2011 most of us still find this a pretty vile attribute and it helps us hate the Baron even more, despite the rest of his highly unattractive attributes and behaviour.
Dune is finely crafted. By this, I mean it is evident the book was researched and re-written for as long as it was. I also think it is edited well. There are times where Herbert bluntly fills us in with what we need to know about a two year or three week gap that passes literally between sentences. He tells me everything I need to know about what I've missed and gets on with the story. I've read some over long books recently, so I can really appreciate a good chop at this time. The re-writing is evident in the subtle foreshadowing of things to come, and seeds and clues planted throughout the story. The first thing we read in the book is an exerpt from a book by the Princess Irulan. As we progress, we realise she was quite a writer, and only on the last page of the book do we understand why. Admittedly, such exerpts were easy to add as an afterthought, but there are so many other cases. The fremen running from the worm that swallows the spice factory early in the story. Feeble excuses are made to explain their presence and survival, but much later we learn they were probably riding the worm. Paul's very early connection at the dinner party that there must be a connection between the worms and spice. The idea that the Guild must be taking bribes to keep the skies about southern Arrakis clear of satellites. Research, planning, re-writing, and the reader benefits because as earlier lines are tied up and connected we feel not only satisfaction, but a growing belief in the world Herbert has crafted for us, thus drawing us into the story and its characters even more. Contrast this with writers who seem to feel their way through a novel with only a grand theme and main characters to lean on. I believe Dune is a book that would highly reward re-reading.
I enjoyed Dune a great deal, and still find myself turning the story and characters over in my mind a week after finishing it. Not so with many books, even those I enjoy. While I found Dune to be a wonderful and engrossing story, it doesn't fundamentally change the way I feel about myself, the world I live in, or the people around me. So, I think Dune is about as good as it gets for escapist leisure reading, but it stops at that.