Dune (Dune #1)
By: Frank Herbert
Format/Source: Mass paperback copy; my purchase
Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family–and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.
I first read this book in high school, having found out about it after watching the 2000 TV miniseries starring John Hurt and Alec Newman. I really enjoyed the miniseries–it was far different from any sci-fi I had watched up to that point–and decided to check out the book (which thankfully my high school library had). I really enjoyed the book, bought a paperback copy of my own and to this day continues to be my favourite sci-fi novel of all time. I decided to re-visit it because I hadn’t read it since…for a long time 😛
This book is part of the A Year in Re-Reading: a 2014 Reading Challenge that I am participating in.
Re-reading this book was such a treat in that it reminded me why I loved this book. It is so multi-faceted, touching on themes and issues of ecology, politics, biogenetics, religion. The world-building is just astounding and very detailed, from the governance and politics between the major Imperial houses to the eugenics behind the Bene Gesserit breeding programme to the science of the Arrakis deserts. Frank Herbert really brought the culture, the world of Arrakis and just the whole universe to life through these pages. This time around, I was especially interested in the Bene Gesserits and the Space Guild and how influential they are to the overall politics, economics, and way of life for this interstellar empire.
I can see why the scope was akin to The Lord of the Rings (review #1, #2, #3) , the only other major epic it could be compared to. In retrospect, however, I would say the story is more akin to Game of Thrones (100 Things) with the elements of warring Families, the cutthroat politics that they are engaged in, complete with traitors and economics and the general theme of survival no matter what.
Something that was re-affirmed to me in this re-read was how something never quite sat right with me regarding Paul. I think the miniseries did a better job in humanising his character because in the book he came off as very cold. Granted, the very notion of his existence already calls his character into question, and his portrayal was done on purpose because he was trained in the Bene Gesserit ways by his mother, Jessica, but nonetheless he can be very cold and aloof, especially in times of distress. I also had to remember that for most of this novel, he was only 15, which added to the strangeness. But given what he knows and what he can bear, I suppose he has no choice but to always be sort of disengaged from everything else, so that he can make everyone see and understand what lies ahead? I don’t know, now I’m just rambling, but it’s hard at times to feel completely sympathetic to him.
Other characters were great; I’ve come to the conclusion that Lady Jessica is my favourite character. She has her flaws, but I thought she was a well-rounded character who was trying to look out for her son and trying to carve her own path despite of her upbringing and position in the Bene Gesserits. The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is just vile–much viler than I remembered.
If there’s anything about this novel that especially irked me, I think it the omnipotent narrative: normally in most novels we only follow one person’s POV at a time, their thoughts. It switches up when the perspective or narrative follows another character and their section of the story (if this makes any sense). In Dune, in any given scene, we read the thoughts of numerous characters involved, which can be a little overloaded at times jumping from Paul’s thoughts to Jessica’s thoughts to Keyes’ thoughts (the banquet sequence was insane in that). I think this might have been a writing style of the time, or perhaps unique to the author, but while it did not affect my overall enjoyment of the novel, it was a little strange at times.
Overall, Dune was as good a read this time around as it was the first time. It is such a rich novel with so many elements and themes running through it, as well as a vision for where the story and the world will head down. Readers of science fiction must check out this novel (if they haven’t already), it really is one of those essential reads from the genre 🙂 And on an unrelated note, it would be nice to finish reading the series one of these days, haha (I only got read up to Children of Dune).