Dune Read-Along Wrap-up

Dune by Frank Herbert

Ace Books, New York, 2009

From my science fiction collection.

A read-along organized by Carl V, Kailana and the Little Red Reviewer.  I finished Dune last week but due to computer malfunctions have not been about to post my response to read-along questions #2 and #3 until now.  I enjoyed the reread and was amazed at how well the book held up for me.  It’s been decades since my first reading, I never read the sequels and I never saw the movie.  I think I might be ready for the film even though I don’t know if I can handle a young Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Antreides.  Be warned, the following contains spoilers.

Dune – Book Two – Questions from Little Red Reviewer

Was Liet’s identity a surprise?  Who do you think he really works for?

No, because I have read the book before.  I do wish I’d been able to get to know Liet/Keyes better.  His impact on the thoughts of the Fremen, on their ideas about changing Dune into a more comfortably “livable” planet, is something I would like to know more about.  I not sure he was actually working for anyone other than himself.   his strong belief in the possibility of changing to environment of Dune led him to join and eventually lead the Fremen to that belief.

What do you think of the Fremen culture?  Is this a culture you think you’d enjoy spending some time with?

I am fascinated by the Fremen and would love to spend time with them but adapting to a planet without water would be extremely difficult for me.  If they were ocean beings, mere people, I would have no problem at all!

What do you think of Count Fenring’s unusual verbal mannerisms?  

I think that mannerism only adds to the idea of Fenring being “a small man, weak looking”.  He is deadly, a killer, and yet his way of speaking makes him appear harmless and rather dull.

This is a far future empire with very little in the way of computerization. Information is often passed down orally, and schools (such as the Mentats and the Bene Gesserit) have formed to train young people in memorization and information processing.  What are you thoughts on a scifi story that is very “low-tech”?  Does that sound like a feasable future? a ridiculous one?

It actually sounds like part of human history.   In ancient times there was something called The Memory Palace taught to students of rhetoric and philosophy.   Author Joshua Foer used the technique to become the 2006 U.S. Memory Champion.   I fear with our increasing reliance on technology we will lose this skill.  At this point the idea of no computers does seem ridiculous.

Dune was written in the 60’s. Does it feel dated to you? How does it compare, writing style-wise, to more contemporary science fiction you’ve read?  

I was surprised at how well this book held up for me.  Herbert took a culture based on empire and feudalism and flung it into the far-future. I read a few contemporary science fiction authors,  Iain Banks is a favorite.  To me  Dune could be a precursor to some of his novels.

Dune – Book Three – Questions from Books Without Any Pictures

1.  What is your reaction to finally learning the identity of Princess Irulan?  Do you think that her convention added to the story?

This was not a surprise to me as I had read Dune before.  I did appreciate her literary accomplishments and the fact that many quotes from her work were included in the novel.  I gained a deeper understanding of Muad’Dib from her writings.

2.  Were you satisfied with the ending?  For those reading for the first time, was it what you expected?

I enjoyed the ending and it certainly leaves open many possibilities for a sequel.

3.  On both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus, ecology plays a major role in shaping both characters and the story itself.  Was this convincing?  Do you think that Paul would have gone through with his threat to destroy the spice, knowing what it would mean for Arrakis?

I find the planet Arrakis to be as much a character in Dune as the human beings and feel that the idea of both planets shaping the story and characters totally convincing.  Humans have always been shaped by where they live, be it the desert or a hive-like megalopolis.  I don’t know if Paul would have destroyed the spice,  I think he knew his threat would be taken seriously and that it would never come to that.  I love the fact that the entire guild was dependent on this one desert planet and the Freman tribes for its survival.

4.  Both Leto and Paul made their decisions on marriage for political reasons.  Do you agree with their choices?

I understand the political and sociological structure of the Empire and the need for these marriages.  That does not mean I agree with these decisions or with the whole idea of Empire.  I don’t.

5.  What was your favorite part in this section of the book?

There are many but here are a few.   Paul being lost in time and becoming aware of his abilities even if he can’t control them. The point when he makes the decision to take The Water of Life, knowing that it could kill him.  Chani and Jessica bringing him back from near death. And of course, the ride on the Maker.

6.  One of the things I noticed in the discussions last week was Herbert’s use of the word “jihad.”  What do you think of Herbert’s message about religion and politics?

The place of religion and politics in Dune could be discussed and argued forever.  I don’t claim to understand his message about religion or politics.  I think he used ideas that were available from human history to build his Empire and it’s cultures and did a brilliant job of it.

Again thanks to Carl V for organizing this read along.  Now that my computer is up and running I hope to visit all the other participants!

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7 Comments

Filed under Read-Along, SciFi

7 responses to “Dune Read-Along Wrap-up

  1. I have not decided about watching the film yet. I kind of like the pictures I have in my head right now, and from what I’ve seen from images from the film, they’re quite different. Could be unsettling.
    Interesting about the Memory Palace. I sure wish my memory was better–maybe I’ll have to look into it :).

  2. It isn’t that Kyle makes a bad Paul. I actually think he does a decent job. The problem is that a “young” Kyle is not actually young enough to meet Herbert’s description of Paul’s age. Kyle doesn’t look close to being a teenager of any age in this film. For all that I like him. I just wish now there was a more faithful adaptation as far as that part of the story goes.

    So sorry you had computer problems and hope they are fixed and that they don’t arise again for a LOOOOONG time.

    I too think we are losing a lot of important things because of the natural consequences of our reliance on technology. It really is a case of us taking the bad along with the good and sometimes I worry that we don’t realize the price we are paying by giving up what many consider to be “little things”. Those “little things” are often the most important.

    I like what you said about understanding why the marital system worked within this Empire system and yet that you don’t like Empire. I agree. I just left a wordy comment on Fence’s site where I shared that I don’t see a problem with Herbert’s portrayal of women in this novel specifically because of the kind of novel he was trying to write. I compared it to other SF authors’ works that did everything to portray and advanced humanity yet could not imagine the fate of women changing. That is sad and diminishes their work. But Herbert was basing his world’s systems on something more historical, and “Empire” is such a fantastic word to describe it. I think it would have been as disingenuous for him to have women have a more elevated role in this society he was creating as it would have been had he been writing a truly historical novel and yet given women a more modern/contemporary standing. Unlike many classic authors who, at the very least without malice, couldn’t imagine women progressing to a place of equality, Herbert is pulling inspiration from a historical context and Dune would not be the story it is without this historical feel. Of course I am not justifying that kind of portrayal of women in fiction, I am just trying to point out my interpretation of what Herbert was doing. In reality Herbert could have been a huge mysogynist, but in examining just this work alone I don’t think he does anything to earn that label like many of his contemporaries and forebears did, either intentionally or because their imaginations didn’t allow them to see beyond the role women held in society at that time.

    This was such a great experience and I am so thankful that you joined us. I hope you’ll join in on other group reads in the future.

    • You are welcome, Carl, the computer seems fine now. I really love my tech guys.

      I appreciate your comments about Herbert’s ability to pull lots of ideas from human cultural, religious and political history. I’m digging into the information that is available about his process, there is some out there. I think he was ahead of his time. That’s an odd thing to say about a science fiction author:)

      Thanks for being one of the people that organized this read-along. I’d love to join in on others, perhaps in October?

  3. I’m not sure I want to watch the movie. Maybe, I’m afraid it might spoil some things. I have never read Iain Banks, so thank for the recommendation.
    Did you read the sequel? I think the book doesn’t feel finished, there are too many open questions still.
    If you haven’t read the sequel yet, are you going to?

    • As with the majority of book to film translations, you aren’t missing anything by not seeing the film. I don’t think it would spoil things in terms of the future stories because they really can only strip Dune down to more basic plot points in the time given compared to all the detail that was in the novel. I like it, but even I will admit it has problems, is dated in ways the book is not at all, and doesn’t really add much to the experience.

    • I think I’m going to skip the movie for now and am going to try and read Dune Messiah later on this year. I’m glad you stuck with it!

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