My thoughts on “Dune” by Frank Herbert

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It was kind of magical to finish reading a book which takes place on a desert sand-covered planet while on a beautiful sandy beach. One of those wonderful coincidences when you see your world of fiction reflected in the world around you.

Reading Dune was an interesting journey. As much of my reading goes, it went quickly at first, then labouringly, then it stalled completely for a short while, and then picked up again for a quick and engrossing finish. My fiance (now husband), though he did try, wasn’t able to make it past the stall with me. He hit a wall in the book and found that he simply couldn’t find the care to pick it up again and go on reading. That’s all right, though, he found another book to read, and as long as he’s reading, I’m happy.

The fact that he didn’t get into Dune did surprise me. He likes politics, intrigue, and fighting. This book has all of those things. Maybe not enough sex?

I found the two main characters, Paul and Jessica, to be very interesting people, though I didn’t care for them very much. Paul is cold, calculating, severe, and ruthless in both his core forms: Duke Paul and Muad’Dib. We do see moments of tenderness when he embodies Usul, which is nice to see. He is so completely different when taking on each persona that it is almost as if Herbert is intentionally exploring the question of multiple personalities. Paul gives himself permission to be a cruel war leader as Muad’Dib, to be cold and conniving as Duke Paul, and then turns around as gentle and kind as Usul. I don’t know about other readers, but I cannot forgive nor forget the actions and words of the first two to allow for feelings of empathy and warmth towards the third.

Now for Jessica – oh, Jessica. You are strange. What kind of mother figure was Herbert trying to shape when he wrote your character? More than a concubine and less than a Duchesse. More than a human and less than a god. More than a teacher and less than a mother. Jessica is a collection of in-betweens.

My favourite characters were, without question, Chani, Stilgar and Gurney Halleck.

I also found the concept that a man must take responsibility for the family of whom he kills to be very interesting. I think it could even have applications in the real world. Not that we would want to take money from, or rely on, our father’s or mother’s killer – pride and all. But think of it – if you knew that killing someone put you on the hook to take care of that person’s family (through garnished wages, most likely – I’m selectively excluding the part where the dead man’s wife is offered up as slave or lover, because no), wouldn’t you give it more thought? You’d have to REALLY want that person dead in order to be willing to take that on.

Side bar: I’d like to watch the TV series. I know nothing about it, but I wonder if it’s any good…

Final thoughts: Dune was a good read, I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. Was it as good as the hype around it? I don’t know. But not everyone can get away with a (nearly) 800-page novel.

When you make a book that long, you have to be able to justify it – I bet Herbert’s editor had a super fun time trying to make him cut content. I wonder how many pages it was to start: 1000? 2000? When I write something I typically have to edit it down to no more than a third of its original size. I used to get in trouble at university all the time for the length of my essays. I often found myself negotiating with professors for a few extra hundred words because obviously everything I had to say was SUPER important. I wonder if Herbert found himself in a similar situation with his editor…

What was I saying? Oh yes, the book. It was good, and it has a lot of depth. Frank Herbert did an amazing job of shaping the Dune universe: the Bene Gesserit, Caladan, Arrakis, the Sardaukar, the Fremen, the Houses…a very rich and fleshed out universe that provides enough material there for a million more stories to be told out of it. Bravo, Mr. Herbert!

P.S. I’d also like to point out for readers out there that Dune was awarded both the Nebula and the Hugo award. The same awards bestowed upon my beloved Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card.

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