Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #24: Dune

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #24: DuneDune by Frank Herbert
Series: Dune Chronicles #1
Published by Ace on September 1, 1990
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Space Opera
Pages: 883
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Goodreads
two-stars

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.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

Review:
Woo, I conquered the Dunes, crossed the sands without being eaten by a worm, and inhaled the aromatic spices of Arrakis. This is a victory, even if Dune turned out not to be my sort of science fiction. I know, I know, it’s a classic and I’m meant to love it, and I’m an utter disappointment to my parents, who dearly love the early Dune books. Oh well, such is life, no? I can see why Dune is so popular, but, largely, it’s just not the sort of book I can love, though I’m very glad to have read it, so thank you to Robbie for getting me to do so!

Time and again, I’ve said that I am a character reader, and I’m sure I’ll set many more times. Dune has many charms, but they are not of characterization. Most of the cast is just so focused on one thing at all times, on ruling or backstabbing or mothering or being a wife or whatever. They’re largely not people of interests outside of what they need to survive. Everything is about the world building and the political landscape. This isn’t a book of banter and bonding. If world building delights you even without strong characterization, by all means, come explore these sand dunes.

At times, though, Dune did flirt with being a book I could like overall. The story of Paul Atreides doing a sort of Monte Cristo and rising up for vengeance with a whole bunch of power at his back is pretty awesome. The powers exhibited by Paul and the Bene Gesserit, women trained to have crazy fighting skills and more, are fascinating. I’m also curious about Arrakis and how this planet exists. How can a planet with so little water sustain life (by drinking their bodily fluids and those of others for one thing O_O)? What precisely is the spice and how does it relate to the worms?

These elements that I liked, though, were bogged down in the political back and forth, the perspective hopping between those of the Atreides group and the antagonists. I just had no fucks to give about what the Harkonnens or the Emperor were doing. Paul so obviously has all the power in the world and has been fulfilling all of these prophecies to be the Kwisatz Haderach, whatever that really means, so it’s not like he’s going to be defeated. It’s sort of like how Harry Potter obviously wasn’t going to die in Rowling’s series. It’s hard to care about Paul when I know he won’t be killed.

Oh, though I’m not generally a big fan of characters being that powerful and perfect, I do like the way Herbert showed the difficulties of being Paul. He clearly struggles with the apartness of being so much more than everyone around him. The fact that he receives reverence rather than friendship further alienates him from the rest of humanity. This in turn makes it more likely that he will turn corrupt or unfeeling, as was oft hinted.

What really held me back in Dune more than anything else was the writing. It’s not a style I found pleasing. Herbert uses a close third person, which jumps about from character to character. On top of that, character’s thoughts are in italics. For the most part, that’s alright, but sometimes there were long paragraphs of fragmented thoughts separated by ellipses. Between each chapter, unmarked stretches of time pass, leaving me constantly disoriented when I pick the book back up. Little details are dealt with endlessly but the climax skips most of the fighting for more talking. So many people die in Dune, and yet there’s so little actual action.

Also worthy of note is that the treatment of women in the novel made me uncomfortable, as well as the treatment of the Fremen. Women can obviously be quite strong, stronger than the men, as the Bene Gesserit show. However, that’s not a feminist move if these powerful women are essentially slaved, sold out as concubines to wealthy men. Plus, there’s a weird message that being a concubine is actually better than a wife that I find really puzzling.

The Fremen are the desert people of Arrakis, who know much better how to survive there, and rule the planet no matter what Duke claims to be the leader. They’re way better fighters than anyone else, and they do get respect for that. Still, I find the fact that they need Paul, from outside their culture, to come in and rule them disgusting. It’s like this is pro-colonization, and I am not a fan.

That all came out quite ranty, but I really don’t think Dune is a terrible book. It’s not a great book for me, since I’m not all that interested in political intrigue or world building for its own sake. Dune‘s also very much a product of it’s time. Glad to have read it so I know what the fuss is about, but I shan’t be continuing on, which is probably for the best since I heard the series goes bad places.

Favorite Quote:

“There is probably no more terrible instant of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man—with human flesh.”


Up Next:

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves, which my dear friend Blythe of Finding Bliss in Books told me to read. ARCs I have put in the list jump to the top, because it would be silly to review them post-publication just because I was waiting for random.org, no? Check back next week to see what I think of Covet!

Want to tell me what to read? For more details, check this post.

18 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #24: Dune”

  1. Yay, you’ve conquered Dune, Christina!!! *throws confetti* I have to admit, this is one of my absolute favorites, and I read it 5-6 times when I was a teen, but it was in Russian, so I wouldn’t know how the language will affect me now, so I won’t try. Don’t want to ruin my impressions. There is a lot of sci-fi I read now though that has Dune-like universe and characters, so it definitely effected my reading preferences for years to come.

    • Christina says:

      *does victory dance*

      I would like to thank my perseverance. No, it wasn’t so bad, really, but it’s just not the sort of book that really works for me.

      World building on its lonesome just doesn’t work for me. I need to care and I didn’t. There were a few moments where I almost got into it but then nope.

  2. I once read Dune simply because my dad he said he didn’t think I’d manage to finish it. I wanted to prove him wrong, and I did. That said, it took a good deal with work and I didn’t feel compelled to read any of Herbert’s other books, so you’re not alone in feeling less than excited about Dune. I suppose one day I should try reread, just to see if the book is more appealing to me now, but my TBR is so huge I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it.

  3. Dana says:

    I’ve had this one sitting on my shelves for about 10 years now and I haven’t even opened it. *hangs head in shame* It’s so big and I’m not sure that I’ll like it. At all. But a dear friend told me to read it so I bought it. Should get around to the whole reading it part someday, huh?

  4. I have Dune on my fill in the gaps list, but I think I might go with the audio because it’s full cast.

    Also, I think being a concubine is better than being a wife because you probably have better sexytimes. Anyways.

    The worldbuilding and political stuff actually really appeals to me, so while you have no fucks to give, I have PLENTY of fucks to give over here!

    • Christina says:

      Ooooh, a full cast audio sounds like a good plan. That might make the characters come alive a bit more.

      LOL, you’re hilarious. The women are both totally not okay with being just the concubine, but try to pretend they are.

      Sweet, well, I hope you love those sandworms.

  5. Rollie says:

    Well, thank you for considering my reco. I wouldn’t have appreciated Dune if I haven’t watched on youtube how the shield works. And I did find it cool that from then I didn’t put down the book. Well, it’s a matter of taste but I’m still glad you finished it through.

    • Christina says:

      Ah, yeah, I’ve not seen or read anything about Dune, which sometimes does help. World building alone just isn’t my thing. However, thanks for recommending it, since I was going to read it someday anyway!

  6. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it, but I’m secretly (OK, not so secretly) a little glad to find someone else who didn’t like Dune. I love SF, but it wasn’t my thing at all. I agree with your thoughts completely.

  7. Yeah, I tried this one years ago and couldn’t force myself through it. To be honest, I’m not that big of a fan of the movie either (though I might get attacked for saying so!).

  8. Amanda says:

    I do think that Dune is something any person even somewhat interested in sci fi should try reading. It is a bit dated, and I found myself agreeing with a lot of the points you made. And I’m not the biggest science fiction fan. Yet, I did really enjoy reading Dune. (I actually read it twice. Once in middle school, when I was far too young to pick up on all of it, and once again a few summers ago.) I do think it’s masterfully plotted and wow worldbuilding. And I actually liked the politics. But it definitely was difficult to connect with some of the characters. At least you were able to appreciate the experience of having read it, even if you won’t continue on with it!

    • Christina says:

      For sure. I do not begrudge the time I spent wading through the sands of Arrakis. Just because I didn’t really like it doesn’t mean it was a waste of my time. Maybe when I’m older, I’ll try again and I’ll love it, but the moment Dune and I are not best friends, though we’re certainly not foes.

  9. Amy says:

    This sounds very odd. I honestly hadn’t even heard of it until now. I have a hard time with third person writing a lot especially when it jumps around from person to person. I don’t know if this would be a book for me, though it does intrigue me a little. Great review!

  10. DUNEDUNEDUNE.

    I recently stole this one from my friend! Everyone who ever talks about science fiction mentions this book.

    “Time and again, I’ve said that I am a character reader, and I’m sure I’ll set many more times. Dune has many charms, but they are not of characterization.” < -- Me too. I think that's partially why I'm hesitant to tackle that behemoth. “They’re largely not people of interests outside of what they need to survive. Everything is about the world building and the political landscape.” < -- That could be interesting... but you need *some* banter to lighten the story. The dunes would be so suffocating then... “How can a planet with so little water sustain life (by drinking their bodily fluids and those of others for one thing O_O)? What precisely is the spice and how does it relate to the worms?” < -- ookay, that just totally grossed me out... yikes. “I just had no fucks to give about what the Harkonnens or the Emperor were doing. Paul so obviously has all the power in the world and has been fulfilling all of these prophecies to be the Kwisatz Haderach, whatever that really means, so it’s not like he’s going to be defeated. It’s sort of like how Harry Potter obviously wasn’t going to die in Rowling’s series. It’s hard to care about Paul when I know he won’t be killed.” < -- does that mean you didn't care about Harry o.O? Also I have no idea what you just wrote. Oh, science fiction/fantasy and your complicated terminologies. The writing style sounds *really* confusing. Maybe I should see whether I’d even pass the first chapter before commenting on the rest o.O. “However, that’s not a feminist move if these powerful women are essentially slaved, sold out as concubines to wealthy men.” … no words. Also, I didn’t know it was a series…

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