“God created Arrakis to train the faithful.”
“Dune” by Frank Herbert
Dune is one of those classics of literature, especially of the sci fi genre, that I have been sadly underexposed to. This time, however, it’s completely my fault. My father and my younger brother were both big into these books as I was growing up (I have a theory that my brother was particularly fond of them due to the hero sharing a name with him). It is the story of young Paul Atreides and his rise to power as a mythical, legendary leader for the Fremen men of the desert planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune. The story chronicles the arrival of the Atreides family on the planet, to set up a kingdom there, and it leads to political intrigue that threatens to end the Atreides once and for all. Believed to be dead from a sandstorm, Paul and his mother, the Lady Jessica, flee into the desert and find themselves among the native Fremen, who they know can help them in claiming the planet back and seeking to destroy the feuds in the Empire.
What astounded me the most about this book was Herbert’s grasp of pacing. The tale is an epic, but he is extremely good at moving things along quickly. He moves between the stages of Paul’s rise as Muad’Dib seamlessly, without dwelling on a lot of minutiae. As someone who’s written a whole book that takes place in a mere three days, I find this ability extremely enviable and might have to take his style into consideration when I’m worried that I’m getting too bogged down with the details or the passage of time. It’s so subtle, too; he doesn’t draw attention to the fact that time has passed in his narrative, but in the details, such as a total acclimation to certain things, or the birth of a child, things like that. The only time I found this method of brushing by the passing of time off-putting was toward the end, where the final encounter between the Fremen forces and the forces of the Empire, where it seemed so quick after nearly six hundred pages of build-up. I think I expected a lot more, too. I expected spice to play a bigger role; I expected a little bit more of the Empire. I would have liked to have seen more of the Bene Gesserit, but I felt that the book covered it well for how it was needed. I suppose that’s why there’s so many more books following this one. Plenty more in those, I suspect!
Of course, that may have been merely that I was trying to rush through it to finish it. It was a long book, but a good book, one I’m sure I’d enjoy a second time and I’m definitely intrigued by the series that follows. I can also finally see the film! I know there are several versions and a mini-series, but how can I refuse Patrick Stewart, Kyle McLaughlin, and Sting? I simply cannot, that’s all there is to it, but I told myself I had to read the book first. And now I did!
It should also be noted that the Ace special publications version of the book that I got was terribly edited. I am far too amused by terribly edited books that anyone probably should be. They were all really interesting little things that just shows that someone wasn’t paying very close attention. Still, though, the writing was pretty good. Herbert has a style that doesn’t bog one down, although sometimes it was a little repetitive in phrasing for me. I think, though, I ultimately liked the set-up, the arrival of the Atreides on Arrakis and the development of all the political nuances of the Empire, and Paul and his mother’s eventual entrance into Freman society, better than the climax and conclusion once Paul has achieved his place as leader and lead the Fremen against the Empire. He’s a wonderful world builder, and I’ve always got a soft spot for those.
Books read: 20 out of 100.