Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dune, by Frank Herbert

"Thufir, old friend," Paul said, "as you can see, my back is toward no door."
"The universe is full of doors," Howat said.

"Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. but the real universe is always one step beyond logic."

-- from Dune (770, 604)

Dune (1965) is one of those classics I always resisted, even back when I was mainly reading science fiction. It seemed kind of heavy and message-y, and its fans came across as cultish. It went onto the list after a viewing of the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, which is fantastic, and you should watch it -- who knew such an inspiring film could be made out of a creative failure? I finally picked it up to read in those oddball off times at a science fiction convention, and I took to it immediately. I'm a sucker for faux nonfiction, so I ate up all the excerpts from histories-within-the-book, and the sayings and lore interspersed throughout. I also appreciated that the novel's far futuristic society and alien planets are significantly alien. The royal houses, the Bene Gesserit order, Arrakis: none of them are the half-hearted extensions of modern life one so often sees (even in things I love, like Star Trek), but have evolved in ways that are truly different and strange.

For most of this book's "running time," I kept having the same nagging thought in the back of my head: "I do not see Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides one little bit!" The more I read, the stranger that casting seemed. Nothing against Kyle, who's a fine actor, but, geez. I don't know who I would have expected to play the young nobleman gone native as a Messiah figure on an unforgiving desert planet.

I'm also not sure what to make of Herbert's ecological concerns. There's a whole theme about the ecosystem of Arrakis, and how its elements are more interconnected than people realize, and along with that, it seems like he's saying the desert-living Fremen are more in harmony, adapted to the planet's environment. But they're still manipulating it, working to reform it, making it more comfortable for human life. They're just doing it in a slow and systematic way, rather than the usual lumbering one.

My other main thought is that I felt like Dune was really a complete book. I know there's a whole of slew of sequels, by Herbert and his son, but while I enjoyed reading this a lot, I don't feel any need to continue. It didn't pose many unanswered questions, and in fact has a lot of foreshadowing about what the end results are going to be for the universe (hint: not good).

This is one of those books that was worth avoiding, just so I had it to read fresh now.

Herbert, Frank. Dune. Ace premium edition. New York: Berkley, 2010.

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