'Dune' Discussion Thread #1

Dune is a very strange book. I realize just how little I remember it, though it’s been at least 20 years since my first read-through. It’s almost like reading it for the first time, but not quite. I remember little bits as I go along.

I’m about 72% of the way finished now according to my Kindle. Some quick observations and then the floor is yours, dearest readers.

  • Herbert has a peculiar tendency to skip the action. Almost the entire invasion of Arrakis is relayed via exposition rather than action. We learn about what happened after it’s happened from Thufir Hawat and Gurney Halleck and so forth. When the Sardaukar catch up with Paul, Jessica, Duncan Idaho and Kynes the fighting all takes place “off screen” as it were. Hawat’s capture includes him getting knocked out before the fighting breaks out. But not all fight scenes are like this. Paul and Jessica’s escape from the 'thopter is action-packed. So is the arena scene with Feyd-Rautha and the melees when Paul first meets up with Stilgar’s Fremen. No big battle scenes at all. The movie will almost certainly relish in filling in the details.

  • The perspective is not at all what I’m used to, either, at least not in fantasy and sci-fi. Herbert uses a third-person omniscient perspective, leaping freely between characters’ internal thoughts and points-of-view. Compare this to something like Game Of Thrones or The Expanse in which POV characters change each chapter. It really does change the way a story is told, allowing you access to different points of view much more rapidly. At the same time, you never get quite as much of any character’s experience since each chapter might be chopped up into three or four different perspectives (or more!)

  • I do see how this novel has influenced genre fiction quite clearly now. GRRM was clearly influenced by Dune. People always reference Tolkien when they talk about Martin’s work, but he’s much more of a Herbertian if you ask me. The politics and scheming, the Great Houses all vying for control, the skullduggery and treachery and all the. Duke Leto is basically Ned Stark.

  • I don’t know how to feel about Baron Harkonnen. He’s clever and grotesque, but also falls prey to some tired old tropes—I’m not sure I need him to be grotesquely fat and constantly lusting after young boys in order for him to be an effective villain. Returning to Martin’s work, Tywin Lannister managed to be a terrific antagonist without being gross in every other way. You could still respect Tywin on some level, while also despising him for his ruthlessness. The Baron feels a bit too cartoonish.

  • I want to play a baliset. I also want to watch the 1984 Dune after I’ve watched the new one, if only because Patrick Stewart plays Gurney Halleck:

What are your thoughts on Dune so far? Leave a comment, have a discussion!

P.S. I’ve ben traveling in the great state of Washington. Updates on the travels soon, but this is why things have been a little slow around here. I am currently in Forks, WA, the setting for the Twilight books and films and the rainiest city in the contiguous United States. We’re headed to the rainforest later today. It’s so green and lush here—quite a stark contrast to Arizona. I feel rather like a Fremen of Arrakis visiting Caladan at the moment!

Leave a comment