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Author Topic: Dune... confused me...  (Read 1411 times)

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Offline NO1SY

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Dune... confused me...
« on: March 30, 2021, 06:57:44 PM »

I have just finished the second book of Frank Herbert's "The Dune Sequence". The first book was a longer read (about 2 weeks of casual reading), while the second was a shorter book that I finished in an afternoon, and I have been left feeling a little upside down about my experience with them.

Published in 1965, Dune is one of the older Sci-Fi Fantasy stories that I have read, preceded in the genre basically by Tolkien's, C. S. Lewis's, and H. P. Lovecraft's works in the genre, and I guess classics like Dracula, Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. There was definitely a aged feel to the work, but also a timelessness to it that has me hesitant to call it dated. I think this is mainly a contrast of the language and narrative choices, with the exemplory exploration of themes ([xeno]ecology, galactic (but familiar) politics, engineered religion and mysticism, philosophy and determinism) and wonderfully deep characters and worldbuilding.

The narrative style is what kind of bugged me the entire time. Initially, I thought that Dune was written in 3rd person Omniscient, which is a narrative perspective that has kind of fallen out of favour in the genre and my lack of exposure to it encourages me to lean towards other perspectives. However, I think I was wrong... I think that The Dune Sequence is written in 3rd person limited, but is constantly switching the narrative between perspective characters, in some instances as often as line by line. The effect felt annoying to me, or at least didn't sit right, and I think not for the reason I expected. Part of why I like 3rd person limited is that it retains that depth of character that you get from a 1st person narrative; seeing how the character interprets their experiences and the world, seeing the flaws or genius in their thinking; forming empathic links. This is fantastic when the focus in on one or a few characters. The expectation when you increase the number of characters the reader sees the story through is that the experience will be lessened or more shallow because the time share for each is stretched so thin; less opportunity to see the character manifest and develop, and to form those empathic bonds. The effect in Dune however, where every character is a perspective character, was, to me, almost the opposite: it was near overwhelming. I suppose this is a testament to how well realised almost each and every character is that they don't feel particularly shallow, but the constant character swapping felt a bit too much at times to the point of discomfort. It might be akin to sensory overload - just too much information from too many angles to effectively process (It also didn't help that the kindle edition of the SF Masterworks publication of the 1st book was edited so poorly that it was a challenge just to read the sentences on the page...).

While the characters remain fairly well realised, some really significant story beats feel almost glossed over... I don't know if the perspective swapping is to blame for this, or if this was a result of just narrative and pacing choices, but in certain instances there are events that really do not get their due in my opinion. That all said, and in stark contrast, there are some other moments in these books so far that are masterfully executed, ranging from beautiful and thrilling, to harrowing and hollowing. Moreover, the exerpts from in-universe sources that precede each chapter are absolutely wonderful; more engaging and immersive than even the multitude of tolkein-esque poems and songs that feature througout the story adding depth to characters and cultures (maybe a little too often though...). Writing all this out I'm beginning to see that Dune is a real dichotomy to me...

Moreover, now I can't even imagine if the book would be able to tell the same story to the same effect in a different narrative style. Would what could be gained from focusing on just a few character perspectives without switching so often outweigh what is lost in terms of a wider understanding of such an intense and grand narrative?

I was going to put the series down after Book 2, which seemed to end at a natural stopping point and considering my reservations about the books. But already I feel an inexplicable pull back to the series. Maybe it's the incredibly rich universe and grand narrative that Herbert has constructed, or maybe it's just my OCD not allowing me to leave a series such as this unfinished...

P.S. Really interested and cautiously excited to see how Denis Villeneuve pulls the first book off in film.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 04:00:44 AM by NO1SY »

Offline Coryn

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2021, 04:41:45 PM »
So, this is coming at just the right time, because I have been thinking about a Dune a lot (not in the least because I've been listening to a podcast doing a deep dive on the series, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you want major spoilers).

I suppose most of your issues are with formatting? But to me that was never an issue or even something I noticed. What I have come to realize with the Dune series is that while each book ends at a place where you could theoretically stop reading, the series can only really be understood after reading all of the books by Frank Herbert, and the first book by his son Brian Herbert (which was written using Frank Herbert's final notes).

And I'm not getting granular here. The original Dune is technically three books, but for my purposes, book 1 is Dune, and book 2 is Dune Messiah. In my estimation, the next book in the Atradies tale outs the previous book into context. I didn't understand Dune until reading Dune Messiah (in fact, I may not still understand Dune). Children of Dune gives new meaning to Dune Messiah, and so forth. What it all taught me is that Dune needs to be taken as a total package, and that Frank Herbert might have been one of the smartest writers to ever live.

Note that I'm saying smartest, not best. I don't want to have that debate. But Frank Herbert was a genius, because Dune can be read like a classic heroes journey, sure, and plenty of film executives have tried that over the years. But really you have to read it like a religious text. The characters aren't just people, they represent ideas about religions and politics and ethics. It's written more like a parable. Asking the question of what is the right thing? Does the right thing even exist? Are we creature destined to live a certain way, or are we human beings who can decide for ourselves? If you could see and direct the future, should you? Should you even want to?

If nothing else, Dune taught me that I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

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Offline NO1SY

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2021, 06:39:01 PM »
If nothing else, Dune taught me that I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

;)


I definitely feel that Dune Messiah was the 4th part of the dune story; written as if it were still being publicised in parts in whatever magazine it was back in the 60s. In some ways it completed a story arc, and yet in others I feel like nothing was resolved at all! I think that Brian Herbert wrote an afterword that explains that his father wanted each book in the Dune series to be something that was very re-readable, that you could get to the end of one of the books and then go back to the beginning and enjoy it all over again seeing things in a completely new light. I guess it's kinda meta in that sense!? So far though I feel like I have understood the story pretty fully, and haven't felt the need to go back and re-read anything. It will be interesting to see if each following book really does build in a way that contextualises the last as you suggest.

I'm not sure how far I agree that it has to be read like a religious text. I understand where you are coming from - it feels a bit like a parable - but the narrative is very much explorative and emotive in the moment like a classic story; characters are asking those questions in the moment and sometimes processing them, and we see this happen from their perspective. I really just was not a fan of all the head-swapping. Frank Herbert still manages to hit some emotive beats, but I cant help but feeling that my emotional reactions would have been stronger if the narrative format was different and allowed readers to settle into the minds of characters further. I will say that "Children of Dune" has started much more strongly for me in this regard. Also, while I would perhaps have enjoyed more singular perspectives, I do still feel that I came away understanding pretty much every character's motivations and goals. I think it is more that I am just less invested in seeing any of them succeed than I perhaps could be - I feel more like a curious/mildly interested onlooker.

Writing this... and once again considering the possibility of Herbert being very meta, if this was a deliberate effort to have the readers see things how Paul sees things then perhaps he really is one of the most genius authors ever...

Which book by Brian Herbert by the way? "Paul of Dune"? He seems to have written and lot of Dune related novels about the different Houses, Schools, Caladan and Legends.

Offline Coryn

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2021, 01:36:41 PM »
Frank wrote up through Chapterhouse Dune, and the. Brian teamed up with Kevin J. Anderson to write Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune based on his father's notes to finish the original story. There's also some short stories that Frank Herbert wrote, but all of the prequel Dune novels are by Brian Herbert.

I always have a similar reaction when I finish one of the books. I think "that's it, I'm done. Half of these characters piss me off as people and I'm not reading the next one". And then, inevitably, I start thinking about the books, and slotting them in with each other. Eventually I read the next book, every time. I admit that I haven't finished the series yet, but like Paul I can see where the future leads in this instance, and I am bound to the golden path O.O

Dune is definitely very meta. It's a commentary on all of humanity. There are no computers in Dune. It's an extremely human story. We call it science fiction, but it is more accurate to say Dune is a story set in the future. When Paul or anyone else with the ability looks back through all of human history, they're meant to be seeing us actually reading the story. Dune is meant to be a direct result of actions we take now. Nowhere is this better seen in the spice, which is more than just an in universe drug. It's everything that man has ever craved. It's money, it LSD, it's oil in the middle east. The Harkonnens are greed gone wild, the Atreides are blinded by a belief in destiny. The empire dismisses the Fremon as worthless desert people. The Fremon fail to see that the spice has trapped them. And absolutely everyone has failed to realize that you can't control mother nature. Arrakis gonna Arrakis baby.

When I say read Dune like a parable or religious text, I'm not saying it's mandatory to enjoy it. But if you want to, you truly can go ten levels deep into it no problem. I may be just another fan, but I think Frank Herbert designed it that way. It sure seems Brian Herbert agrees with that idea. I'm not one to tell him he's wrong.

(And I have to say, the Litany against fear legitimately helped me in my life when I took my PE exam last fall. It's a great mantra if you've got anxiety around anything. I got that bad boy committed to memory now.)
« Last Edit: April 01, 2021, 01:38:17 PM by Coryn »

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Offline NO1SY

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2021, 07:02:46 PM »
So just finished book number 5: "Heretics of Dune", and going to start the last of Frank Herbert's books "Chapter House Dune" tomorrow.

I have come to the conclusion that The Dune Sequence may be one of the grandest, most thematically explorative stories I've ever been told - I'm pretty sure that this is the only series I've read with a story that spans something like 5000 years (so far). Simultaneously, it is a series that may be one of the worst at telling me its story...

So much of the fifth book very opaque or obtuce ruminations by characters, which lead to a style of storytelling that is like taking the "show don't tell" method to such an extreme that it horseshoes round to the over explaining of reactions and thought processes in a completely "tell" fashion (sometimes it feels like reading inner monologues from a shounen anime!?!?). Because the thoughts of characters are so difficult to understand sometimes, it is hard as a reader to infer things like logical thought processes or emotional reactions etc, or to even just follow dialogue between two characters - sometimes it feels like they are just talking one-liners at one another and not actually engaging in conversation. There is already so much esoteric rambling in these books that it really did not need extra stuff slowing down the pace and really not even taking the exploration of themes very much further in my opinion... I thought the balance was better in the previous book "God Emperor of Dune". Or maybe not; just that almost all of the ruminating was by Leto II, who's mind was just more compelling to understand, meaning that it just didn't feel as much of a slog - In fact, I actually rather enjoyed God Emperor. I feel like book 5 could have been cut by a third, by ommitting some of the lengthy and repetitive rumination by characters that pretty much amount to little (Taraza's and Waff's viewpoints really didn't need such depth...), and nothing would have been lost... Frank Herbert even limited his third person perspective a lot more for this book, but I feel like he just abused it because of how much time was spent in the head of characters and achieving nothing for the narrative or emotional response in the reader!

The other weird thing was the focus on sex in Heretics... I kinda understand it from a thematic perspective - attachments, love, sex and the power dynamics involved in these things are actually quite compelling themes... but the way it was written came across a bit like a H*ntai plot or something, with unecessarily graphic scenes to boot... I would've really liked some heavier use of metaphor here, considering that most sex scenes in previous books had just been time-skipped to pretty decent effect. It can be hard to tell where the thematic exploration here is going at times too (i.e. what message Herbert is trying to get at). Obviously people are products of their time and so Herbert came across as a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to relationships and sex, although I think his son described him as attempting to become more progressive about these things - especially in relation to homosexuality, which was explored... sketchily... in book 4. So I am not too keen to say that Herbert was intentionally making any moral statements with any of his writing here, just that the books feel a bit dated in the understanding of relationships, sexuality and their dynamics in society.

Another thing I noticed when reading Heretics is that I find it odd that the Bene Gesserit are sort of set up in protagonist roles, despite the nature of their manipulations. With Jessica it made sense to a certain extent, but the general perspective seems quite odd. That said, I suppose it is interesting because the evil religious organisation as the enemy trope is a little over-played, so an insider perspective feels a bit fresh despite its seeming "wrongness".

Lastly, the scene-cut-time-skip towards the end of Heretics where they just are all together and land on Rakis felt super Janky!

I think I just find it all a little... annoying, because there is some actually really good story material hidden in this grand narrative, and Herbert was definitely capable of writing some really really good scenes. Two absolute standouts for me were the redemption of Gurney Halleck to Jessica in book 1 and Ghanima's fairwell to Leto II in the crag in book 3. It just makes me wish that all of the storytelling was as good as those moments... Past them I also enjoyed a lot of Leto II's back and forths with characters throughout book 4, and I have enjoyed Miles Teg a fair bit in book 5. Miles Teg in particular stands out because he was such an impactful character even though he was only just introduced in book 5, and a lot of characters in The Dune Sequence are casualties of the extraordinary time-frame of the series, meaning that they come and go and readers don't really form strong interest in them (e.g. Siona - I actually found Moneo way more interesting - Hwi, Feyd-Rautha, Irulan and Farad'n. Even Ghanima really...). It is really hard to say how much of this is meta-manipulation by Herbert to get us to empathise with Leto II though... Aside from all this, the ephemera passages at the start of every chapter are pretty much always a pleasure, and I even miss the poetry from the first few books. There is so much here that makes me want to get invested and immersed in the story and the universe of Dune - there just seem to be several barriers blocking my way in.

And so I continue my love-hate relationship with The Dune Sequence! In all honesty, I do think overall I have enjoyed the experience so far, even Heretics despite the slight slog, and am excited to be continuing the journey through the aeons.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2021, 07:30:26 PM by NO1SY »

Offline Coryn

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2021, 08:37:21 AM »
One of my head days I will have to finish off the series for myself do I can get all your references from Heretics. But I'm glad to see you continue on with it!

When it comes to Dune and sex, I think you're right on the money with saying that Frank Herbert was a product of his time. At the same time he does come across as weirdly progressive at moments as well like you say. What comes to mind most is when he introduces Alia's Amazons (in book 2?) and points out the reason that they're all women is because men are too emotional and get too worked up over stupid sh*t to be good soldiers. Ghiana also gets to be perhaps the one reasonable person in all of book 3. But he also backslides at times as well, given that all the protagonists tend to be men, and women are often given cruel fates or tossed to the wayside.

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Offline NO1SY

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2021, 12:39:48 PM »
What comes to mind most is when he introduces Alia's Amazons (in book 2?) and points out the reason that they're all women is because men are too emotional and get too worked up over stupid sh*t to be good soldiers.

I don't remember having much to say about the Amazons - they seemed like a typical all female honour guard. I think you may be remembering Moneo discussing the Fish Speakers with Duncan Idaho in God Emperor here though. What I seemed to read, which came across as a bit progressive in messaging, was that Duncan was supposed to be the archaic viewpoint, uncomfortable with females taking on different, more physical roles in society - he couldn't fathom an army of females - despite the fact that they were very capable. Herbert comes across as a feminist asking fair questions about roles here.

But then the confusing/weird part was the subsequent reasoning; about homosexuality being a "phase" of indulging in "pain-causing behaviour" (it's kind of just stated without any elaboration as to thought process...). To summarize Moneo's dialogue: For a group of men with the responsibility of an army this seems to result in the devolution of the brotherhood into an oppressive force that never leaves the "phase" and substituting in this indulgence in place of a duty to procreate and drive the survival of the human species. Whereas, with a group of women (who as a class Herbert seems to put on a bit of a moral pedestal) apparently their mothering instincts take over to take them out of the "phase" and look to nurture rather than destroy or oppress...

This is obviously all very out-dated thinking (for most people...), but, understanding that, I've seen it said that Leto was referring to the historical example of the Sacred Band of Thebes, trying to make the strongest military that would not devolve into oppressors or anarchists after he was gone. Alongside the themes of human species survival and generational genetic manipulation, which somewhat morally weights towards traditional relationships - the following of this line of logic seems like an interesting, innocent but biased exploration of a hypothetical by the author based on old and unfortunate understanding of social interactions... It feels a bit like Herbert is a naive scientist, bringing together what data he can find.

A real lesson to writers here though... things like this date your work terribly if you morally load any of it and society leaves your ideas behind... In the case of Dune it's kinda sad to me, because the rest of it is so timeless but this stumble chains the books squarely in the mid 20th century...
« Last Edit: April 25, 2021, 07:39:03 PM by NO1SY »

Offline Coryn

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2021, 11:39:25 AM »
I think you're maybe right about me getting the wires crossed a bit. But in total I agree that Herbert is definitely working with an outdated point of view. I don't know his own personal beliefs, as it's hard to say when an author (especially a long dead one) practices what their characters preach. It's not a surprising viewpoint unfortunately. It's important to remember that back in 2008 most Americans were still against homosexual marriage, and it took the next 8 years for you to really see the flip to the majority being in support (they say 70-75% is the tipping point for actual change).

I especially agree with that last point. Politics and slang age like milk in literature. Broadly speaking I think Herbert did a good job on both accounts, but as we can see he went a bit off the deep end towards the end of his career and life. It's hard to say that the first books tread on too many toes.

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Offline NO1SY

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2021, 03:32:11 PM »
Well, to counter that a little, I'm 30% through Chapter House Dune now so far it's SO much better than Heretics! Firstly it feels just a lot better written. Secondly, a lot of the thematic exploration comes across as discussion of moral hypotheticals/dilemmas again, rather than morally loaded statements without elaboration. This is the fine line to tread I think.

On a side note, I think I may have been a bit harsh on the Bene Gesserit previously. It's weird because they are essentially meant to be eugencists and manipulators to create stability in humanity across the universe, which is obviously quite morally dark, but their selfless and dutiful monk-like nature can make them likeable... It felt like Heretics put them on a pedestal and made them appear overly righteous, even though in God Emperor before it there had been discussion over the stagnation their plans wrought. In Chapter House it seems that the discussion of stagnation is back and it is happening from within, which shows development that is interesting and engaging for me as the reader. The weird h*ntai-esque plot seems to be mostly over now too!
« Last Edit: April 27, 2021, 03:51:52 AM by NO1SY »

Offline Coryn

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2021, 12:08:52 PM »
What, are you telling me you didn't find all of Leto II's and Hwi's scenes in God Emperor to be deeply erotic? :P

When it comes to the Bene Gesserit, maybe it's just because I didn't read as deep as you have yet, but they seem to me to fall into the same trap that everyone else has. Everyone in Dune seems to have a grand plan for the universe and humanity. Leto II being the prime example of actively trying to direct us on the Golden path. But I don't know, maybe it's my own strong sense of free will, but the only character I've agreed with has been Paul and his decision to not try and take over the course of humanity. Leto II will go on to say that humanity would have been wiped out without his intervention of course, but I can't help but always take what the prescient say with a grain of salt (or spice as it were). Herbert may disagree, but I never got the impression that Paul or Leto II could actually be 100% with their predictions. The fact that some characters are specifically shielded from prescience confirms to me that there is always room for them to be wrong.

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Offline NO1SY

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2021, 04:39:57 AM »
No! And if you did it pales in comparison to the content of Heretics!

I think you are correct, the Bene Gesserit do fall into the same patterns and pitfalls as everyone else in their attempts to shape humanity across the universe. It is explored a lot in Chapter House, but to me felt almost forgotten about in Heretics to the point that they seem like a group fighting for righteousness, even though it is only self-righteousness...


Spoilers for the first 3 or 4 books....
Conversely I’m not sure how much I agree with you about Paul. We find out that he saw the Golden Path (although I am unsure if this was the path of the Jihad or the path without the Jihad...), tried his hardest to make decisions that would not lead to universal conflict, then came to the realisation of the necessity for metamorphosis and could not bring himself to do it (possibly because of the emotional impact of losing Chani and him realising that he couldn’t deal with loneliness for thousands of years, which even Leto II struggled with.). Part of Paul’s deep sadness towards the end is that he has deferred the responsibility to his children.

The introduction of the Siona genes that shield prescience is interesting, but I’m not sure that it necessarily flies in the face of the prescience that lead to the Golden Path before her. Considering Herbert’s interest in science and ecology, natural selection and reactive evolution is something he would have been aware of - and this is what the shielding reminds me of. It was even cultivated by Leto II himself and seemed to fit into his plan. Something that is explored in the later books (and somewhat in the earlier ones) is how those with true prescience can lock themselves onto only one singular path; extrapolating determinism, which should only be 100% correct in hindsight, and repeating certain predefined patterns from the collective knowledge of the past to produce a correct pseudo-“foresight”. But I think the point is that this is not sustainable for humanity and too easily hijacked. I always got the feeling that the true point of the Golden Path was to free humanity from the trap of Prescience, and subsequently from the ability of any group to hold such total control as Leto II did. I’m not totally convinced of this yet, but it feels sort of right to me.

Offline Coryn

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2021, 01:02:44 PM »
I think you're on the right track. To vastly, vastly oversimplify the point, it seems the golden path boils down to "don't have heroes". Leto II spends 4000 years making himself both loved and hated, all trying to get to the point where humanity will never out their faith in a single, strongman leader again (clearly Trumpers are not Dune readers). I draw the presidential connection because of Herbert's real life views on Richard Nixon. Nixon was famously corrupt, he's the reason hacks on the internet have decided every controversy needs to be called blank-gate for goodness sake. But he was Herbert's favorite president, because as Herbert told it, 'he taught Americans not to trust the government'. I don't think it's a coincidence that all that was happening at the same time Herbert was working on the series.

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Offline NO1SY

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2021, 04:23:37 PM »
Now that is some interesting context!

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2021, 08:27:54 AM »
I did it! I finished all 8 main series books in The Dune Sequence!

Moving from Frank's writing to Brian's/Kevin's, I must say that the last two books read easier, with a much more familiar narrative style to modern sci-fi/fantasy in 3rd person. I will admit, however, that these books felt less impactful... maybe Frank's parable-esque delivery rubbed off on me by the end of his run, or maybe it's to do with the story that these last books told.

Speaking of story, I think after God Emperor the overall narrative spiralled out to such proportions that it sort of muted itself. The high stakes about the survival of the human race across the whole universe just really didn't hit as hard as when the focus was narrow about the survival of a relative few number of humans on an inhospitable planet. It's kind of hard for readers to conceptualize stakes on those grander scales, and although the story was being told in quite a personalized way, it still felt hard to feel the tension and immerse myself in the universal struggles.

Another reason for the lack of tension was because a fair amount of the story in the final books became quite contrived and convenient. Many times it was very easy to see the hand of the author in how events played out. It is understandable to an extent, as Brian and Kevin essentially tried to tie up all of the loose ends left by Frank, going off his notes the best they could, although it felt as though they sometimes followed very basic notes to the letter and just plonked them in the final story without adapting anything or fleshing them out...


Major spoilers, more gripes but a few positives
The reasoning given behind the Ghola Project on board the Ithaca was horribly weak, and brushed past/aside all of the implications of such a project and all of the contradictions to lessons previously learned by the characters. Honestly I would have preferred more selfish, character driven reasoning on behalf of Duncan for the project - something like that he feels completely out of place in the current time and needs his old companions to ground him and prevent him from going insane. It's still not great, but it is a whole lot more believable than the hand waving they went with. On top of this, they do some really odd things with the whole idea of genetic memory and Other Memory, and choose hand-wave away the timeline issues - Baron Harkonnen having the Other Memory of Alia, and Leto II having some sort of Sand Worm in him, despite the cells being from before either of these things should be possible to transmit into a shola. However, they were actually narratively interesting, so I didn't mind them so much...

Some of the characters were not handled quite as well as previously... the most obvious to me being Baron Harkonnen. He wasn't ever the most nuanced character (perhaps because he was never really fully explored in depth before), but there was definitely this intellect and aptitude for devious plans and manipulation that lay beneath his oppulence and arrogance, which made him a fairly compelling villain. In these final books they made him so bluntly evil and unintelligent that it was uninteresting. The desire to see natural beauty ruined and polluted was so on the nose that I physically cringed.

Teg was another character that I felt went from really interesting to quite one dimensional. Essentially he became a super-powered Deus Ex Machina... which was wholly disappointing. Moreover, him developing a form of super-human speed that was enough to fight the Honored Matres was one thing (the scale was such that it felt within the realms of possibility), but then he essentially becomes The Flash and it felt ridiculous in the fairly grounded universe, and completely immersion breaking. They leaned on Teg for a couple of easy solutions, and then in the end it just felt like a way to write the character out of the story...

Omnius and Erasmus were very uninteresting to me. Honestly, the whole machine empire story arc makes me think that the notes from Frank that they found were very bare bones and didn't really flesh out what the enemy the Honored Matres were fleeing back into the Old Empire from actually was, and that the pair of writers really liked The Matrix Trilogy...

In the earlier books there were some very, very vague hints that thinking machines could could still threaten human survival, but this was never a definitive thing and truly it does not feel like 1) Leto II could have presiently predicted them as the ultimate enemy nor 2) that the Golden Path was ever meant to deal with them... In the context of the Golden Path the thinking machines feel a bit shoehorned in. It feels that the constant re-breeding of Duncan Idaho gholas by Leto II is post-hoc justified as creating the ultimate Kwisatz Haderach for the purpose of defeating/uniting with the machines also, even though this was never really an explicit goal of the Golden Path.

A positive to come out of it though was that the plagues were pretty much perfect reasoning for the Honored Matres to head back to the Old Empire and seek out the Bene Gesserit for their secrets in immune control - this was probably the neatest bow tied in the whole two books. The Bene Gesserit using Sheeana as a figurehead across multiple planets to lead resistances was also very well done and one of the few examples we get to see of the pay-off of their engineering of religions, just a shame that the real Sheeana does basically sh*t all... The Face Dancers infiltrating everywhere did add tension towards the end, but kind of pigeon-holed the plot into having very few, fairly predictable directions it could take to finish in the context of the machine empire story. I actually think that the Face Dancers could have been a much more compelling ultimate enemy by themselves than the machines, and the writers would have had to be a lot more creative with resources that they already had from the Dune universe to overcome them as an enemy.

Lastly, for a book titled "Sandworms of Dune", it's not really much about Sandworms is it...

All in all, I think they did ok... it had the feel of a tv series that gets cancelled but which is given a season to tie things up without rushing too much - not quite on the level of Black Sails or Ripper Street, but nowhere near as bad as GoT...

If I were to honestly give advice about reading The Dune Series, I would recommend reading book 1 and seeing how you like the writing and the worldbuilding, as it can be its own, self contained thing. If you are then inclined to see where the lives of the characters lead, read books 2 (Messiah) and 3 (Children), to the trilogy climax. I thought that book 4 (God Emperor) was interesting, and could maybe be a further finishing point if you don't mind open plot threads, but if not it also sets you on a journey into the rest of the books that I just don't think really pays off...

Going back to modern literature for a while now, don't know what my next classic series will be... Maybe The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings again.

Also still very much looking forward to the film by Denis Villeneuve whenever that releases later this year or so!

« Last Edit: November 09, 2021, 05:06:05 AM by NO1SY »

Offline NO1SY

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Re: Dune... confused me...
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2021, 05:24:06 PM »
Just to complete this story; a couple of weeks ago I went to see Dune Part 1 at the cinema with my brother, and I wanted to sit on it a little while to formulate my thoughts. I obviously have read the series, whereas my brother has not, so we had two perspectives going in knowledge-wise.

I thought it was very good and definitely the best adaptation to date. But from what I can tell from talking to others and listening to discussions online, if you have not read the books then there is about a 50/50 chance that you'll enjoy the film. My brother definitely did - he did really well at picking up on the themes, and just enjoyed the Sci-Fi universe that he was presented with through great visuals and costumes, generally great acting and casting, and Zimmer going absolutely ham with the soundtrack. Others, though, struggled with just being dropped in at the deep-end with the worldbuilding, or just found it boring. Prior knowledge definitely helps so you can just sit back and enjoy seeing everything being brought to life on the screen. There is a reason the book had a glossary in it, and they should've probably printed it and handed it out with tickets for newcomers to Dune!

For me, I really hope that there is a 5 hour long, Lord of the Rings-esque, directors cut of this first part, and the same for the second. It tells the story of about the first half of the Dune book, but adapts about half of the material. They were intelligent about what they cut and what they chose to show, and very good at adapting a book that is very heavy on cerebral monologues into a visual medium, but I honestly think that there is a significant amount of depth and richness in those missing parts. Also the more overt politicking that they cut out (Yue, Thufir Hawat, the dinner party with the other Houses) may have made up for the lack of action in this first part. I didn't know that it was a two-part film (although they didn't know if they were approved to make part 2 yet either...), so wasn't expecting it to just end when it did... That said, I was just relieved that they didn't try to cram and rush it all in one film. My major gripes were: 1. The music was waaaaaaay to loud at points, especially during the Gom Jabbar scene when it completely drowned out Jessica reciting the litany against fear; and 2. Zendaya's performance as Chani - she is either just not a good actress, or she was putting in noticeably lower effort than the rest of the cast...

Overall though, I think it was a good film, that will only improve when the second is shot and released. I was hoping to be able to recommend it to people over reading the book, because of how just obtuse the writing style is, but I'm still kind of on the fence still.