DUNE - Frank Herbert's book [open spoilers for the first book]

Starting a new thread because I ain’t got no search function.

I just read Dune for the first time and I have to say I really liked it. For the most part I thought the characters were interesting and deep, though some were one-dimensional caricatures when it served the story. What really was interesting was the depth and realism of the political elements to the story, which I don’t know that I’ve ever really seen in another work of Sci-Fi.

Where the book failed somewhat in my opinion was in it’s slight devotion to the fate fairies. I realize that the prescient abilities of Paul and to a lesser degree the Guild were something of a focal point of the plot but it made some of the action a bit predictable. Because of Muad’Dib’s ability to see the future (and distant present) the climax of the book seemed a little anti-climactic. When the main character is able to basically know most of what is happening and going to happen there’s really no chance for twists and turns in the plot. The bad guys really never had their moment which took away much of the suspense.

Further removing the drama of some of the action was the author’s use of excepts from Princess Irulan’s various historical books which often told of what the outcome to a given chapter would be at it’s start. The author spent a lot of time delving into the rationale and internal dialogues of the main characters which helped lay out the politics and depth of their choices, but there wasn’t often where the outcome was in any doubt.

In some ways you could say that Paul is one giant deus ex machina.

First, what did everyone else think of the book? I’ve no doubt that this has been done over and over again but I’m not able to find the old thread and I suppose it’s been long enough that it could be fun to do again.

Is it worth my time to watch the 1984 movie adaptation? How about the Sci-Fi miniseries?

And the main reason for this thread, do you recommend that I pick up the sequels to the original? It’s basically a 6-part series which is a pretty huge scope. In many ways it reminded me of Ender’s Game and I found that I loved the first book and Ender’s Shadow but I found Shadow of the Hegemon to become tiresome. Considering the political depth of Dune it seems like the rest of the books have a lot of detail left to mine, however I can see the prescient nature of Paul and some of the quasi-religious/prophetic overtones to become a little frustrating and redundant. What say you…is Dune Messiah worth my time?

Personally, I wouldn’t suggest the sequels. The second book bored me to tears and the third book felt totally alien to me – it basically took all of the characters from the previous two and gave them entirely new personalities and motivations. I gave up on the series after that.

There was an excellent discussion thread in this forum titled Dune: Seminal SF Classic Or Pompous Tosh?, which I started and kind of chaired, which gave a very balanced view of the strong and weak points of Dune. Unfortunately I can’t search for it. As for the sequels, they start out unreadable and get progressively worse.

Dune is a classic. Groundbreaking, brilliant, endlessly fascinating. And an ess-eff book about geology and narcotics? You gotta love that.

The other books aren’t nearly as good.

If you consider the Emperor and the Harkonnens the bad guys, then sure, it seems predictable. But they’re not.

Paul’s real enemy from the moment he first takes the spice is the very future you’re talking about. It’s clear from the book, and this is repeated often in Paul’s own commentary about his goals, that his very presence among the Fremen has started a chain reaction that could unleash them across the galaxy in a bloodbath of epic proportions. If Paul dies, this massacre becomes inevitable. Their testing ground has shaped them so well, and driven them to such cultural frenzies, that every other major power combined still can’t stop them. So he spends the rest of the book attempting to 1) stay alive and 2) redirect their energies so they don’t murder a sizable percent of the galactic human population.

And what happens? He fails. The end.

It only too a couple chapters before I started completely ignoring Princess Irulan’s crap at the start of every chapter. I skimmed it for zero comprehension, then forgot it completely. It’s not just Dune, I pretty much do that with every book that starts its chapters with quotes or verses or some other dumb thing.

Sorry, but there isn’t an interpretation anywhere that could make Baron Harkonnen not to be a bad guy. The Emperor can be read a being a little more ambivalent in that he simply was manipulating things in order to maintain power and keep the tenuous balance between the Landsraad, Empire and Guild. The Baron however is an amalgam of every single “evil” stereotype seen in modern pop culture. He’s painted in a particularly irredeemable way and that character is shallow and consistent. He’s a bad guy, no ifs ands or buts.

You can say that everyone is some shade of gray, and you wouldn’t be wrong in that case, but the Harkonnen’s are the primary bad guys in the scope of this first book.

I think this becomes apparent in the third book of the novel once Muad’Dib’s status as the Lisan-al-gaib becomes undeniable, but for the early parts of the book the Fremen goal has nothing to do with the jihad he fears and sees. Their goal was to convert the planet to a water rich one and Paul had hoped to bring this about. Paul saw it as a possibility and intended to avoid it but he misjudged. In any case, calling “the future” the bad guy is pretty contrived.

I loved all 6 books, but each stands on its own from the others in some way or another. you have to be prepared for that.

I’ll be the daring rebel here, and recommend that you at least read through Children of Dune. The first three books were not actually intended by Herbert as a trilogy – they were intended to be one book. His publisher made him split them up, because it was too long. (hence, Dune Messiah coming off a bit short as a bridging work).

Much of what transpires in Dune – in particular, Irulan’s historical commentary – only becomes relevant in the context of what happens by the end of Children of Dune. That is also where you find out what Paul’s attempt to avoid the Fremen rampage across the universe was all about, and plays out the whole predestination paradox theme developed in Dune.

And you are correct in that there is a whole lot of political depth still being mined by Herbert in Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. The end of Dune with Paul’s victory isn’t really a stable stopping point. There are too many political loose ends left unresolved.

As for the Lynch movie and the SciFi miniseries… the Lynch movie has far, far superior visuals, but looks rather dated nowadays, and really butchers some of the concepts central to Dune. If you watch it, get the most extended cut you can find – the theatrical release was chopped down way too much for coherence.

The SciFi miniseries stayed truer to the book, and I actually prefer it – but the effects were low on budget. Most of the desert scenes are reduced to soundstage dunes in front of greenscreens, and really look quite poor. Also, the wardrobe was run by some fashion nazi who had a thing for silly hats with fins, and who apparently attacked Irulan with a glue-gun and decorative butterflies. (the sequel series, Children of Dune, combines the next two books, and had superior effects and budget, and was IMO the better series)

And the later books: God-Emperor of Dune is my favorite of all the Dune books. It develops a lot of the ideas laid out in the first three books to their conclusion, and also develops a lot more of the backstory that Irulan’s commentary shows glimpses of. But, it’s not really a continuation of Paul’s narrative. The subsequent books by Herbert are even more peripheral, although they definately have their roots in the same concepts that Dune explores.

Avoid, by all means necessary, any Dune books not directly authored by Frank Herbert. They are an abomination before the Lord.

Why can’t you search for it? :wink:

Dune: Seminal SF Classic Or Pompous Tosh?

That said, I liked all the Dune books that Frank wrote… I attempted to read the first by his son and just couldn’t do it.
(And yes, I searched manually for the thread.)

I do not share the hate for the first sequel. In fact, I recall that this was one of the few books that has ever managed to bring a tear to my eye (in the right way…). Of course, I was 16 when I read it. But I wasn’t a completely stupid 16 year old. :slight_smile:

YMMV obviously.

I don’t remember Children of Dune too well, but I actually think the books continue being at least decent til the end of God Emperor. The two books after that I just didn’t understand. They seemed more like notes for possible novels rather than novels.


He is a bad guy. He is not the bad guy.


Whaaaa? It’s, like, the prima facie, clear and obvious first reading of the text!

Well, anyway, I’m really suprised to see this reading called “contrived” in any case.


I guess I’m the only guy who actually likes Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s prequels. :slight_smile:

You can’t compare them to the originals, or course, but I liked 'em okay.

Clearly you are an agent of Al-Qaeda and possibly a minion of Sauron. :mad:

No, they were pretty good. I read the Butlerian Jihad prequels and the House Atreides-Harkonnen-Corrino trilogy. The former were interesting to me, the latter not so much. The latter trilogy just reminded me too much of the Star Wars prequels, trying to connect every possible loose end in a desperate attempt to seem like “legitimate” companions to the original books.

You mean this thread? :wink:

I’d tell you how I did that (no, I don’t have it saved to computer) but I’ll have to kill you… or your kittens.

Actually, that’s a large part of the next three books: that prescience is a trap, so much so that the future of humankind is threatened by Paul’s and Leto’s mastery of it. Obviously, plot-wise it doesn’t help suspense to have a main character know that he’s going to win in the first novel, but the overall arc of the first four books is devoted to breaking mankind out of the trap that Paul inadvertantly set.

Yes, I think you should read the rest of the Frank Herbert-written books. Dune Messiah is my least favorite of the six, but I really enjoyed Children and God Emperor.

You should also invest a couple of hours to watch the 1984 movie - while there’s a fair amount of detail that Lynch changed to make the story more understandable to an audience that might not have familiarity with the source material, I believe he got the feel of the books correct, far more so than I would’ve expected and far more so than the Sci-Fi version. And, if you don’t like it, at least you can comfortably join the other people who like to complain about it. :wink:

Actually, that’s one of the things that I like about the Frank Herbert books - he does deconstruct his characters by having them realize their mistakes. Of course Stilgar acts differently in CoD than he does in the first novel - he has aged in both years and experience, and his world is completely different.

I quite enjoyed the first book, but cannot recommend any of the sequels and definitely not the movies.

As Frylock already said: “He is a bad guy. He is not the bad guy.”

Your own statements contradict your assessment.

If Irulan’s introductions to the chapters and Paul’s own visions “made some of the action a bit predictable”, if the ending turned out to be “a little anti-climactic”, then you should consider the possibility that the superficial plot points you were most focusing on, the pure hero versus the cartoonish villain, weren’t the most important elements. This is just good storytelling: what’s actually important is the information that remains hidden, the plot point that’s not revealed until the final chapter: that Paul fails to stop the massacre of billions and billions of people. This is, again, his stated goal as soon as he develops his powers. And he spends the rest of the book attempting to halt the religious fanaticism that he himself unleashed.

The very fact that his entire effort was a failure, as he realizes at the end, is not contrived. He fought the future, and the future won. It is, as Frylock again notes, “the prima facie, clear and obvious first reading of the text”. It’s a beautifully ironic twist of the dagger that he was able to settle the house rivalry, but then ends up being directly responsible for a bigger mass murder than the Harkonnens ever dreamed. In future historical tales, Paul himself is likely to be twisted into an unrecognizable and monstrous caricature, similar to the Baron, because people will need to deform their image of him in order to make some sense of the unprecedented tragedy his desert people are about to unleash.

And this is the real genius of the first book. The hero vs. villain stuff is gripping in the conventional sense, but by the end Paul’s troops are making drums out of the skins of their enemies. It is abundantly clear that Paul will win against the Harkonnens, and even against the Emperor, but that victory isn’t the one he wanted. He is ultimately a failure, and his ascension to the imperial throne doesn’t change that in the slightest.

I get all this. I really do. It’s just that calling “the future” a bad guy is the kind of retarded thing that a bad freshman English teacher would say. Paul’s fighting the possible future he sees is the primary plot…it’s not an antagonist, it’s not a character, it’s not a bad guy…it’s just the plot, and the story ends with an unhappy ending. The battle of the Great House’s is a bit of a feint by the author, I agree, but you can’t call the fate fairies the bad guys without getting a hearty eye-roll.

Paul and Jessica are fatally flawed heroes.
The Baron and the Emperor are the bad guys.

The twist is that it’s not actually a good-versus-evil story, so the bad guys are downplayed in the grand scheme of things, but their loss at the end is still the climax of the book if not the most important message.