Reading Dune Is A Transcendent Experience
Recently I bought a copy of Frank Herbert's "Dune" from my local bookstore. It was around $20 and a good investment. Two years ago, I read both Stephen King's magnum opus "It" as well as Tolkien's masterpiece, "The Lord Of The Rings". Through these I learned of the excitement that arises when reading an extremely long and detailed novel, of the potential of humanity. They are impressive tomes and I display them with pride. Dune, I felt, would be yet another book worth buying and adding to my ever-growing collection of literature. There are few other books I treat with reverence, although I may buy William Gibson's "Neuromancer" soon. It strikes my fancy as yet another incredibly formative piece.
I have ruined my experience with Dune in many ways by viewing both film adaptations beforehand. As a result, it is impossible to read the book without inserting certain faces into certain roles, comparing every action beat for beat. Noticing where a large gap exists, or where logical progression is ignored. This is the case with any book and film dichotomy. Some will argue that alterations are necessary, some argue that only certain changes are needed, yet in all adaptations save a scant few, elements of the plot are mingled or redistributed in interesting ways, many of which reveal the director's mindset when transferring the author's intent. Adaptations can be fascinating in this regard, particularly with the two Dune films.
They are, I believe, equally accurate to the book, which is to say they each capture perhaps 80% of Herbert's prescient genius. Many insult the Lynch version as taking too many liberties, however it really doesn't take too many liberties- certainly not more then the Villeneuve one takes. I had the opportunity to watch the Villeneuve one in theaters earlier this year with surround sound and a 40-foot screen, and I do believe Dune is best experienced like that- as something monumental, a grand and excessive event. It is lovely to know that people are connecting with Herbert's vision and at last enjoying all the Dune universe has to offer. It is one of the most elaborate and fleshed-out visions in all speculative fiction, and one has to wonder if Herbert himself isn't the Kwisatz Haderach given just what a knack he has for tapping into something primal yet universally appealing to all humanity.
Dune is not the sort of book to be dabbled in- to read through it, make your way through the Arrakis adventures, one must commit. I've already assured myself that when I finish the first volume I will press on, into Messiah and Children and God Emperor, and end on Chapterhouse. I'm not sure whether I should expect any grand revelation by then. I'm certain that, by the time I do finish these wonderful books, I will have been altered ever so slightly, all that wisdom having been burned into my neurons.
Dune is a very unique series in scope and tone. Herbert's writing, as with many great science fiction writers, stands apart. In opposition to Ellison's sardonic nihilism and Bradbury's wistful reverie, Herbert exposits a sort of adventurous flair, familiar yet ambitious. It is eerie to read passages composed in 1965 which have not aged a day, which take place thousands and thousands of years into the far future and will likely never become obsolete. Dune, I think, is a series which cannot age or become irrelevant. It is a timeless observation of humanity- of our failings as a species and our strengths, working at all times in opposition. It is not a particularly optimistic or needlessly utopian vision. To the contrary, its realism is striking. The politics of Dune are brutally honest and comprehensible to the everyman, and the action is recounted in a manner so cinematic and grand that I feel it's a wonder Dune hasn't been fully turned into a major media franchise before now.
At any rate, I enjoy each turn of the page and every new chapter with the heading courtesy of Princess Irulan. It's an unbelievably good piece of literature, well worth $20, and well worth reading. Anybody who doesn't read large volumes of fantastic science fiction every so often is doing a disservice to themselves and is missing out severely on an otherworldly experience across the sharp desert sands.
I am definitely the odd man out as I have read Dune three times and each time found it to be awful. Read a few of the sequels and know the whole story. Over all its quite good as a story. But the writing itself feels excessive. So little occurs in the first book and yet it feels like it drags on and on. I've read some wordy authors and I think the issue I have is that with Herbert it never lets up. There are scenes that don't require all the inner monologue, all the side comments to themselves. Some day I'll finish all the books because I just need to just do it, not that I really want to.
I've just always found the Fremen utterly naive when it came to the interpretations of Paul's action's:
*Paul puts on a stilsuit in a comfortable manner*
"(GASP) and he shall know of our ways!"
*Paul weeps after killing an opponent*
"(GASP) He gives water to the dead!"
*Paul has a bowel movement and defecates in the sand*
"(GASP) He nourishes the earth!"
*Paul masturbates under a palm tree*
"(GASP) He gives milk to the... uhm, er..."
I believe Herbert's intention is to point out how the Fremen are easily manipulated by the Missionaria Protectiva. One of the things I really enjoy about Dune is that, as an Atheist, I find its commentary on theology and religion very accurate. Paul is seen as a Messiah only because the Bene Gesserit have spent countless centuries manipulating culture and prophecy to their whims. The Fremen are naive, as are any religious people who believe unquestioningly in holy scripture. They lack skepticism. I'm sure this is an intentional move on Herbert's part.
Oh definitely agreed, it just ruined some of the immersion for me