Thoughts on Frank Herbert’s Dune

I will fully admit that I decided to read this book because Zendaya is in the upcoming movie, and as usual, I insist on reading the book before watching the movie.

I know it’s a sci-fi classic, but even after combing through Goodreads reviews, I can’t say that I fully understand why—except maybe that the impact has something to do with the era in which it was published.

Since I’m pretty ambivalent about the entire book, I thought a list of the things I enjoyed and the things I didn’t would be more useful than an essay-like review. So, here we go:

Things I enjoyed:

  • The depth of Herbert’s worldbuilding.
  • The intricacies of Fremen religion, and religion in general, throughout the book. They feel simultaneously derivative and very well-thought out.
  • The amalgamation of cultures. Among those I picked up on, particularly in the names and non-English words: Arabic, Judeo-Christian, Asian.
  • Bene Gesserit superpowers and their partiality to women.
  • The idea that the man who is prophesied as a savior will or must be adept at things generally considered feminine. I would like more shattering of gender barriers, please and thanks.
  • The slight transcendence of the “reluctant hero” trope (which I love) into a “hero who wants to actively resist the fervor that would come about as the result of his heroism” trope, which is largely new to me in fiction. Considering the way real-life history has occurred, this seems the most logical type of hero trope that could possibly exist in science-fiction, and now that I’ve read Dune, I’m shocked that the trope isn’t overwhelmingly popular already. This is the first time in real or fictional religion that I’ve seen the central figure of that religion deeply consider in advance the violence that his worshippers could wreak around the world.
  • The idea of investing in a sustainable future whole-heartedly, even though you know that your generation isn’t the one that will live to see it. We love environmental/climate justice.

Things I did not enjoy:

  • The stiffness of the dialogue between the characters.
  • The way the plot progresses but hardly seems to twist. It felt like I was always told what was going to happen, so that when it happened, I felt nothing because it was impossible to be surprised. A lot of this, I think, is Princess Irulan’s fault. And, perhaps, the gifts of prescience that some of the characters possess. In any case, I wonder how the book would have read, if Irulan’s excerpts came at the ends of chapters, and not the beginnings.
  • The lack of readable romance between people who clearly have great love for each other. For instance, I could infer that Jessica and Duke Leto were in love, but I couldn’t feel it. Same thing with Paul and Chani.
  • It felt like homosexuality and obesity were weaponized through their uses as characteristic of the book’s central antagonist.
  • The fact that the author chose to continuously document the inner thoughts of the characters in italics, instead of leaving me to infer. It felt like spoon-feeding me as a reader, as if I wasn’t smart enough to figure certain things out on my own. Besides, just like Irulan’s excerpts did, it severely detracted from the consequently nonexistent mystery of the plot.
  • The way the book was written made it difficult to understand what should have been basic transitions between places, times, and events.
  • The entire book was just much, much longer than it probably needed to be.

So, Dune may be a classic, but I can’t say it would be anywhere close to high on my recommendation list. But that’s just how I feel.

-Akotz the Spider Kid

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