Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Good Story 141: Dune

Julie eats spice cake and can see the future, which, paradoxically, complicates her decision making. Scott just says, "Mmmm, spice cake" and has another piece.  Arrakis. Dune. Desert planet. Episode 141.

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  1. I have lost track how many times I have read Dune over the years. Certainly my most re-read book. I was first introduced to Dune when I met Frank Herbert on his "Children of Dune" book tour. At the time my father was working for ABC and whenever they had SF authors come in to do the morning shows he would bring me. In fact once I got to have an extended conversation with Grandmaster Frederick Poul since my father volunteered to drive him back to the airport.

    The first time I read it I was pretty much blown away. It just totally drew me in. Although it was years later till I would re-read the series over and over again. I remember the David Lynch Dune movie, and yeah it is off the wall odd. Still whenever it popped up on TV it always drove me back to the books once again. Still I have a fondness for the Lynch version, but I often like bad movies. The mini-series though is actually very good and fairly faithful to the books.

    Defining why I love Dune so much is difficult. Herbert's prose does have a lyrical aspect and so that fact enhances everything else. The world-building is stunning. The politics of the empire ring true and there is little that throws me off - (yeah the race consciousness thing does).

    One aspect of the world building was something I only realized later as a Catholic, that religion isn't just sanitized out of his world-building. It is all over the place in this series. His Irish-Catholic maternal aunts might have been too forceful with their faith on him. He later called it "brainwashing". Still this gave us the Bene Gesserit's as intentional female Jesuits. His religious ideas were a bit all over the place as he drew from many spirituality from Zen Buddhism to respect for Native Indian spirituality. You can see some of this in the blending of religions in this series. Still I think it made the world-building stronger going against the Arthur C. Clarke view that we would just grow out of superstition.

    One thing I had read before, but can't vouch for. Is that originally the story was focusing much more on Liet-Kynes, the Imperial Planetologist, and was much more focused on the ecological aspects. That Campbell convinced him to shift his focus away from this. If true, this has got to be one of the best editorial interventions ever. Changing the focus to Paul Atreides gave both a typical heroes journey and then layered it with the messiah aspects and the danger of picking a future for others. I very much enjoyed how later Paul as the Preacher is preaching against himself. That is so Catholic to me, as the first person we should denounce is ourselves (plank in your brother's eye). Still the ecological aspects also contributed to the story and the vision of remaking the planet along with what that remaking would do to the culture.

    When it comes to the Fremen, another triumph in worldbuilding. This culture was so believable with their stillsuits, water debt, and just how much influence water had in their culture. Add in the Sand Worms, and them riding them, and you have the triumph of the imagination. That all of this was in one novel is amazing. Then add in the after-effects of the Butlerian Jihad and their technology level and the economics of spice production and again simply amazing.

    I really liked all the Frank Herbert Dune novels, but certainly the first one is the best of them. When I re-read them I go through his series. I know many like the first three books, but not last three - I can understand that. The follow-on books are more like meeting a old friend again and I just enjoy entering this world. The messiah aspects are all over the place, but really God Emperor of Dune has the more Christian parallels. Leo II gives up his life to become a sandworm and sacrifices himself for the golden path and then sacrifices his life for that golden path.

  2. Now as to the Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson prequels/sequels. Yes I am the guy who has read them all and has Navigators of Dune on preorder for next week. Since Frank Herbert did write very extensive notes and had outlined the whole history from before the Butlerian Jihad, there was scaffolding to build on. Plus they found parts of a Dune novel never released. People either hate these novels, the fact that they even exist, or like them for what they are. I don't think even fans of these late books compare them to the original. Frank Herbert had the superior prose style. Although these books are more than just elevated fan-fiction. I like they for what they are. They fill in the gaps in the alluded history and then go on to end the story as it was intended to end. Along the way there are some phenomenal characters. The story of Vorian Atreides, raised by the cyborgs and robots who breaks free to lead the war agains them. The story of his friend Vorian Atreides, and how these houses came to be bitter enemies. Sarah Butler kidnapped and tortured by Erasmus the independent robot. Intricate space opera spanning thousand of years and of course origin stories galore. There is a lot to draw from regarding the stories of Vorian and the cold-blooded Erasmus who is trying to figure what makes humans tick so he can destroy/enslave them. So I find these novels enjoyable, because I don't have Frank Herbert expectations. Plus can totally understand why people can dislike them so much.

    Oh and since you have triggered me, don't be surprised if the original Dune books appear in my Goodreads timeline again.

    Oh and "The spice must flow", but "anathema sit" pumpkin spice.

  3. Oh and once again - I so love this podcast which lets me think about books/movies I love, and introduces me to new ones to love.

    1. Jeff, I love these indepth comments so much that I read them three times. Though I can add nothing new ... except I am so proud when you praise the podcast. I respect your opinion so much that it really means a lot to me.

      And, yes, I figured Dune would be showing up for you again at GoodReads!

  4. Great comments, Jeff. You nailed most of how I feel about Frank Herbert's original series, along with the later collaborations. I also enjoy SyFy's series- both Dune & Children of Dune, quite a bit. Once you factor in their limited budget & effects that reflect those constraints and the time period, they are great watches. Their fight choreography, among other things, begs me to watch them with a live play's sensibility, and not to get hung up on trifles that distract from such an enthralling story.

    I've read or listened on audio to all FH's books & almost all of BH & KJA's. My favorites are FH's first three, and the House Trilogy. I think anyone who enjoys Dune could enjoy these, as well.

  5. So I DO know people who have read the others - excellent, and thanks for the recommendations. So much Dune in my future, I love it.

    Thank you Jeff, for all your comments here. Bene Gesserits as intentional female Jesuits - wonderful.

    Philip - I watched the Dune miniseries, but if I watched the second, I don't recall it. Time to find those, maybe...

    I hope I can call on you both as I work through the rest!

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