My thoughts on Dune, by Frank Herbert. You can read a lot, there will be a warning after spoilers happen.

This is a story worth experiencing blind, the first two parts are spoiler free, they barely talk about the novel at all, so keep reading, I’ll warn you once spoilers begin in the last third of this post.

This is also my longest blogpost somehow, so here’s a table of contents!

Prelude to Dune (a.k.a My Reading Journey)

Since I was a teenager, I have enjoyed Science Fiction in one way or another, when it came to books, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to The Center of the Earth and The Mysterious Island were some wonderful works that—alongside H. G. Wells—made me fall in love with the genre. These pieces of literature hold up rather well to this day, in my opinion. Those stories caught my interest and immersed me in great adventures with characters who faced adversity, uncovered new horizons, and developed technology that predated many real life inventions.

However, I lacked a lot of knowledge about what the last century brought to the table in the genre, and it took me a long time to finally give a try to any of the modern classics, from the Golden Age and after. I still hadn’t read anything from Clarke, Asimov or Heinlein—even now those last two are still unknown to me.

I was aware of Dune as this Science Fiction masterpiece that influenced a lot of things, I didn’t really consider it, it was just floating around in ephemeral ideas from time to time. As far as I knew, the book had a desert planet that inspired Tatooine from Star Wars, and that’s about it. I didn’t even knew the basic premise, nor that a movie based on it was made in 1984.

Instead, Halo, and Star Wars were the book series I read, a couple years before the pandemic. Looking back, it was quite a change, to go from the grandfathers of the genre, to series tied to other media from some famous franchises. I enjoyed those reads, don’t get me wrong, they were definitely entertaining, and I am actually kind of curious to check them out again someday—specially the Halo novels—due to their interesting concepts and also checking them in their original language, since I read them in Spanish back then. Still, those kind of books aren’t really representative of “proper” Science Fiction Literature, since they are more derivative and usually tied to a canon outside the author’s control.

It wasn’t until 2021 or so, that I decided to take reading much more seriously, and I also read more original works—as in, not made to expand an existing franchise since anything is hardly fullyoriginal—such as Bobiverse and the Arc of a Scythe trilogies, both of them published in the 2016s. Clearly not in the classic territory, but still good stuff.

Finally, I decided to give a read to a book I had been meaning to try since 2018. I am talking about 1984, by George Orwell. This was a strong introduction to the dystopian futures so prevalent in the genre. Published in 1949, it was also my first introduction to the beginnings of the modern era of science fiction.

Among other lighter reads, there was I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, a collection of short stories by Harlan Ellison, published in 1967. The writing here showed me some more incredible ideas, strange worlds, and terrible futures. After that I gained some interest in the Warhammer 40K franchise—a great universe which borrows from multiple sci-fi and fantasy tropes, quite deep and lore heavy, but again, mostly made to sell tabletop miniatures.

Finally, I decided to try another gem published in 1974: The Mote in God’s Eye, by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven.

I guess this is what I think of as my first full proper standalone Space Opera, the first modern classic of Science Fiction that I read from start to finish, also becoming the longest book I’ve read at that point, since Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island. A fantastic first contact story that goes big on scale and really sets the bar of what these modern classics can excel at. It was so good that I started writing book reviews on this website because of it.

Ever since then, my reading journey has been pretty well documented on this blog. I have read some hard sci-fi with Project Hail Mary, then the page turner that is Ender’s Game, the utopian future found in Childhood’s End, the more philosophical and spiritual world of Out of the Silent Planet.

And so, after all these reads, all these worlds, across different periods of time, a path started to form.

“When God hath ordained a creature to die in a particular place, He causeth that creature’s wants to direct him to that place.”

Preview of Dune (a.k.a. Watching the Movies)

It’s hard to belive that the first Dune movie came out only 3 years ago, as of the time of this review. I wasn’t really that eager to check it out, I was under the impression that it was going to just be a cash grab that would maybe improve just a bit on the state of the Star Wars sequels and not much more. I didn’t know who Denis Villeneuve was—big mistake—and it didn’t really call my attention that much.

All that mattered was that Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya were going to star on it, my sister was a fan of both of them and therefore we were going to go watch it on theaters and see what’s up.

I ended up hyping myself up quite a bit, after I saw some conversations about it in Discord and Mastodon, and my hope for the movie improved, but with certain caution, and low expectations.

The film was a surprise, I didn’t even know it was only going to be the first half of the book, or that maybe that’s how the book ended—I didn’t know. Looking back, I really enjoyed the visuals, the music, the atmosphere, the VFX. It was all beautifully done. I can appreciate the sense of wonder and mysticism behind everything going on, but I have to say that in the moment I was somewhat confused and turned off by it. Still, I knew I wanted more of that, and I had to wait for it.

Because of this I got interested on reading the novel for once—as you might be able to tell, I didn’t. I also remember watching the They’re Just Movies episode on it, and enjoying the conversation about it, there and on Mastodon.

Surprisingly, It looks like I didn’t even mentioned watching the movie on social media. I tried to look on my older posts and on old accounts without success. But it is possible that the auto-deletion tool just did its job. Of course, I also didn’t mention it at all in my website, it was quite a busy month for me.

Anyway, as I said, I didn’t read the novel, and as I mentioned, different books—and also quite a lot of manga, podcasts and anime—took my time and I ended up procrastinating reading it.

Finally, early last month, on April 2nd, 2024, after three long years, the wait was over, and I had the chance to finally watch Dune: Part Two.

I had much higher expectations now, and they were surpassed by a long shot. The cinematography, the visuals, the choreography, the riding of the sandworm, it was all epic.

This movie did everything the first one did and much more, it was almost perfect in execution and it managed to inmmerse me completely. I have to say I almost cried at how beautiful and mesmerizing this movie was, and also, at how tragic and inevitable destiny seemed to be.

It was about time. Time to stop worrying about the page count, the obscure terminology or that maybe the movies would ruin the original. I had to face my destiny head on, I could not stop the process any longer, I had to join it, and flow with it.

“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.”

Reading of Dune (a.k.a. The Actual Review)

Spoiler free thoughts

So, let’s get started already and talk about my thoughts on the novel. There’s mild spoilers about the initial premise but nothing you probably don’t know already.

Since I watched the movies first, I was happy to have one of my main fears dissapear completely during the first couple chapters. Many of the plot twists present on both movies are actually things the reader just knows from the start. The betrayal and the plot against House Atreides, the people behind it and the reason for it can be inferred quickly enough.

Herbert’s confidence in the world he wrote can end up being too much to a lot of people. From the beginning of the novel, characters throw around a lot of made up terms that can be confusing, and in a setting where Dukes, Counts and Emperors, Great Houses and Cults are still a thing, alongside intergalactic travel and human calculators, the politics and relationships of it all are quite complex.

The book doesn’t hold your hand at all. There are references and intriguing events from long ago that came and went and help give you an idea of the state of affairs, such as the interesting computers, for example, but a lot is left for the reader to figure out and fill the gaps as they keep reading. I think the movies helped me get through this much quicker too.

The story begins after House Atreides is put in charge of Arrakis, a planet with the most valuable substance in the galaxy, the spice melange. A drug that is essential for space travel, can improve the user’s life-span, awareness and many other things.

The planet is a huge desert, making for a harsh environment nobody would bother to live on, where water is scarce and as valued as spice. Despite this, it is inhabited by the Fremen, people who have managed to tame the desert, and resist the heavy rule of the Harkonnens, who up until then had been the House harvesting the planet’s resources for the Empire.

Our protagonist is Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto and Lady Jessica; he finds himself entangled in the middle of prophecies, visions and politics in a path that would lead him to do what he thinks is right, but at what cost?

More thoughts with spoilers

skip ahead

There is an internal struggle between different sides, the lust for revenge, the end of human lives, the loss of friends, and the rise of worshippers. Will he make use of what’s been given to him, of the power he has attained?

The novel deals with many different topics, such as the fight over natural resources, the dangers of organized religion, capitalism and freedom and things.

I think the focus is on Paul’s motivations and decisions throughout the novel. There are many questionable things that are done in the name of the greater good, and it all feels inevitable. There are some actions that seem good, and then they’re not, yet it feels like that’s what he kind of wanted or needed to happen. As I said, there’s many characters whose goals are for or against Paul’s, especially in the case of Lady Jessica, who seemed like the closest to get the picture of what Paul was going through, she also did try to push her agenda and inadvertedly kept pushing Paul’s too. The relationship between them was quite fascinating.

I think the rest of characters were also nicely developed, Duke Leto seems like the ideal leader, who values life and loves the people around him, without being blind to the reality of things and still kind of flawed but with experience backing him up.

The Baron is an interesting fellow, who seems to have everything figured out and planned but is actually kind of full of himself and just wants power and profit. I really liked that he was threatening, but no mastermind, clever, but not enough.

The Emperor was a bit mixed bag for me, it felt underdeveloped a bit, but looking back, he saw Leto as the son he never had, and at the same time, he was a threat he had to get rid of. His Truthsayer, the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother seemed to be more in control sometimes, but not really, there were schemes withing schemes all the time!

Every character has their motivations, their perspectives and interactions. There is conflict even between allies, family and friends, and it is simply so intriguing and it all feels like a big disaster and a terrible tragedy, but that is still the best possible outcome of it all.

As a reader, you kind of get the whole picture but when characters show up again, trying to best each other, fulfill promises, get things done. It is just so gripping once you are past the alienation and new words of it all. There’s branching narratives, there are songs and quotes, there is a lot.

Some people might not like the politics at the start, others will not enjoy the spirituality later on, and a few will find everything weird and confusing and with cringy prose. I kind of loved it, I can see why this novel is among the greats, and how it has served as the inspiration of tons of different works over the decades, and it will keep on giving for years to come.

There’s so many more things I could write about, about the majesty of the sandworms, or Feyd-Rautha’s subplot and character, the relationship between Chani and Paul, the mystery behind the Saurdaukar and Salusa Secundus, the writings by Princess Irulan or the customs of the Fremen.

Finishing thoughts

It was a cool read, I am considering reading the next books by Frank, but we’ll see, I kind of want to read a ton of different authors, which I’ve been doing since the year begun, so maybe next year will be the year of reading full book series for a change.

On another note, after checking Dune, I am also quite willing to give another try to Neuromancer which gave me a really hard time with its neologisms and weird writing style, maybe now it’ll not be as daunting!

I didn’t even mention the few scenes I saw from the 1984 movie that is quite a wild ride. There so much more I could write about. But there’s a lesson this book thaught me, and I will apply it now.

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife - chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: “Now, it’s complete because it’s ended here.”

— from “Collected Sayings of Maud’Dib’’ by the Princess Irulan

This is day 27 of #100DaysToOffload


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