Late last spring, I decided to give my spouse’s all-time favorite book a try: Dune by Frank Herbert. Knowing my track record and hesitation with epic sci-fi novels, she recommended I start with a few prequels as a foundation—the House trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Then the original novel would be like “icing on the cake.” Here’s how it went:
House Atreides & House Harkonnen
House Atreides got me completely absorbed in the characters and their world, right from the start. I gasped out loud, I yelled at the book. I fell in love with Duke Leto Atreides. I kept thinking I could predict what was going to happen, but I was almost always proven wrong. I liked that many of the characters didn’t fit neatly in good guy/bad guy boxes; they were much more complex than that. (Except, the gay representation in the prequels, as well as in the original book, is terribly problematic.) The writing style here is easy, but not overly simplistic. It reads like a good, strong, YA novel. House Harkonnen takes place only 12 years later, and I enjoyed it almost as much as the first book. There’s not really much else to say about it except, a lot happens in this one!
I’m not going to lie: I resented this book. I didn’t enjoy it, but I needed to know what happened to these characters I’d grown to love. The writing style took a huge downturn, and it’s horribly repetitive. How many times do I have to listen to Rhombur pine for his homeworld?! There wasn’t much trusting the reader here; lots of spelling out the obvious, and cheesy faux-foreshadow sentences at the end of each chapter. We’re talking really bad fan fiction level.
Ahhhh, finally! So here’s where I was glad I ignored the naysayers and instead listened to the person who knows me best. I felt like I knew exactly what was going on thanks to the prequels, but there was still plenty left to discover. I honestly don’t think I would have stuck with this book had I chosen to read it first, because I kid you not, it took me 300 pages before I finally felt something (anything at all!) for the protagonist. (That compelling scene with Muad’Dib at his first Fremen funeral? That won me over. Wow.) So many of the characters in this book would have been just another random character had I started here, but knowing their history, their background…that was powerful, especially in the final scenes of the novel.
“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”
“No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.”
The same night I finished Dune, we watched the movie (Patrick Stewart! Sting! and Kyle MacLachan, swoon!) It was…underwhelming. Rushed. Amazing. Disappointing. (I know.) It really needed to be separated out into a set of movies. There’s so much that happens in this book, they couldn’t possibly cover it all, which meant they skipped a lot of important stuff.
I’m excited to eventually read on in the series—or back! I’d love to check out The Buterlian Jihad—but I’m taking a little break from this world for now.
So tell me: Have you read Dune? Seen the movie? What did you think?