Dune by Frank Herbert
Read January 19, 2010 – January 24, 2010
Premise: A planetary Duke and his family take up leadership of an environmentally harsh, but universally economically important desert planet that produces a mind-altering spice that is poisonously habit-forming and which you cannot cease to take once you’ve begun. The family is then hunted in a galactic family feud and thrown out into the desert to live among the wild people. The son of said Duke is apparently the focus of about fifteen different legends throughout the cosmos. And consequently we focus on his doings as he fulfills his destiny.
Verdict: I hated this novel. I hated everything about it. It has no redeeming features or qualities. This was the fifth time I tried to read it and the first time I ever succeeded (the only reason I made it through was because I had to read it as a Hugo and for class.) Usually, the first chapter is enough to piss me off so much that I take it back to the library. I bought my own copy this time and marked it to pieces.
What I hate:
1.) The writing style. This man cannot write. He repeats every single purpose, point, motivation, and detail at least three times every two paragraphs. Does he think I’m stupid? Does he think I can’t understand what he wants to me get out of what I’m reading? Does he think he has to jam it down my throat? Or is he just that poor of a writer that he can find no other way to express his ideas? Overall, this made for an extremely annoying read—like a sharp trill going off in my head the whole time.
2.) This is my gender police speaking again. It’s not exactly the portrayal of women that I find bothersome. It’s more the way he has tried to express the mentality of women as if it were universal truth that all women think in a certain way. And that certain way that they think is about as substantial as the thoughts that must run through the mind of a half-naked kidnapped woman on a pulp cover. Not only that, women exist for three purposes: to have random children at random times, to get into troublesome situations that the men must get them out of, and to be emotional attachments that are used against men by their enemies as leverage. If there is a female character she is either blindingly beautiful or a crone. The Bene Gesserit are supposedly a strong universal coalition of powerful females—excepting that their only purpose is to breed and be pretty, and their training seems to be focused entirely on overcoming “weak girly emotions.” Yeah, real strong there. I can just see the power oozing off of them. Also (what always pissed me off about the first chapter) the women, in their omniscient Bene Gesserit magical state, can only see “feminine” things. However, the man who will come save the universe can not only see masculine things, he can also see feminine things. This computes how exactly? Illogical.
3.) The main villain is a morbidly obese, homosexual pedophile. We can’t just have him be a bad man—damn it, you’re going know he’s a bad man because all fat people and homosexuals are certainly horribly. We’ll throw in the pedophile thing to make sure you get it.
4.) I hate all the characters. Every single one. That’s a lie. I love Gurney Halleck. He has motives I can care about, morals and reasoning that I can admire, and is a poet as well as a warrior. I haaaaaaaaaaate every other character and when they died, I cheered. When they were sad, I would write things like “oh, give me a break” in the margins. If they were trying to murder each other, I would simply get annoyed with the repetition of all their motives fifty times. I guess they had motives that made sense—I simply didn’t care about them. The characters were as alive as cardboard cutouts putting on a puppet show.
I do not, can not, and probably never will understand the appeal of this book to so many people for some many decades. I hate every bit of it. I suppose if I didn’t know that women don’t really think the way they do in this novel—i.e. if I were male and thought it possible that such apparently strong women actually did have such vapid consciousness—maybe I could enjoy it. But I doubt that even then I would give a damn about the plot or characters. The good news? I’VE READ IT!! This was the one and only major hurdle in my Hugo Project. And now it’s done. The rest should be a piece of cake.
If you have no opinions or thoughts of your own, by all means read this novel and enjoy the hell out of it. If you actually have a brain, I say don’t waste your time. There’s nothing here of real value or even interest. You can get a hell of a lot more out of other novels.
NOTE This novel tied for the Hugo in 1966 with Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal.