I started re-reading Dune with a friend of mine, Weird Enough, who is reading it for the first time. Thinking that I would compare what I thought of it before with how I feel about the book now was no good. I have completely forgotten the story! In a way, that is a good thing since I am unable to re-read books, if I remember the story too well.
One thought hit me as I started reading Dune — there is a confidence and certainty in the way Herbert writes. It lends the story and the universe that it is set in more credibility. As I read, I didn’t doubt whether such a place could exist. I knew it did!
Since we divided the book into several parts, this is an update about the parts that we have covered until now. The easiest way to point out which parts we read is through the “excerpts” that are given at the beginning of every chapter — if we can call them chapters.
As devices, these quotes are so clever! The reader knows the exact frame of the events that take place and yet do not have to sit through info dumps.
We started with:
A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad’Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad’Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.
–from “Manual of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan
and read till here:
Over the exit of the Arrakeen landing field, crudely carved as though with a poor instrument, there was an inscription that Muad’Dib was to repeat many times. He saw it that first night on Arrakis, having been brought to the ducal command post to participate in his father’s first full stage conference. The words of the inscription were a plea to those leaving Arrakis, but they fell with dark import on the eyes of a boy who had just escaped a close brush with death. They said: “O you who know what we suffer here, do not forget us in your prayers.”
—from “Manual of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan
A summary of what has happened until now:
- Paul is tested by the Reverend Mother, the leader of the Bene Gesserits.
- We meet the Atreides and their enemies, Harkonnens. 10, 000s of years ago, Harkonnens were stripped of their titles for showing cowardice in a war. That is just one of the reasons they hate the Atreides who took over and won the war.
- Atreides are being sent to the brutal desert planet, Arrakis, where the precious spice is mined.
- That the Emperor wants to see the house fall and Duke Leto has plans of his own to counter that.
- The Harkonnens have plotted the downfall of Atreides and they will be betrayed by Paul’s doctor, Yueh.
- The blame is to fall on Lady Jessica (Paul’s mother) who is a Bene Gesserit (BG).
- The BGs perform myth-seeding to keep their operatives safe and they have created a legend about Paul in Arrakis.
Here I found yet another book where the author jumps from POV to POV within a single scene! Herbert does this in a way that does not feel unnatural plus there’s the advantage of knowing what motivates multiple characters to behave in a certain way.
It is amazing that the author has the villains well defined right from the start. There is no dithering about who the bad guys are and yet it does not make the reading any less fun.
I found out that there was a re-read going on at Tor and in this second installment, the origins of the names and the various terms used in the book are discussed. You can read the whole thing over there, so I won’t be repeating it.
Reading the comments for the third installment on Tor led me to a comment where someone compared the Aes Sedai from the WoT series to the BGs in Dune. I think the fact that the BGs are constantly trying to make people think they are less smarter than they actually are makes them the exact opposite of the Aes Sedai!
The 4th installment brought this, which made me laugh:
The Harry Potter connection invites a mashup… with a villain referred to as “he who cannot be weighed”…
Some fun remarks about how Brian has ruined the Dune universe also made it into the comments, along with this comic:
If you are having trouble pronouncing any of the Arabic — and other — terms in the book, this guide can help. It includes sound bites in Herbert’s voice!
Weird Enough’s Musings
So, my book dealer and my office partner-in-crime, Midu, announced that we were going to do a buddy read. She wanted to re-read Dune, while I would be reading it for the first time. This is also my very first blog about a book review. It is going to be all over the place. You have been warned.
So let’s begin!
The first part of the book that we divided was from the beginning to just before the “chapter” starting with this quote:
“There is probably no more terrible instant of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man—with human flesh.”
—from “Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib” by Princess Irulan
Intriguing, no? There are no chapters in the book. Instead, each part starts with a “quote” retelling the tale from a historical aspect about Muad’Dib. The first part that struck me was the Arabic-esque setting and the language which included many words rooted in Arabic. (btw, Muad’Dib, in Arabic, means teacher).
The story starts by dumping you face-down into the mysterious grim setting. There is no forewarning. This, I admit, was a little unsettling at first, but I got used to it. Paul, the prince of the Atreides family, is our 15-year old protagonist. The Atreides family is packing up from their home in Caladan to move to Arrakis, the desert planet which harvests spice, the most valuable commodity. Paul’s mother, we find, is from the Bene Gesserit (at this point, all I could assume was that this is a sisterhood or a tribe with great power, plus they have Sherlock-like observation skills). The “Reverend Mother” is a mysterious old hag who comes over and “tests” Paul with a torture device. Paul passes the test (yaaaay!) and we have the old hag thinking about the possibility of Paul being the “Kwisatz Haderach” (I just assumed this is a prophetic being that the Bene Gesserit has been waiting for).
The next part reveals the people we are supposed to hate—the Harkonnens. And oh, the plotting! Nice! We also get to know about what a Mentat is—a cool-ass mercenary.
Later, the Atreides family reaches the Arrakis, and we learn about Paul’s teachers: Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat (a Mentat). Also about Dr. Yueh, who is being forced by the Harkonnens to betray the family. The first night at Arrakis, Paul is attacked. He only survives because he didn’t sleep as he was supposed to, and uses common sense to stay live. Smart kid.
Okay, so I really like Lady Jessica, Paul’s mother. In an interaction with a Freman woman (Arrakis native), I loved how she used the nuances of the conversation to take control of the conversation. Total badass!
The Duke Leto Atreides is a man stuck in the politics of the Houses, facing the evil Harkonnens on his own. He’s tired by all the shit. He’s also a leader who cares about the lives of his people—he actually sacrifices a whole stock of spices to save the workers who got stuck in the desert with the notorious desert worm. He’s going to die soon, poor sod.
So, that’s all for now. Overall, I’m really liking this book. I haven’t read something like this before, so it’s a refreshing read. The author really goes into detail about the politics, the geology and all other details that make this book seem so close to reality!