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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Dune - Frank Herbert

Had it not been for that concluding chapter, this book would've earned three stars. But that was quite a finale. The rest of the book was good, but it wasn't all I had hoped for. Yes, Frank Herbert was a good science fiction writer. Yes, he was excellent at building this world of Arrakis and the universe around it. And yes, this is by far better writing than the Dune prequels written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.


In spite of all that, Dune wasn't all I hoped it would be. The exposition drags too often, repeating the same tired phrases. Some of the characters are interesting in ways, but they also lack any semblance of real people with emotions or ability to change. Primarily, however, I was bothered by the lack of originality in the culture: the feudalism, the mysticism, the religion—all of these are a grab bag of earth history. I mean this is supposed to be like 22000 years in the future, right? Let's throw the comma in there, make it more clear: 22,000. Look back at the last 2,000 years of earth history, all that has changed. And in the next 20,000 years we're going to have dukes, and sword fights, and Catholicism, and the silencing of women spread across the galaxy? Maybe we should blow up this planet before it's too late.


Despite his lack of originality in areas, Herbert made up for it in other way. For the time, a period when sci-fi was dominated by green martians capturing earth's women with ray-guns, Dune was clearly something different. Modern science-fiction clearly emulates much from the world Herbert built in Dune. Herbert created a wonderfully complex world with the sandworms and the freman, the guild and so forth. And, he not only created a very intricate story here, but he was able to sustain it to the end.


So, overall, I felt Dune was a very middle of the road kind of novel. Not great. Not horrible. But all that story Herbert built up really does conclude in a dramatic fashion, and it is for this reason alone I have to give the novel a little more credit. It leaves me wondering what Herbert did in the following novels in the series, but I'll find that out once I get there. I do plan on reading on in the series if only out of curiosity.


Unfortunately, Herbert used the word “presently” on every other page, a pet peeve of mine. That alone may deter me from reading the whole series, but we'll see how much I can take. And if someone can please explain to me the use of the word presently, I would appreciate it. (For other authors who overuse the word “presently” see Shute, Nevil.)