When people ask me what my favorite book is, Dune is always my answer. Words cannot even do justice to what an epic tale this is. We learn about spiri...moreWhen people ask me what my favorite book is, Dune is always my answer. Words cannot even do justice to what an epic tale this is. We learn about spirituality, human nature, politics, religion, and the making of a hero.
I loved the spiritual aspects of the book the best. The philosophies and practices and Pranu Bindu training of the Bene Gesserit that Paul learns and builds upon. The Bene Gesserit believe in a training regiment that results in a superior human being - one with every sense as refined as possible. This means a focus on learning, on controlling emotion, on controlling your body.
My absolute favorite quote from Dune is the Bene Gesserit litany against fear:
The litany is meant to be recited when you are in a moment of fear, and as I first read Dune 20 years ago, I've employed it many times. After Paul employs it when he is fighting Jamis, the affect on him is described as "a cool bath washing over him. He felt muscles untie themselves, become poised and ready." I have read a lot about people who perform at high levels - whether it be in athletics or business, and success is all about getting into that zen state where you have a clear, focused mind. Fear is the biggest thing that can cloud one's mind - usually fear of failure, but there are other forms too. While this Litany won't always eliminate it, I've felt it to be useful to recognize the fear and call it out for what it is.
There is also a focus in the book on being able to read people by paying attention to the minutia. In many crucial scenes we see Paul and Jessica and others employing this skill, using not only their eyes, but reading the tone of what a person says, what their body language or actions say, and more. Imagine the poker player I could be if I learned these skills!
It's interesting to me that so many science fiction novels contemplate a future with AI (aka post-singularity). In Dune, the Butlerian Jihad was the human rebellion to rid itself of AI or "thinking machines". They are now banned, and in their place we have Mentats, who are humans with processing powers far greater than any thinking machine. It's unclear to the software engineer in me how exactly that could be without some sort of physical manipulation (insertion of massive amounts of transistors, for instance), but the affect is pretty cool, we get Spock-esque beings who analyze everything extremely logically, and are great at political planning "feints within feints within feints".
There was a lot in the book about leadership. It started with Paul first learning about it from his Father, and also from the Bene Gesserit. This quote stood out to me:
Much has been made in modern reviews of Dune of the fact that it's clearly a statement about oil and the Middle East. The book even admits the Fremen are of Sunni descent, and many words they use (Jinn, Jihad, etc) are Arabic. I'm not sure I understand all the undertones, but one thing that was clear was about control of the worlds most precious commodity: "The people who can destroy a thing, they control it." I hope we are closing in on the end of the days when oil controls so much, but we aren't there yet. In the meantime, we had best beware of any future Harkonnen's. (less)
I read this in high school, and it was one of my favorite's at the time. I just re-read it as the movie is out, and was glad to see it's still one of...moreI read this in high school, and it was one of my favorite's at the time. I just re-read it as the movie is out, and was glad to see it's still one of my favorites. Ender is pretty much just badass. The military strategy and leadership is actually one of my favorite things about this book.
The notion that Ender was set apart from the other kids as an intentional tactic to make him into a leader was always fascinating to me. In many ways I can relate to it. Ender's story is one of leadership, and leaders often have to balance empathy with big picture priorities. His older brother was too harsh and lacked empathy - but Ender is the perfect balance.
One of the key ways Ender keeps winning is by being aggressive and proactive, rather than reactive. Both with the bullies, in war games, and with the buggers, he takes them out before they have the chance to take him out:
Sometimes you just need a quick fun book. I read this over Easter weekend, and loved every second. I loved the movie too, but the book was better.
Thi...moreSometimes you just need a quick fun book. I read this over Easter weekend, and loved every second. I loved the movie too, but the book was better.
This book really wasn't intellectual, but it did make one interesting point. In the book you can only vote if you have gone through and graduated from military training. This prevents the uneducated and uncommitted citizens from voting. While this is a bit extreme, I might be of the opinion that there should be some more barriers to voting (like a standardized test). Otherwise our elections end up being a marketing contest. Name recognition is huge in marketing - would W have won otherwise? Would Hilary have a chance?(less)
Great book. A sci-fi classic. The fact that Gibson wrote this in 1984 is very impressive, as he makes many predictions that seem like they are coming...moreGreat book. A sci-fi classic. The fact that Gibson wrote this in 1984 is very impressive, as he makes many predictions that seem like they are coming true (was that a prediction?).(less)
I really enjoyed this book. The concept of a man who had grown up on Mars and never seen another human until he was in his twenties is such a fun idea...moreI really enjoyed this book. The concept of a man who had grown up on Mars and never seen another human until he was in his twenties is such a fun idea - and a rich canvas. Watching Mike try to grok humans gave a Heinlein great opportunities to point out some of faults - and our advantages.
I think my favorite part of this book is the word 'grok'. I would bet that there are deep discussions over the true meaning of this word - but I will contend that its closest meaning in English is 'to be enlightened about something'. If you grok God you have reached enlightenment. If you grok music you truly understand in the way that Mozart understood it. If you grok another person you love them. If you grok programming then you truly love and are really good at programming - that, and you're also a probably a pretty big nerd for using a word like 'grok' :) I used it in front of my girlfriend and she still hasn't forgiven me, since I had to explain that it was "a Martian word"!
One thing that I grokked (yes I'm going to keep using it dammit) after finishing this book is that it is kind of a 60's manifesto for free love. I wasn't alive in the 60's, but given everything I know about the 60's from movies, books, etc it seemed that my grokking was right.(less)
Seven amazing stories. Each one you think can't possibly top the last, and then it does. We never really get to understand what is up with the Time To...moreSeven amazing stories. Each one you think can't possibly top the last, and then it does. We never really get to understand what is up with the Time Tombs - guess I have to keep reading. But the strength of each of these stories is worth it. One of the best books I've read in a while.