If this is the gold standard against which all science fiction must measure and be judged, let's just blow our brains out right now and call it a day....moreIf this is the gold standard against which all science fiction must measure and be judged, let's just blow our brains out right now and call it a day.
As far as I can tell, Dune largely inspires two points of view. One marvels at its historical importance and world-building (unique, fascinating, complex, rich), and the other dislikes the stilted writing but does so apologetically because Frank Herbert couldn't help the fact that he wrote science fiction in the 1960s and that Edward Said hadn't done his thing yet.
Come on , people of the world. Linear models of progress don't apply to good writing. Frank Herbert can't write because he's a shitty writer, not because it was the 1960s. The dialogue is clunky and characters have endless internal monologues (in italics) that serve no purpose but to explain incredibly obvious plot points to the reader. This is an embarrassingly novice mistake.
The plot also lacks any element of surprise. Princess Irulan, oblivious to the concept of spoiler alerts, summarizes all major plot points in her historical vignettes which introduce every single chapter. We can't wonder about whether and how Jesus Christ Paul will become the messiah of the people because the princess has already told us before we've begun the book. We can't wonder about who the traitor in the Atreides house is because Princess Irulan's vignette is all like "Yueh! Yueh! A million deaths were not enough for Yueh!"
And then there's the world-building. It is So. Fucking. Lazy. Half the words are lifted from Arabic and Arab Fremen culture is the result of a scavenger rampage through Islamic concepts, scraps of Buddhism, and Frank Hebert's Orientalist curiosities all cobbled together into a cringe-inducing whole. The main subject of this book, the sand niggers Fremen, have been in the desert for thousands of years, border on religious fanaticism, and haven't changed a bit over time. They pray salat, conserve water (because hello, desert), and wait for their white savior Paul to bring them out into the light (or into the shade, as it were). They frequently declare Muslim-sounding things in bastardized Arabic and are very upset because the Imperial forces are preventing them from doing Haj. It's unclear how the Imperial forces have blocked all outbound flights to Saudi Arabia, but we'll take it on faith. There was a jihad situation, like, hundreds of years ago but it was apparently a jihad against computers? I don't know. The ragheads Fremen also do this thing where two men will fight to the death and the winner will take the dead man's woman as his wife or his servant.
Given the history of the U.S., I think it's hilarious that a book full of racism, imperialism, and misogyny was considered groundbreaking in the 1960s.
The other thing that makes this book unreadable is Frank Herbert's I-Tarzan-You-Jane approach to gender:
“There is in each of us an ancient force that takes and an ancient force that gives. A man finds little difficulty facing that place within himself where the taking force dwells, but it’s almost impossible for him to see into the giving force without changing into something other than man. For a woman, the situation is reversed … The greatest peril to the Giver is the force that takes. The greatest peril to the Taker is the force that gives."
Man has the mighty penis. Mighty penis does the thrusting action. Woman has the sacred hole. Sacred hole is warm and open for mighty penis penetration. Thanks for clearing that up, Frank.
Male and female characters in this book align nicely with Frank's pole-in-hole view of the world. The men do the war because the penis. The women do the manipulation and mind control because the vagina. They are either wives or concubines, and having children is of utmost important. Man and his woman sometimes have tender conversations about all of this. Observe:
"[Paul] began tightening his still suit. "You told me once the words of Kitab al-Ibar," he said. "You told me: 'Woman is thy field; go then to thy field and till it.'"
"I am the mother of thy firstborn," she agreed."
Anyway, let's talk some more about Paul, our white messiah. When he's taking a break from tilling his fields, he's busy being a cartoon hero. He has no flaws. Like, none. He sees everything, understands everything, knows the future, and every word out of his mouth is prophetic and vaguely Shakespearean. This is the kind of shit he says:
[Re. aforementioned penis/vagina theory]
""And you, my son," Jessica asked, "are you one who gives or one who takes?"
"I'm at the fulcrum," he said. "I cannot give without taking and I cannot take without [giving].""
You're SIXTEEN, bitch. Sit down and shut the fuck up. Nobody cares.
Opposite the cartoon hero is the cartoon villain. He's really, really evil. He wakes up evil, goes to bed evil, and all the time in the middle, he has evil conversations and evil thoughts. Many of his evil thoughts are in italics so we know EXACTLY where the story is headed because plot twists are also evil and will not be tolerated. Please note, he is also fat as fuck and eats a lot. Also, he's a big homo. And the homo's a pedo.
I really have nothing more to say. I AM glad I took the time to wade through this shitstorm of misogyny and orientalism. You can't read sci-fi and not have read Dune. I always suspected I might hate it, but at least now I have proof. (less)
Whut? Wow. What the...? Wow. Just -- wow. Ok. Let me try to be coherent.
This is a book about a dude named Guy. (Which makes sense because Ray is a ma...moreWhut? Wow. What the...? Wow. Just -- wow. Ok. Let me try to be coherent.
This is a book about a dude named Guy. (Which makes sense because Ray is a man. Yes, he is a MAN. A manly man. None of that girly shit, none of that dickless half of the population. No. Ray is a MAN. And you know what men have? DICKS. He is a MAN with a DICK who writes books about OTHER MEN AND THEY HAVE DICKS TOO, goddammit. You understand me? Men and boys. And BOYHOOD. But that's a different book by him I just recently read so ignore this.)
Anyway this dude named Guy is a fireman in a dystopian future where firemen find houses that have Books in them, burn down said Books, along with the houses and people in them. They do this because books are a threat to television and headphones and evil technology and my god the soullessness of modernity WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. (I am not making this up.) Guy loves his job. Then he meets this girl named Clarissa who might be the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl (since this book was what, written in the 1950s or some shit). Clarissa has the face of "fragile milk crystal" (I am not making this up) and an incoherent conversation with Guy about the smell of kerosene, jet cars, cows, and grass. Clarissa, now having served her purpose as one of two dickless characters in the book (the other being dude Guy's suicidal wife) gets run over by a truck and promptly dies. Guy is like, holy fucking shit-sticks Clarissa HAS OPENED MY EYES: I should read books, not burn them. So he does. (Or at least I think he does? My projectile vomit chunks were obscuring the text.) Anyway so he reads books and tries to tell other people to read books but then The Government is all like WHAT THE FUCK NO and they send a giant robot dog after him, but he escapes into the woods and joins a pack of reading renegades.
I'm not sure what, if anything, happens after that. The most painful thing about reading this book (other than the freakishly bad plot) is that the AUTHOR'S MESSAGE is being rammed so far up your ass on every single page that if you make it to 157, you won't be able to walk for a week.
If the literary sodomy wasn't bad enough, there's the jaw-clenchingly awful overblown prose. Here's an example in which Ray is trying to tell the reader that Guy stopped smiling: "He felt his smile slide away, melt, fold over and down on itself like a tallow skin, like the stuff of a fantastic candle burning too long and now collapsing and now blown out. Darkness." Dude. Seriously? HE STOPPED SMILING. Get over it. Scarily enough, this is one of the less ragingly horrible examples. The entire book is rife with this kind of thing. Sentences that go on for hours, for days, up a hill, down a hill, and you're so confused and tired by the time you get to the period that you've forgotten what the fuck the whole thing was about in the first place.
Anyway whatever. I tried to ride the ray-train. This book sucked my balls.(less)
It is very, very difficult to take a book seriously when the alien enemy race haunting humanity is called -- the buggers. THE BUGGERS. Yes. A little b...moreIt is very, very difficult to take a book seriously when the alien enemy race haunting humanity is called -- the buggers. THE BUGGERS. Yes. A little bit of research on Orson after finishing this book revealed that he's a raging homophobe. So in hindsight, the buggers thing makes more sense. Anyhoo, this book is vastly overrated. It's very readable, but there are basically two or three shining moments buried in pages of mediocrity.(less)
I really can't recommend this book highly enough. It's hilarious and heart-breaking. It's also incredibly realistic which sounds silly given the premi...moreI really can't recommend this book highly enough. It's hilarious and heart-breaking. It's also incredibly realistic which sounds silly given the premise: melodramatic 16 year old in futuristic world falls in love with a robot. But that's sci-fi/fantasy at it's best -- one big metaphor for what is and what can be. (less)
If you're an early teen, this is a great introduction to the post-9/11 surveillance state. If you're an adult and you think this book is genius, that'...moreIf you're an early teen, this is a great introduction to the post-9/11 surveillance state. If you're an adult and you think this book is genius, that's dismaying at best. (less)
in my whole life, i've never read a book where i haven't understood the plot from the first sentence to the last. this book is mind-boggling. it's inc...morein my whole life, i've never read a book where i haven't understood the plot from the first sentence to the last. this book is mind-boggling. it's incoherent. it will make you feel like an idiot because apparently, there are people in the world who not only get the plot, but LOVE it. (less)