Man of Two Worlds may be the worst book signed by Frank Herbert that I've ever read. It features that nasty '50s newsroom trope, where single minded eMan of Two Worlds may be the worst book signed by Frank Herbert that I've ever read. It features that nasty '50s newsroom trope, where single minded egotistical people (sometimes to the point of cruelty) get a pass because they are brilliant and they talk fast (and they own the newspaper). The characters are unsympathetic and rather not interesting, while the ideas in the book are dull and going nowhere. The plot itself is often inconsistent. I do suspect that this is more of a Brian than a Frank book, because none of the themes found in previous Frank Herbert books are found here (if one discounts the awkward depiction of women). Also the tiny Wikipedia page dedicated to the book lists Brian as the main author.
In short, the story is about a human and an alien merging accidentally and having to work together to get things done. Kind of like the authors were trying to do, huh? The setting is classic '50s sci-fi, with people living on Mars and Venus and going from planet to planet using vehicles that function like normal airlines, only in space. Meanwhile, the aliens are trying to destroy Earth because they fear humans - not sure how that would work since they already live on other planets, and the humans have their own familial issues to resolve - including an uncle with god-like powers but no apparent care about the outcome of anything he does.
There are many issues with the book that I am not going to go into. I almost did not finish it. However, someone else might enjoy it, so no need to rant in this review. Suffice to say that the book feels insulting when it is not boring, which is most of the time. I don't recommend it....more
Imagine reading a novel about a global pandemic with the background of Irish violence right about when Covid struck and people didn't know how Brexit Imagine reading a novel about a global pandemic with the background of Irish violence right about when Covid struck and people didn't know how Brexit was going to turn out and what it would do to Irish tensions. That was the best moment to read it. A bit anachronistic, with some pacing issues, The White Plague is still one of Frank Herbert's best.
After reading the book synopsis, one expects to get a book about a violent global pandemic, but in fact that's just the first quarter of the book. The rest is psychological explorations of people motivations and characters, the ubiquitous Herbert attempts to find a solution to the toxic human organizational structures, analysis of history, violence, religion and philosophy. I mean, it's Herbert!
A violent "Provo" bombing kills the wife and daughters of a molecular biologist that was in Ireland on vacation. He goes mad and creates a plague to destroy the people who wronged him by killing their women. I can't but smile at the implications, that if a smart educated scientist gets pissed off they could easily cause more damage than the toys and sticks of military people. The theme reminds me of his short story Public Hearing, which explores what happens when immense destructive power can be achieved with little effort by individuals, and how that makes governments - the keepers of peace - obsolete.
But then there is the larger part of the book that is just the guy walking in the Irish countryside with a priest, a mute child and an IRA member that was actually the one who ordered the bomb that killed his wife. And to tell you the truth, the scientist is not very sympathetic, the IRA soldier is annoying and the priest and the child are unbearable. The ideas that the author is analyzing are interesting, but the pacing is slow, methodical, and perhaps the reason why more people haven't heard of this book.
And there is the usual strangeness of Herbert's approach to female characters. There is just one, really, in this book, and she comes across as stupid, vain but also calculatingly self serving, while still having men fawning over her. That in a story which covers the death of most women on Earth. The guy didn't like women much.
Anyway, if you take anything from this review, is that together with Hellstrom's Hive and of course the Dune series, this is one of the books that impacted me most. ...more
McKie again saves the world, while at the same time getting some intense nookie. He is Frank Herbert's James Bond, the guy who can outthink everybody,McKie again saves the world, while at the same time getting some intense nookie. He is Frank Herbert's James Bond, the guy who can outthink everybody, adapt to any situation and still look cool and positive while doing it. To be fair, I enjoyed The Dosadi Experiment quite a lot, perhaps because and not despite the air of interplanetary secret agent idea. I liked it more than Whipping Star, the first book in this universe, which had the handicap of having to establish it first. Also, because most of that was a human trying to understand a Caleban, which was not terribly exciting. This book explores a planet used as a (unlawful) social experiment and what the result of that experiment was.
There is something I both like and despise in Herbert's writing. He weaves different captivating stories and worlds from the same pieces. So you get the stagnating civilization, malignant government and various explorations of solutions to solve the problem, you get the very rational yet emotionally immature male heroes and the amazing and terrifying women that they stumble upon, the idea of terrible pressure shaping civilizations and individuals alike into extraordinary form, the people reaching higher levels of awareness and saying or understanding the precise best things that could have been said or understood. There is even a Gom Jabbar in this.
In fact, some of his books remind me of chess games. And one might enjoy chess games immensely, but after a certain level you just don't get if they are brilliant or complete shit. It's the same with The Dosadi Experiment, where everybody begins seeing the world in the Dosadi way, speak in the Dosadi way, think in the Dosadi way, but you never understand what that is, other than a form of psychopathic focus on power games.
I believe that, given more time, Herbert could have shaped the ConSentiency Universe into something really unique, not as dry (pardon the pun) as Dune, not as depressing as Pandora, something that would combine the mind games and social analysis that he loved with good fun and great creative ideas. Alas, other than a couple of short stories, that's all we get for this intriguing world building.
Bottom line: a little more lighthearted than most Herbert books, featuring more action, but still having the distinctive attributes one would expect from the author. I liked it, but it wasn't as memorable as the books I really like from him....more
One of my favorite Frank Herbert books and one that is not part of a series, Hellstrom's Hive is horrifying and inspiring in equal measure. I don't knOne of my favorite Frank Herbert books and one that is not part of a series, Hellstrom's Hive is horrifying and inspiring in equal measure. I don't know why so few people mention reading it, probably because the ending is a bit weak, or maybe because of the touchy subject, but I loved it.
The idea is quite simple, although as usual with Herbert, the underlying motifs are subtle and powerful. An unnamed and probably illegal secret organization, possibly an arm of the corporate world rather than government, discovers by accident something suspicious about a farm, owned by a guy named Hellstrom. There, they discover an unnamed and probably illegal secret organization, a group of people who hide from the world their own brand of civilization, inspired by insects.
You can immediately see that the two organizations are juxtaposed for effect. Which one, if any, is the good one and which one is not? Are the relatively moral agents of the first group better than the mindless drones of the second? What about if they execute their orders without thought of consequences? Are the ecosystem aware, science and reason oriented, efficiency focused godless denizens of the hive abominations or are they the way of the future, the solution to humanity's rapaciousness? Could people accept such a radically different way to live, even if it doesn't affect them?
As many of Herbert's creations, the book touches some recurring themes: the inevitable evil of government, the importance of focusing with mind and soul towards the betterment of individuals and the human species in general, the chemical, sexual and instinctual drives at the root of behavior, the power of ritualistic fanaticism, the danger in wanting too much or getting complacent and so on. In a way, this is a revisiting of the ideas from The Santaroga Barrier, only better.
I was dreading reading this book, I have to admit, because I was remembering the big impact it had on me when I read it in my childhood and I was afraid that it would be anachronistic, that it would feel stupid and unrealistic. I am happy to report that it did not. I mean, yeah, it does portray a story happening in the 70's, but it is realistic for those times and it could be adapted to the present with minimal changes. I don't know why no one attempted to put it on a screen. It's a captivating story....more
The Godmakers is one of Frank Herbert's weaker books. It was cobbled together from four previous short stories and it shows, as the various parts of The Godmakers is one of Frank Herbert's weaker books. It was cobbled together from four previous short stories and it shows, as the various parts of the book go into wildly different directions. The first part was interesting, the idea of an organization dedicated to uncovering (and totally destroying) any tendency of a civilization to go to war; it feels like a police procedural of sorts. But then the book loses focus, goes into an incoherent and incomplete "god making" plot, then veers into Herbert's latent fear of women and some weird conspiracies that make little sense.
The book is short, so one can get through it really fast, but I won't recommend it. It does have bits of Herbert brilliant insights, but they are more like a few diamonds in a lot of rough....more
Another short standalone book from Frank Herbert, The Santaroga Barrier feels a lot like a longwinded Wicker Man. An outsider comes to investigate a Another short standalone book from Frank Herbert, The Santaroga Barrier feels a lot like a longwinded Wicker Man. An outsider comes to investigate a strange little town where people keep to themselves, refuse to sell land to outsiders and show weird social statistics, like no mental illness, no drugs, no TVs and show a weird directness in everything they do or say. The book shares a lot of its DNA with the later Hellstrom's Hive, which I remember I liked a lot as a child and can't wait to get to read it, in the sense that it also examines a society which splintered from main culture in disgust and now is fighting with the entire world to maintain its identity. It also features a substance that frees consciousness and prolongs life, a concept that sounds familiar somehow...
Around the middle of the book I expected it to end, but instead it lasted for much longer, even after "the catch" was revealed, because Herbert was probably interested in examining such a weird society rather than be content with a pedestrian focus on a cardboard main character. The author likens the way we live our lives in the Western society with a constant battle against marketers, advertisers, government people and so on who wage war on our psyche in order to pacify and control us. He decries the people who never live a life, instead they watch TV, they turn it off then they go to sleep and turn themselves off.
I liked the book quite a lot. There are issues with it, though. I mentioned the slow pacing, but there is also a romantic connection to a woman which feels completely fake the entire book. Say whatever you wish about Herbert, but a good writer of female characters he was not. I can see this story as a Twilight Zone episode, it feels the same: a bit spooky, but not too much, with some really deep ideas in parts, but mostly people talking and moving through small towns....more
The Heaven Makers is a short novel, but which encapsulates the essence of another facet of Frank Herbert, his cruelty. He is able to do what few auth The Heaven Makers is a short novel, but which encapsulates the essence of another facet of Frank Herbert, his cruelty. He is able to do what few authors can: to write compelling empathetic characters, then completely ignore their importance or feelings in order to tell stories bigger than any of them. It was thus with Dune, and yes Pandora, although I hated that series. Most authors are either in love with their characters and can't get the story right because it would inconvenience their infatuation, others are sadistic torturers of their characters in order to get a cheap thrill. Some manage to get trough by telling a personal story, one they can't change much and which they know exactly how it felt. I believe that Herbert is neither of these. His characters are not incidental to the story, but neither are they the pillars of the plot. He uses them like others would write about chairs or the weather.
This book is about an alien abduction and, indeed, it plays like that for most of its length. Only to then clobber the reader with a deep deep philosophical musing about the meaning of life, the value of death and both the insignificance and paramount importance of the individual in relationship with society and eternity. The style is quite archaic, the setup something that feels from the 50s rather than the end of the 60s, the small American town, the slice of life that one might imagine many American authors to write about. And yet, Herbert's unique way of thinking rises like a giant even in this book which seemingly is a serialized work for a magazine.
I mentioned the style, which is sometimes hard to swallow, but there are several other things that make this book less than it could have been. The characters are really, really weird. Forget the aliens. The people Herbert describes feel autistic, the world they live in small, limited and petty. They are not bad characters or formulaic, they're just nuts.
Bottom line: I think the book is a must read for a Frank Herbert fan, but it is neither his best or his worst work. A patchwork of deep philosophy and poor worldbuilding, great ideas and caricaturesque characters, it is short enough to be read quickly and enjoyed for the brilliant bits in it....more
Woohoo! Done with Pandora! It was a ridiculous series that almost didn't feel like having any continuity. The origin book was about a small crew on a Woohoo! Done with Pandora! It was a ridiculous series that almost didn't feel like having any continuity. The origin book was about a small crew on a starship, then the trilogy that followed felt like a completely different beast, with each of the books in it different from each other, as well. Was there a common thread? I guess the evolution of humanity, but unlike something like Dune, the Pandora Sequence was random, cruel, overly pompous, with pointless religious overtones that went nowhere and with inconsistent characters. Worst of all, the ending of all of the books came out of nowhere, nullifying the meaning of most of the beginning.
The Ascension Factor is like that, as well. We start with a world ruthlessly ruled by a man just 25 years after the events of the previous book where things were left off with a society that was building spaceships to get to the hibernation pods in orbit. And now it's a quasifeudal fiefdom in which people are controlled with fear, surveillance and famine. When the authors need technology, it's suddenly there, when they need people to be poor and starving, they scramble to have a line to throw in illegally in the sea to catch a fish. I guess in a way that's plausible, considering I am complaining about this on a laptop after having read the book on a smartphone and knowing that there are people in the world somewhere living in abject poverty, but Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom want me to believe this happens at the same time with the same people. And the ending, oh God, should be the textbook definition of Deus ex machina!
Bottom line: I thoroughly disliked the three main books of the "sequence" and I couldn't wait to finish them. Now I did! I have no explanation on how I ended up remembering this series as good reading it 30 years ago....more
In Dune, Frank Herbert had a certain pattern of trilogy storytelling: a book that built the world and introduced some characters in a more traditionalIn Dune, Frank Herbert had a certain pattern of trilogy storytelling: a book that built the world and introduced some characters in a more traditional way, so something to hook you in, then a connective book that would upend the order set up in the first book, then a third which would tell the actual story that needed telling. This inevitably led to people enjoying just some of the books and created this up-and-down kind of level of quality. You can see something similar in the Pandora series, but the books are just so confusingly different from each other that one can barely consider them part of the same universe.
The first actual book (which is numbered 0.5 for some reason, perhaps because it's not happening on Pandora) was about building an AI on a starship. The next book was about an omnipotent starship acting like a god to the poor people of Pandora, forcing genetic mutations, cultural and personal behaviors and demanding worship. And now this one, The Lazarus Effect, where Ship is gone and all you get is a kind of whodunnit with a limited cast of characters on the now aquatic world of Pandora. I can already tell you that the last book starts from a completely different point and going in another direction than what the ending of this one left off.
And then there is the quality of the books. I kept very favorable memories of these books from my childhood when I first read them, but now I realize it was probably either a phase in which I understood and enjoyed a lot more than this one, or (more likely) I was nostalgic for the hours and hours of playing the Civilisation-like video game Alpha Centauri which was inspired by Pandora. Short story long: Other than Destination: Void, which I thought was kind of heavy but I enjoyed a lot, all the other books feel … empty of pleasure. There is nothing to make you, as a reader, feel good while reading them. No characters are fleshed out enough to empathize and they are often unlikeable anyway. The world, biologically, ecologically or socio-politically, is rather basic and uninteresting. Perhaps at the time of its writing it was an amazingly fresh universe, but now it just feels like Waterworld and Pandora (from Avatar this time) mashed together by Chinese filmmakers. All of those elements are fun taken separately, but together they're just a mess.
As for this book, I think one can get into the correct mindset to understand and maybe appreciate The Jesus Incident, even if I couldn't now, but The Lazarus Effect has almost no redeeming qualities. It is just boring and uninteresting, slogging towards a predictable ending. It took me ages to finish it because I just found other things to do rather than read it. I am now grinding through the last book and I can't wait to get rid of it....more
I already said while reviewing Destination: Void that I did not like the direction the story was going in the end, so it should be no surprise that I I already said while reviewing Destination: Void that I did not like the direction the story was going in the end, so it should be no surprise that I didn't like The Jesus Incident. A book filled with religious allegory and heavy philosophy about the definition of being human and the essence of religious worship and violence, it was so heavy that I had to make a lot of effort to finish it. I am going to go ahead and assume I didn't really understand it, but the important thing is that I didn't enjoy it. It was like all of the pretentious stuff from Dune got concentrated in Pandora and expanded upon by the contribution of Bill Ransom.
It's funny that as I was preparing to read the series again, my memories of it from my early teens were corrupted by my own desires, mixed up with Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, muddled by all I have read since. I know feel betrayed, because I really liked the Pandora series when I was a child and now I wonder if I have gotten dumb with age or if I just didn't get what I was reading back then to the point that I hallucinated a whole new narrative and feel.
So in the previous book a crew of clones on a generation ship construct an artificial consciousness. Because it is fully aware, it is also God-like, controlling space, time and reality. From the book it's not clear how exactly it did it, but, thus equipped, Ship accomplishes its mission to bring its human clone cargo to a habitable planet in the Alpha Centauri system by switching/constructing different realities until a habitable planet exists there. This leads to many histories, many Earths, many types of humans. Or it could have just created the planet out of nothing, then ran some extra realities for fun, although this doesn't explain why the planet was so hostile to a typical human population and makes the existing lifeforms its direct invention and responsibility. Anyway, once there, Ship acts like an omnipotent god, interfering when it feels like it, demanding WorShip and declining to interfere when it suits it, by invoking vague snobby principles that it makes up on the spot or it derives from histories that it otherwise keeps hidden from the human population. Somehow Jesus is involved in all of this, although for the life of me I couldn't see what the connection was.
Bottom line: I almost hated this book. And it has so many of Herbert's obsessive ideas in it: religion, politics, ecology, evolution of humanity. As much as I respect Frank Herbert as a writer (so much that I am in the middle of rereading all of his books) I have to subjectively review this book alone, and for that I will probably rate it under average....more
I will be frank (pun not intended) and say that this book shocked me with how good it is. It is not very accessible, as it is fairly philosophical andI will be frank (pun not intended) and say that this book shocked me with how good it is. It is not very accessible, as it is fairly philosophical and technical - and the technical side may be a lot of mumbo jumbo, but I think this book shows what Frank Herbert was capable of at the height of his prowess.
In short, Destination: Void is about a crew of four people on a disabled ship who need to construct an artificial intelligence in order to save the ship and their lives. There is only one snag: no one has managed to successfully build an AI that didn't end up disastrous. Here you have to accept a concept without which the book will not work: that an ultimately conscious entity has full access to the universe, giving them godly powers. This is not only a book about building a computer system, but a philosophical dissection of what consciousness is, what is intelligence, how the human mind works and should we, when building mechanical intelligence, even follow that design as a model.
This book features many of the brand Herbert ideas: the deeply meaningful thoughts, conversations and actions between an isolated group of people, the inner thought voiced in the writing, the declared and hidden agendas of people, the oppressive society that uses immoral methods to get to its goals, the great potential of human beings that can only be unleashed by extreme circumstances, the religious and sexual components of human drive, the archetypal roles of the characters, etc. And the insane pacing puts those ideas even more into terrifying focus.
Again, I was amazed by this book, all but the ending. I would have loved an entire series following the spirit of most of it, unfortunately the next three books go in a completely different direction: the nature of godhood. Perhaps that is why this is not considered the first book in the "sequence", but book 0.5, because if the next ones focus on a god, this one focuses on building one. Or perhaps because Pandora is not even part of the story here....more
Frank Herbert's writing feels paradoxical to me, as he examines the minutiae of individual characters or particular scenes, yet his main focus always Frank Herbert's writing feels paradoxical to me, as he examines the minutiae of individual characters or particular scenes, yet his main focus always remains on the situation as a whole. His heroes are worlds entire, with people just instruments of inevitable evolution or death. The Eyes of Heisenberg might be Herbert's alternative to Zamyatin's We or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The same oppressive dystopia of clinical control of society, the rebels, the groups of people vying for control and/or survival, the epic sweeping finale. Yet, where a central protagonist was the focus of those books, this one refuses to hold any one person to a rank high enough to outshine all of the others.
Imagine a world ruled by Optimen, immortal people living in their own bubble of beliefs and absolute power, served by the Folk, cloned and genetically engineered people destined for a centuries life of predetermined work, yet still mortal, rarely rewarded for their servitude with the permission to procreate. The world has become this after a terrible war between Optimen and cyborgs, in which the Optimen prevailed. A couple of young parents come to the clinic for the "cutting", where the embryo is examined, genetically manipulated against flaws, then put in a growing vat. But this embryo is special! A race between several groups of people is on to hide, preserve, destroy or use it as bait.
You know that I don't usually describe the book plot in that much detail for fear of spoiling the story, but in this case I feel it is warranted, as The Eyes of Heisenberg is so full of technobabble it takes great effort to start reading it. Once the names and who is who are clear, the book is easy to read, but the beginning of the book... ugh! Especially since genetics wasn't really developed at the time, and all of the futuristic mumbo jumbo is obviously bull.
I really liked the idea of the story. Herbert always had great imaginative ideas that were not limited by his ability to express them. He will spend as much time or explanation for any detail or person as he needs, then sweep them over like they never mattered just a bit later. The idea was always first! It took me some time to realize this, but Herbert always rushes the endings. He builds this incredible set of worlds and then, at the very end, he gets impatient and does it over with. It's not as bad as Peter F. Hamilton, but it's there. I guess it takes a lot of determination and planning to keep a consistent pace throughout a book.
I am sure you will be curious to know if this book, published in 1966, just a year after Dune (together with two other novels), is anything like the book that made Herbert famous. It does. People are cloned in axolotl tanks, organizations form around their approach to the solution of life: technical minded cyborgs, sterile immortals manipulating genes, couriers developing humanistic methods of communication and analysis. Some of the inner thoughts put on page, the tool that made me fall in love with Dune in the first place, is there. There is also that permeating generic idea of the strong coupling between environment and life. Somehow I want Herbert to come back and write books in the Starcraft or Alien universes, I am sure he would have loved those worlds.
Bottom line: not a perfect book and feeling a bit dated - note that I did compare it with work written three or four decades before - but still entertaining and evocative of Herbert's general ideas and style. Pandora is coming next, all four books....more
1966 was a prolific year for Frank Herbert. A year before he had published Dune and now he won a Hugo for it, he published the first book of the Pando1966 was a prolific year for Frank Herbert. A year before he had published Dune and now he won a Hugo for it, he published the first book of the Pandora series, The Eyes of Heisenberg and the book I am reviewing now: The Green Brain. It features a lot of the recurrent ideas of ecology versus politics, how the environment defines and shapes life, including people, warnings about the human abuse of nature and the deeper interactions between people - complete with inner thoughts, Dune-style.
However, the book feels rough. The plot is immediately revealed by both title and early scenes, the female character is pretty much a joke and, while the premise is great, the execution is rather bland, for example with characters that appear in some chapters then are completely forgotten, and most of it is a pointless trip through a jungle. I liked it, but I can't but feel that it was something that was partially written in the past and got published only because Dune was a hit.
I can only recommend it for Herbert fans, because analyzed by its own it's pretty average and has a lot of unfulfilled potential....more
The Dragon in the Sea could have been a story about real life submariners as, other than a few details really, the novel is barely science fantasy. ThThe Dragon in the Sea could have been a story about real life submariners as, other than a few details really, the novel is barely science fantasy. The story is about a near future in which the West and the East are in an eternal Cold War where no one trusts anyone because of deeply embedded sleeper agents and where conflict is fought in the ocean between sophisticated nuclear submarines over underwater oil reserves. Places like the British Isles have been nuked into oblivion and the big prize is bringing home petrol syphoned from the other side.
The entire action of the book happens in such a submarine, tasked to go through enemy lines and extract oil from a hidden reserve. There are no chapters, just one long and action filled story. Yet the focus is not so much on the world or the technology, although both are described pretty well, but on the characters, on why and how they function, on what such a prolonged and tense conflict can do to people's psyche. The main character is indeed a psychologist, while also an electronics specialist, in a crew of four - including the captain.
The careful analysis of character motivation and inner thoughts is reminiscent of Dune, but also the idea of global conflict over a finite resource affecting the entire ecology and sociology of the planet and extreme peril changing people to their core. Ten years before Frank Herbert was publishing Dune, its seeds were clearly already planted.
To me it was a fascinating read. It was one nonstop trip filled with danger, but the author was clearly interested in how the characters were functioning under extreme stress and how it translated at a very visceral and atavistic level. It was a combination of action and psychoanalysis, still a bit unpolished, but deep and insightful. I liked how Herbert hinted at what the world had come to by just placing a few crumbs of information in an otherwise uninterrupted sub adventure. Imagine Das Boot, but with a socioeconomic and psychological message in it. I liked it!...more
Unpublished Stories is a collection of 13 short stories written by Frank Herbert and never published during his lifetime, only two of them sci-fi, wh Unpublished Stories is a collection of 13 short stories written by Frank Herbert and never published during his lifetime, only two of them sci-fi, which was published in 2016. One can see the focus of Herbert on the characters, on their motivations and their inner thoughts, the way their actions affect the whole.
The collection consists of:
- The Cage - a soldier is sent to a psych ward after a head injury where he is tortured by a sadistic caretaker under the threat of pinning some mental illness on him - The Illegitimate Stage - a couple of play stage professionals are hired to materialize a play written by a wealthy sponsor, then start to form a bond with the hapless woman - A Lesson in History - a husband experiences the tension of remembering his war days and his mistress then, while having to hide all signs from his wife - Wilfred - a story about the total psychopathic transformation of a man and the bafflement of society around him - The Iron Maiden - a young soldier begs for advice from his more experienced friend on how to woo the girl he is in love with - The Wrong Cat - a woman is terrorized by a murderous madman - The Yellow Coat - a cowardly man becomes stronger from pushing through danger and trauma, but no one believes it - The Heat's On - a fireman investigates a strange series of deaths by fire - The Little Window - an unexpected event shakes the owner of a shoe shop and his nephew from their complacency - The Waters of Kan-E - a story of survival in the Polynesian ocean - Paul's Friend - another story about survival at sea - Public Hearing - a scientist explains to helpless politicians that their armed power has become obsolete when everyone can build a world destroying weapon - The Daddy Box - an alien device starts fixing humanity by starting small
Even without any actual connection to Dune, there is evidence of the seeds of the novel in many of the stories within. For example in A Lesson in History, there is the idea that a woman can discern the thoughts of a man from tiny disparate actions and gestures. In The Yellow Coat a man's psyche is transformed by adversity. In Public Hearing the weapon described is very similar to a Dune lasgun, while The Daddy Box features a way to change a society by tackling the basics of the family unit.
The stories are short and the collection is not a big book. If you are interested in how Frank Herbert's mind worked, this is something that is worth reading, without any of the stories inside being really that special. I enjoyed the book, but without my interest in the author I would not probably have recommended it to anyone....more
Oh, the disappointment! Considering I loved the Frank Herbert's Dune books and I've read them repeatedly, I was expecting to at least like something fOh, the disappointment! Considering I loved the Frank Herbert's Dune books and I've read them repeatedly, I was expecting to at least like something from his son's books set in the same universe. I mean, how bad could it be? He even wrote it in collaboration with a seasoned writer. Well, bad! I hated everything: the writing, the world which is completely different from Frank's, but mostly that Brian Herbert seems to have missed the point of Dune completely!
Gone are the superhuman abilities of people that had ten millennia to evolve, after escaping A.I. annihilation and brutally training themselves on hostile planets to become the best version of a human being. Gone are the thoughtful insights into people, the careful dialogues, the grand visions. What we get instead is formulaic trope after formulaic trope, the standard writing style taught by hacks in most "writing classes" in the U.S., dull characters, boring writing, dumb people, unneeded attention to technology and little to worldbuilding or character development, cramming all storylines and possible characters and references to the original books together. And then the way things people have not learned about the Dune universe until the sixth book, just casually blurted in a prequel book, just because Brian wanted to check all the boxes.
I mean, there were moments when something was happening, like a full Reverend Mother assessing the situation in a dangerous context. And I was thinking "It's on now! She will come with brilliant insights, impossible strategies, use her..." and Brian started to describe the lighting in the room! Consider that this book has a lot going for it in terms of source material. I love the original Dune books so each reference, each character, each world, each culture that existed in those books should have anchored me to this one. But even so I couldn't damn finish it. After three weeks of forcing myself to read it I have barely reach half. No more!
I am not unreasonable. I know that probably Brian Herbert was pushed to be a writer, even if he didn't have the skills or maybe even the drive. I know that people are not instantly good at what they are doing and that after a shitty book they have the opportunity to grow when writing the next ones. There are 25 books and comics in the Dune universe now! When the hell did he write all of those? Surely at least some of them would be good. But this first one is so bad, so incredibly bland, that I have no desire to read anything written by Brian Herbert ever again, except perhaps the biography of his father. I mean, at least he will have been invested in that one, right? He can't murder his dad's story like he did his legacy!
I would rather (and I actually plan to) reread everything Frank Herbert ever wrote than try another butchery of Dune by Brian Herbert....more
Oh, finally Herbert breaks the pattern up. His sixth and final Dune book, Chapterhouse, is brilliant, on par with the first, if you will. At the end oOh, finally Herbert breaks the pattern up. His sixth and final Dune book, Chapterhouse, is brilliant, on par with the first, if you will. At the end of the book there is this little dedication to his wife, recently passed away, in which he thanks her for the beautiful years they had together. He describes her as his muse, basically. Perhaps that tragedy was what prompted such quality in the book. Or maybe it is just my personal preferences that make me see it as such a masterpiece.
The basic plot is that the Scattering is encroaching upon the centre, with the Honorate Matre being these vindictive tyrannical bitches that destroy everything in their path while flaunting a parody of Bene Gesserit organization. They are many and they have a lot of wealth and ships. Teg Myles returns as a ghola, Duncan Idaho is sexually bonded with the Honorate Mater Murbella, only bidirectionally, and there is only one last Tleilaxu master (thankfully Scytale, not that dolt Waff) under the protection of the Bene Gesserit. The book is all about survival; I liked that.
Now, there were some issues I had with previous books. The supreme arrogance and pomposity in Prophet of Dune and God Emperor of Dune was one. The ridiculous behaviour of Tleilaxu masters was another. Others can be overlooked, but these were really annoying for me. I am happy to say that Scytale appears as a cunning and intelligent opponent of the Bene Gesserit in Chapterhouse, while the supreme confidence the witches flaunt is proven to be a front, something that allows for their survival, rather than separate them from the human race. The ending is also quite interesting, but I can't spoil it for you.
Unfortunately, the year 1985 was the end of Dune and Frank Herbert. He died of a pulmonary embolism while fighting cancer. He had just re-married and Lynch's Dune movie had just been released. The film had little success in the US, but a lot in Europe and Japan (proving again that their audiences really stink :) ). Just in case you are considering watching the movie rather that reading the book, remember that, while Lynch really got the feel of the Dune book, the script makes the story unrecognisable.
Getting back to the book, it was a shock, the first time I read it, to know that it was the last. There are other Dune books, though, written by Brian Herbert, the son of Frank Herbert. I read none of those. The reason is that I believe the depth and subtlety in Dune was more important than the story itself. Instead I would urge the reading of other Frank Herbert books. Some were rather banal, but others (and here I include the WorShip universe and Hellstrom's Hive) were brilliant.
Reread in 2022 This was not supposed to be the last book of Dune. A seventh one was planned, but death stopped Herbert from achieving his goals. There was an old childhood friend of Herbert's who described him as always ahead, blazing trails, one step ahead. After reading all of the Frank Herbert Dune books, I feel that this is how the man really was, always thinking of the consequences of the past going into the far future. You would learn as much chess as you could, but when it was time to play Herbert, he would be inventing a new game.
I can't help but feel a sense of loss for everything that he didn't get to write. He died at 66 years old. He had at least ten more good years left. I am planning now to read the Brian Herbert books, as well, and then maybe continue with rereading all of Frank Herbert's books.
The man was not perfect - I know that there are people out there who write much better than he did - but Dune is truly a masterpiece, an ode to human ingenuity, a manifesto against stagnation, bureaucracy and the trap of repeating the past. Packed with some really astonishing wisdom, I do believe is one of the most rereadable books out there....more
Indeed, the pattern holds: Frank Herbert creates a very beautiful book after the bore that was Emperor of Dune. One good book followed by a bland one Indeed, the pattern holds: Frank Herbert creates a very beautiful book after the bore that was Emperor of Dune. One good book followed by a bland one and then again. Heretics of Dune has more action, more of the Bene Gesserit introspections and revelations and a bunch of diverse heroes, each with their own "powers". It's basically the superhero Dune book.
Well, I am obviously oversimplifying here, but the gist of it is right. The book is entertaining, with many characters to identify with and a compelling storyline. A new pattern emerges, though: after many pages of setting the stage and keeping the reader on the edge of the seat with anticipation, Herbert just quickly reveals his hand and finishes the game. It's like, for him, the mystery of the story was all that mattered and, once exposed, the book must end. That was a bit frustrating.
The book follows the exploits of yet another, better and improved, Duncan ghola, a weird desert girl who can command worms, a Tleilaxu master, many Bene Gesserit and the loyal Bashar Miles Teg. All in the face of terrible danger from "the Scattering", the many flavours of humans that spread out from the centre core after the death of Leto II and the ensuing chaos. The Tleilaxu are shown as bumbling buffoons, which somehow bothered me, because they are always shown as a powerful force, on par with the witches of Bene Gesserit, yet on every occasion they are outclassed, outsmarted and outmanoeuvred by them. Also the Zensunni Sufi angle was a bit of a stretch. The priesthood of Rakis was somewhat similar, and although it was normal for them to be idiots, they were presented as a powerful force as well, which made no sense. There were other things in the book that were not perfect, but one can easily overlook them.
Overall I loved the book, it was one of the most entertaining for me in the saga. More stretches of the imagination, though, and some felt a bit like special effects. Although the universe is the same with Dune, Heretics feels differently. In a way every Dune book was an extension of the original universe, trying as much as possible to not thread the same path as its predecessors, but this book really shifted the perspective of the reader towards a completely different awareness, while expanding some elements from the original Dune book, like the Bene Gesserit inner dialogue and deep perception and also hints of ecological laws, only this time applied to the entire Universe. At the end I resented that it had finished so quickly, which after all, is the hallmark of any good book.
I did not remember my own reaction to this book and now, after rereading both the book and my previous review, I am content to see that I have kind of the same feelings now. I do believe I maybe liked this book most of them all. I know that's kind of... ahem... heretical, but at the same time it was more complex, had many interesting characters, introduced many new ideas that were presented in an exciting and more technical way.
The main problem with Dune books so far is that they are a bit inconsistent, like crafted together from bits written slightly differently and not always clicking with each other. I mean, what the Bene Gesserit do is amazing, how they manipulate people via their words, their actions, their manufactured myths. Yet at the same time it stretches belief that no one caught on to how they are doing it. The Tleilaxu master knows that the sisters are doing something, he acknowledges as much, then falls pray to hope and then unjustified certainty that he was wrong. And then the book itself explains, in that certain preachy way, that people evolve to become immune to powers used against them, but it only affects the Honored Matres! And what about Ix? They are amazing engineers in one book, an afterthought in the other, even when they are the builders of space travel machines.
The same can be said about societies, technologies, natural habitats, science in general, which are very well crafted, but don't stand to scrutiny from the knowledge we now possess.
In that same vein, Heretics of Dune is both amazingly incredibly smart ( I LOVE how Herbert views people and groups and societies as a whole ) and carelessly inconsistent. But since it leans more towards the smart, I liked the book quite a bit, especially the first half....more
Here is another example of how even apparently clear memories aren't really that accurate: I almost didn't like this book. I don't know why I rememberHere is another example of how even apparently clear memories aren't really that accurate: I almost didn't like this book. I don't know why I remember that I liked God Emperor of Dune, I probably did, but for the sake of me I don't know why. The entire span of the book Leto is whining of how much he sacrificed and his Golden Path, oscillating between total arrogance, self pity and angry fits. Probably part of a good book/bad book cycle, the second and the fourth books of the series felt weaker to me.
Anyway, the plot is not really convoluted, nor does it feature greatly trained people with extraordinary qualities. Instead, most of the characters are mostly ridiculous: a rebel that has nothing but hate and youth to drive her, but somehow Leto allows for her and even likes her for reasons I can't fathom, a Duncan Idaho ghola who acts like a spoiled and angry brat all the time, a bureaucrat that seems to have always in mind the possibility that The Worm could kill him and navigates his life around that, museum Fremen, an army of hysterical women, some remnants of the Bene Gesserit, but not enough to make a difference in that universe and in the course of the book, some Tleilaxu, but acting desperately and illogically and some Ixian machines that seem to be pervasive even when prohibited by that ridiculous Jihad. The rest of the book Leto is lamenting his situation, ponders deep philosophical questions and always wants to be surprised by the people around him, even if he trained, conditioned, bred or even cloned them himself, so he has as few chances as possible. All in the name of avoiding a horrible future when machines hunt and destroy all humans. No, really: Leto II playing John Connor.
Maybe I was more impatient or less likely to open up to the book and so I couldn't empathise with any of the characters, but maybe it was as much a pretentious book as I thought it was. Filled with pompous quotes from the Leto journals and internal dialogues that seemed to have no other purpose but to belittle the other characters in the book, God Emperor of Dune was actually boring to me. There is no question that Frank Herbert writes well, so I will not say I hated the book or that it is a bad one, but compared to others in the series it pretty much stank. I started reading book 5: Heretics of Dune, which started well with Bene Gesserit witches having some devious plans and always assessing one another. I don't seem to remember much of it, which is good, as I start with no expectations.
2022 Reread There is no question of the power of the central idea in the book: what would you do if you knew the past and the possible futures and was omnipotent and immortal? Isn't that a god? What would a god do, how would he really feel and think and make decisions? How would you treat humanity if it felt like a curious pet to you?
I think Herbert had a design in his series of books. He started with an idea, perhaps a popular idea, then deconstructed it and turned it on its head. The first book was almost a classical hero arc with superhumans ruling a feudal universe. The second book revealed the weakness in the hero and the hubris of the superhumans. The third book was also a kind of a hero story where the main character defeats evil and chooses to go transhuman. The fourth book, this one, shows what that actually means. The loneliness, the unavoidable cruelty of total control and power, even when done with the best of intentions. It is humanity who had become the hero and must also change. As the book says, if you must label the absolute, use it's proper name: temporary.
It is difficult to like this book and impossible to dislike it. The god-like protagonist is pompous, brutal and dismissive, but you have to consider what it is like to be surrounded by inferior beings, stuck in all too obvious patterns yet assuming free will and personal power. On the other hand, he sounds like a villain in movies, you know the one, who pretends to give options to the victim, only to take them away at the last moment. The scale of the book is truly epic, which is why it has many flaws, inconsistencies and even contradictions. But it doesn't matter, because the magic is there.
I both agree and disagree with myself from 10 years ago. I almost didn't like the book, but I also liked it a lot. The fact that it had this visceral effect on me every time I've read it shows it's a great book.
P.S. the discussion in which Idaho is disgusted by two women kissing was hilarious, but even more hilarious was Moneo's admonition, followed by an explanation on how homosexuality is something experienced by young people and then quickly outgrown, if no one feeds it by opposing it. There might be something there, but I imagine how some people will react to it and can't help but chuckle....more
The third book in the Dune saga is a strange mix between the first two. It has the epicness of the first, the setting up of the next book like the secThe third book in the Dune saga is a strange mix between the first two. It has the epicness of the first, the setting up of the next book like the second and a length that is between the lengths of the previous books. It becomes obvious that Herbert has become too connected to his own characters and he is sometimes talking, so to speak, to himself. Characters say obscure lines that somehow strike a strong emotional or intellectual cord in their interlocutors, giving the impression they are very smart and perceptive, but that's all it is: an impression. There is a strong mix (not to say melange) of behaviors in single characters or of interactions between them that makes no sense at closer examination. If there is a word that would most fit with Children of Dune, it would be "pompous". The characters are wallowing in their hidden powers and arrogantly spewing big words that ultimately mean nothing.
That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book. I remember when I was younger I was debating if this or the next, not the first, were the best books. Now I believe that it was somehow a rushed release. A little more effort, maybe even with a splitting of the book in two smaller ones with more substance, would have made this a contender for the title. As such, though, it only mirrors the shine and edge of the first Dune book, while being less powerful. How much time did the idea of Dune mature in Herbert's head before he put it on paper and how much time did he have for Children of Dune, under the pressure of fans and publishers?
If something really hurt the consistency of the story it was the larger than life characters introduced at first: the Bene Gesserit legacy of memory and terrible training, the prescient, the Tleilaxu, the indomitable Fremen. Hard to keep the pace with such monsters. What mistakes could one do having the entirety of their ancestors' memory at their disposal? What effect would knowing the future or taking any shape you desire have on you? What would happen to fierce desert warriors when presented with a life in comfort? These are the questions that the book tried to ask, while it couldn't keep up with the immensity of the described universe and characters. Hard to describe specific bits without spoiling the story, but a good example is The Preacher, or the childish fits of anger on people that were supposed to be weathered by hardship, training and past lives.
Now, Frank Herbert is no fool. He not only noticed that the book he wrote is a little too arrogant, he has a plan. The next book will take that arrogance and throw it in our faces like a sin of all humanity that must be punished. I remember the God Emperor of Dune as a fantastic book and I can hardly wait to read it. But I also thought Children of Dune was bigger than life and now I have changed my opinion. We'll see.
Reread at 45 I thought the plot of the book was too convenient, with people who have no connection to one another suddenly making plans that consider all of the others. Also, a great inconsistency between the declared training and ability of some people and their behavior. But maybe that was the point: they are all superhuman, but they are still human. They have extraordinary skill, but also make mistakes. In their greatest moments of despair or triumph, they falter. I don't know.
I am certain that in this book I hated the Fremen, all arrogant and rigid, with their laws and their world view that never changes, all the time heralded as some great examples of humanity. They were psychos! The entire empire was a cesspool of ignorant religious fanatics. While in my youth I considered that annoying, now I found it creepy, maybe right down terrifying, because I can see it happening around me so easily. I do remember that I expected a better end for Alia and that was my impression now, as well. They had prescience, the knowledge of all past generations and a clear solution to the problem, but they just decided it was too late or too complicated to do anything.
This time I got more of the pompous utterances in the book. It didn't seem so empty of meaning anymore. Yet it still is pretty dense and pretentious, with many thing left just unexplained, just happening for the sake of the plot.
I am looking forward to rereading God Emperor of Dune....more
Dune Messiah is the second book of Frank Herbert's Dune saga. It is two and a half times smaller than the first book and it feels almost completely diDune Messiah is the second book of Frank Herbert's Dune saga. It is two and a half times smaller than the first book and it feels almost completely different. Paul has been emperor for some time, not much, but enough for his jihad to bring the death of tens of billions. The government of the universe is now his, a combination of religion and bureaucratic despotism that he foresaw, but could not have prevented. The house of Ix and the Bene Tleilaxu make their appearance. There are conspiracies against Muad'dib and his family from every corner and, if the first book was of his victory over his enemies, however painful, the second book is all about his defeat at the hands of the future. He walks the edge, loses almost everything, all in the name of a better future for human kind. All the characters are weaker, more human, some less human but still weak.
All in all, it is a nice book, well written and interesting, but it felt like a kind of bridge between Dune and the next two books, which have their focus on Paul Atreides' children. We are certainly looking forward to brilliant stories and great writing, but Dune Messiah seemed a little too melodramatic, less focused, with less work done on it. Compared to its predecessor, it seems a disappointment; compared to most other books, it is still great.
Reread at 45 It is amazing to me how each decade these books are telling me something different. I still see the flaws, but they are subtly different, I still see the greatness of it, but also altered by time. Every time I read Dune it changes me, like the spice melange, makes me more introspective and extrospective. I look at things with more depth, I examine myself with more care. I love that feeling and I enjoy myself more.
One thing remains the same, though: I immediately identify with the Bene Tleilaxu and the House of Ix while reading the book. They are the tinkerers of their time, but without the whole ideology and set in ways behind the Bene Gesserit or the Fremen. Are they evil? Who cares! Therein lies freedom.
Anyway, back to the book. Just like in the first one, there are some important events that happen out of sight and we only hear from them or are explained by the characters. In Dune, the killing of Chani's first child was almost an afterthought. In Dune Messiah we just have to accept that Jessica, the loyal mother of Paul, just decided it's OK to leave Arrakis and move to Caladan, accompanied by Gurney Halleck, no less, the man who hated the Harkonnens with his whole being. Some important characters are summarily executed off screen, too, once they've done their job. I guess that's how the world works at any time, but as a reader, I would have liked more meat on those bones.
My instinct above, where I said it was a bridge between Dune and Children of Dune, was right. Even Brian Herbert wrote about this in his introduction. Many people were let down when they read Messiah, and the general view was that once Paul has become a classic hero, readers were not entertained by his downfall. But I don't think it's that. I think it was the vagueness of the book, the pompous implications of words that did not explain anything. That's both good and bad. Let me explain.
At first read, you feel like you are part of some mystical universe where each moment, each gesture, each word has world shattering implications. Coming from the boring world we feel we live in, it's a revelation. You feel like with just a little more attention to detail, a little more thinking about it, you will also glimpse the path things take. At second read, you are used to the feeling and you kind of know you will not get to the hidden truths of the book, but you still hold hope that a better person could see them, so it's still somehow inspiring. At later reads, you just understand that Herbert intimated secrets that he himself never deemed necessary to invent. You see the inconsistencies, how characters that had complete control of their minds and bodies act like children, or how the universe is ruled absolutely by Paul, with no constitution or legal organisms that are not subservient to him, but then he must obey the Fremen law whenever the plot sees it fit.
For me, this remains a thing of hope. The Dune series is great, but it could have been improved upon. Some writer somewhere will manage to write something similar that would upstage it by the sheer personal effort to be attentive to details and to imagine a world greater than our own....more
Dune, a mega-classic of sci-fi books, written in 1965 by the ecology obsessed Frank Herbert, tells the story of a future world that is dependent on t Dune, a mega-classic of sci-fi books, written in 1965 by the ecology obsessed Frank Herbert, tells the story of a future world that is dependent on the substance known as spice, of a vast stellar empire led by an emperor and the noble houses and shaped by religion. Dune is the first in a series of six books, each one increasing the level of "epicness" of the story. There is no way I can do justice to the book in my review, it is that good and that complex. All I can say is that I've read it every ten years from the time I was 15, and every time I read it, I interpret it differently. This also shows how different we are at various ages.
Anyway, I was saying that Frank Herbert was obsessed with ecology. I am saying this after having read all of his books a while ago and noticing the pattern. The Dune Wikipedia article claims that this book was the result of events that started Herbert's interest in ecology, while he was working for the Department of Agriculture, trying to stabilize sand dunes using plants. Herbert is also the author of brilliant books like the Pandora series or like Hellstrom's Hive which, for many reasons, I consider masterpieces as well. However most of his books and short novels feature some interest in ecological systems.
The story is set twenty millennia into the future. As it was written in the sixties, it had to solve the problem of exponential technological advancement that was obvious even then. How can one write a book about the future, when the future moves so fast? Herbert solved it in a simple way: he imagined a world where humans rebelled against the use of intelligent machines, for religious reasons, thus removing computer advancements from the equation. Also, in order to solve the issue of ever evolving weaponry, he imagined a world where energy shields were cheap and small and could be used personally or on buildings or ships; these shields would stop any object or energy moving fast enough. This reduces battles to hand to hand combat, with knives and slow needles that can penetrate the shield. It's not like Herbert had all the answers: there are obvious technological devices that would have rendered this version of a shield useless, as well as clear reasons while perfect control over technology could not have been enforced. But the way he envisioned this future world, where everything important was the human being - as a thinking, feeling, believing creature - made it close to timeless.
Now, the plot is vast and the beauty of the book is in its minutiae, not in the overall story. This has been proven, I think, by the way people have received the 1984 David Lynch film adaptation versus the 2000 version. The first took "poetic license" to change the story and make it more script like, but preserved the feel of the book, with the interior dialogues, the epic scenes and careful attention to minor details. The 2000 adaptation was completely faithful to the book in the way of following it scene by scene, but the lack of attention to punctual details made it unappealing and bland. There is a project called Dune for 2014, maybe that will give us another point of reference. So I will not talk about the plot and let you discover it for yourself. Enough to say that it is a great book.
It is important for me to talk about the difference between my personal interpretation of the book at different ages. When I was 15 I thought it was a glorious story of personal achievement, where Paul Muad'dib and Leto II were becomes gods by the sheer power of their thoughts and feelings. At 25 I thought it was a deep analysis of human interaction, of how logic, emotions and belief clash to mold our beings. And now, at 36, I feel like the book is brilliant, but I can read between the lines, see how the structure of the story was created from various sources; a bit of the mythos has lost its power, but gained more respect. If at 15 I was identifying with Paul and at 25 I was dreaming to become Leto II, now it's easier to me to identify with the likes of Gurney Halleck or even Feyd Rautha Harkonnen. I am not saying that I like them more, I just feel I gained more insight into the other characters. I say it again: Dune is a book of details (without being boring with them).
I cannot end this review without mentioning the Dune video games. I spent many an hour playing the adventure game Dune and many a day playing Dune II, the real time strategy game that was to inspire all others in the future. The game was so primitive that the controls were not designed for ease. Each unit was controlled individually and had very little autonomy, the result being that one rarely had time to blink when many units were constructed. This prompted my father to take me to a mirror and show me my own eyes. They were red and irritated. "Oh", I said, "it's from the spice!".
Review at 45
In between Villeneuve movie adaptations of Dune, it was time for another reread and, amazingly, I got something else out of the book, again! This time I saw through many of the flaws of the book. Small flaws, to be sure, but some contradictory facts like when to unsheathe a crysknife or where the origin of a mind altering substance was and stuff like that.
I also understood why it is so difficult to make an adaptation of the book to movie form. First of all, because the people in the Dune universe are supposed to be superhuman. They remember much, think fast, feel deeply, move fast, after going through harsh training regimens and being subjected to exotic substance, strange rituals and being subject to strong religious and political forces. I can even say now that I think Herbert didn't write well enough to convey what he wanted, as his book is inconsistent in how it portrays the abilities that noble people use at every moment of their existence. Lynch tried to make it work, while all others glossed over it. On paper you are shocked by the way the characters take in the world, observe and analyze minutiae, only to then act with ruthless swiftness. On the screen, you just see normal people in a fantasy world that makes little sense.
The first part of the book is also more consistent that the second. From the moment Paul and Jessica meet the Fremen, everything is done quickly, based on rituals and knowledge that is somehow common to characters from completely different cultures and, when that fails, there are premonitions or instincts that tell them how to act in order to move the story exactly as the author wanted. And failing that, there are always coincidences that help. The Fremen themselves are described in wildly oscillating ways: they are the noble savages, but they also have a very old culture, but they are also violent simpletons that are blindly driven by ritual and implanted religion, but they also have technology, they are honorable, unless they kill stabbing you in the back or in a fit of rage. They are superb fighters, but they are not trained, so Paul can defeat them, but not the super trained Sardaukar. And so on and so on.
At the end, some particular important events are written as happening "off screen", like Herbert wanted to get it over with.
And I understand that, too. The complexity of the story and characters, the careful (superhuman?) effort that must have been necessary to make this work - while writing it on typewriter 70 years ago and also trying to get people from that time to accept it - must have been titanic. Did you know that Dune was the first best seller science fiction novel? Before this book was (repeatedly rejected and only then) published, science fiction was a niche for people to write for themselves and not others.
I am not sure if I will, but I am thinking already to continue to read the entire Dune series of books, not only the mandatory first six, but also those written by Herbert's son - the biography of his father and the collaborations with Kevin J. Anderson....more
Fungi is a short story collection, fantasy and sci-fi, mostly hinging towards horror, edited by Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I am fascinated Fungi is a short story collection, fantasy and sci-fi, mostly hinging towards horror, edited by Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I am fascinated by fungi and also a horror fan, so I expected to love the book. Well... it was OK. I enjoyed most of the stories, but to be fair, the fungal influence on most plots was either marginal, like some evil affliction evidenced by mycelium growth, or too obvious, like the pulsating life eating and/or controlling mushroom mass.
It is possible that I bore a grudge from the very moment I started reading the book and expected it to be a novel, only to discover tales too short to get anywhere. It was great to listen to a short while walking the dog and not having to get invested too much, but other than that I was not that captivated. Stories were decent, most of them, but perhaps I was not really in the mood for a collection.
So, bottom line is that I had expectations set way too high and thus was inevitably disappointed. Didn't learn anything more about fungi, because most of the plots were about infestations that required no understanding of the processes involved....more
The Year of the Witching is not the kind of book I would normally read, but it was probably recommended by some web site or another, pushing for a ma The Year of the Witching is not the kind of book I would normally read, but it was probably recommended by some web site or another, pushing for a masterfully written establishment shaking stunning feminist debut story of female empowerment. And me, like an idiot, bought it. I didn't like the book, but I said I would push against my prejudice and read it to the end. The end was worse than the rest. But don't listen to me: an overwhelming number of positive reviews is there, all from women and the occasional male who is excited on how the story touches on oppression against women and other minorities. So I may be wrong.
Alexis Henderson's writing was decent, but the story was inconsistent and I almost stopped reading the book a few times. The lead character is a girl who has been raised by a very devout and poor family (who are treated as pariahs) in a closed village of very devout people who worship the Father (their god of light) and hate the Mother (goddess of witches, dark and nature), being in the habit of burning people on pyres as an alternative to a good bath. Our hero is also the daughter of a woman the entire village remembers as a terrible sinner and most likely a witch. So how in the hell does she grow up to be socially integrated, self possessed, intelligent, articulate, well read, capable of anything, from daily tending to flocks of sheep, having public romances with the son of the Prophet and also having the time to visit the woods and read in the library?
Oh, did I mention that the most eligible bachelor in the village likes her because she is not like the other girls and she is also of mixed color? That's my main complaint regarding the story: the lead character is impossible. I felt she was way more modern than anyone in that silly little village had the right to be and did the work of several people at the same time.
But I was starting to have high hopes for the end. Will it be a blood bath? Will she side with the oppressed witches or with the people she loves? Will her boyfriend, her grandmother or the witches trick her into doing something completely different from what she thinks she does? Will anyone realize that you need both a father and a mother, not just siding with one parent like an asshole child during a divorce? Will there be any kind of twist? And no. The answer is no. Everybody behaves exactly as their cardboard character allows them to, unless of course the plot needs to spare someone or go into a direction that is very hard to believe it could go.
Every single character in the book has one role and they conveniently perform it and then they just leave the stage so our heroine might shine.
And it wasn't even one of those books masquerading as a fantasy only to discuss real social issues like oppression, or using witches as a metaphor for status defying women. I mean, it probably attempted to be one, but it was a really self contained story in a self contained universe. It is just that the book was boring, the plot full of holes and the characters unsympathetic, bland, Mary Sues or all of the above.
Bottom line: I can see the author crafting better stories. She is a competent writer. But this book was just bad....more
Oh, finally, a self contained story in a single book, glorious and fun adventure, witty references and dialogue and absolutely no politics. Kings of tOh, finally, a self contained story in a single book, glorious and fun adventure, witty references and dialogue and absolutely no politics. Kings of the Wyld feels part RPG, part rock concert, part buddy comedy. Nicholas Eames has an easy yet profound way of describing things and writing characters. Best of all, I don't think the next books in the series would continue the story, just be separate stories in the same universe with some common characters. As such, one can enjoy the book as standalone and I've thoroughly enjoyed it!
At first daunted by the size - I know 500 pages is not particularly huge, but I was in a mood for something light - I started reading it and had trouble putting it down. In the end I just had to not sleep and finish it.
The story is about the members of an old mercenary band who have to get back together to rescue the daughter of one of them. Their journey takes them through a world split between complacent nations, monsters and old immortals, filled with creatures and fantastic beasts of every kind and finally leads to an epic battle for the soul of adventure.
The writing style was easy to read, filled with humor, but also profound in the way characters were portrayed. The only character that was kind of fumbled was the daeva, but it ended up OK. Some criticism was raised about the story kind of pushing along like a D&D campaign, with random encounters and solutions out of nothing and it is totally valid, yet the book, while not aiming to be a comedy, never took itself seriously and therefore it felt really entertaining.
Bottom line: for a debut novel, it's pretty great. I don't know if I will continue to read the series, but I will keep an eye on Nicholas Eames. A must read for adventure fans....more
Andy Weir does it again, managing to make science and space engineering fun and engaging. In Hail Mary the stakes are a lot higher than in The Martia Andy Weir does it again, managing to make science and space engineering fun and engaging. In Hail Mary the stakes are a lot higher than in The Martian, because there is more stuff to save like... the world. There are some holes in the logic of the book, but it's a fun read where basically two guys spend the entire book fixing things, researching things and trying to stay alive. In short, if you loved The Martian you will like this book.
I know these books are not really related and in no way does the author owe me anything, but I got a little disappointed with the now predictable evolution of space story: start with something close to reality, like a manned Mars mission or a Moon colony (hey! These have been realistic for 50 years! Classics!), then immediately find a gimmick that allows you to move among stars where everything is more exciting than in boring Sol system. Bigger, brighter and with more explosions. I understand that is the demand from the public, but what I personally enjoy about Weir's stories is the focus on the character's problem solving process, then using actual science to get by. I don't care about the size of the stakes. The less realistic and immediately possible the plot, the less I feel involved.
Bottom line: a fun read, similar to The Martian, but bigger....more
Prions are a fascinating subject that we know almost nothing about. They are misfolded proteins that somehow proliferate inside our bodies and kill u Prions are a fascinating subject that we know almost nothing about. They are misfolded proteins that somehow proliferate inside our bodies and kill us with 100% efficiency. The diseases produced by prions are the deadliest there are, yet we know little about how prions multiply and even how they manage to kill us.
Prions, a Challenge for Science, Medicine and Public Health System is a 2001 summary of works on prions. What does it say? That we don't know much. Then it gets terribly technical and, as I am not a biologist, I've decided to stop reading instead of pretending I understand anything. But I did scour the Internet for newer sources of knowledge and my finding is... that we still know shit about prions!
So, what does misfolding mean? Prions are proteins, long chain molecules that are at the border of chemistry and mechanics in such a way that the way these molecules come to rest (fold) determines both their chemical and mechanical properties. Somehow (and no one actually knows how) a protein that is manufactured by our bodies (and that we don't really know what does) gets folded in the wrong way, leading to behavior that is detrimental to the body (in ways we don't really know). There is also a mechanism that turns proper proteins to this toxic form, much like a zombie invasion at nanoscale. And we don't know what it is.
Why does it matter? Well, diseases such as scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle (commonly known as "mad cow disease") and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD), its variant (vCJD), Gerstmann–Sträussler–Scheinker syndrome (GSS), fatal familial insomnia (FFI), and kuru in humans are caused by prions. There is evidence that the same mechanism that destroys the nervous system in these diseases is also at fault with Alzheimer's. A biological weapon using prions, assuming it affects a large portion of a population, would kill 100% of the victims, decades after the weapon was used and without spreading the disease further.
And why are prions so deadly? Because the immune system doesn't react to them. They are not viruses, they don't have nucleic acids, they are really tiny proteins that slowly but surely spread throughout the body and and up killing the brain of the victim (not unlike zombies, hmm).
The leading expert in prions is Stanley B. Prusiner, the man who coined the term prion in 1982. The idea that a disease could be spread by just proteins was developed in the 1960 by people such as biophysicist John Stanley Griffith. Prusiner did a lot of work, but even so, there is little we understand about this, more than 70 years later.
Bottom line: prions are fascinating and show us how much more we have to learn about biochemistry and disease vectors. Even if we hypothesized their existence in the '60s, we still don't know much on how they work. I welcome more research on the subject, as diseases caused by prions, even if rare, are deadly without exception....more
Lightchaser is a story about complacency, one that faults not our silly human nature but an external alien influence. The "Domain" is the place where Lightchaser is a story about complacency, one that faults not our silly human nature but an external alien influence. The "Domain" is the place where numerous human cultures live on thousands of planets and the Lightchaser is a starship pilot that moves from planet to planet giving and collecting "collars" which give the wearer extra status and record all of their life experiences. Further down the line, the company that builds the ships, controller exclusively by AIs, will buy the collars.
I love Peter F. Hamilton stories because they go far, they allow the reader to dream of futures so vast and amazing that our own existence seems static and impossible to explain. Lightchaser is tiny, self contained, but it breathes the same concept. The book is not the best he wrote and in fact it is a short story with a singular idea, but I enjoyed it. Certainly a fan of Hamilton's, I am going to read everything he ever wrote at one time.
Bottom line: good hard short sci-fi story. A light (heh!) read....more
The Library of the Unwritten starts with a magical library which holds unwritten books, whether because their author has not written them yet or neve The Library of the Unwritten starts with a magical library which holds unwritten books, whether because their author has not written them yet or never got to before they died. And interesting premise, but one which made me afraid it was similar to Sorcery of Thorns. And I feel bad about it, but I did profile A. J. Hackwith before I started reading, which also filled me with apprehension (authors using their initials only make me suspicious). But the book was great! I am so glad to have been proven wrong.
I don't want to spoil anything, but enough to say that characters like humans, muses, demons, angels, fallen angels, elder gods and literary characters who took shape in the real world are all characters in the book.
While the story is a young adult fantasy, the writing is compelling, the characters complex and the plot quite refreshing and captivating. But I have to say I liked the characters the most: tortured souls (befitting a story which takes place in Hell most of the time) who have to resolve their issues in order to grow. All good characters are like that and inspire readers everywhere to do the same. The book also avoided getting mired in occult legislature (like defining a series of rules or a specific magic system) or pushing some gender agenda, instead focusing solely on story and characterization, which I applaud.
Bottom line: not a masterpiece or anything, but one of the best books I've read recently and a very entertaining vacation read....more
Matthew McConaughey is a well known actor that inspires different things for different people. He's attractive, but intense, easily switching from chaMatthew McConaughey is a well known actor that inspires different things for different people. He's attractive, but intense, easily switching from charming to violently wild. He was for a while the quintessential romantic comedy actor until he suddenly wasn't. He is active socially and spiritually, always coming with some emotional speech about some thing or another. So what would his autobiography be like?
Well, it was good, but it felt a little too rehearsed even as it was constructed as a collection of unfiltered anecdotes from the author's life. The title, Greenlights, comes from the understanding that some things in life are opportunities for the future. They don't push you forward, but give you the green light to go, they are open doors. Each of the stories in the book represents a greenlight for McConaughey, regardless of how amazing, fantastical, horrible or dangerous they sound.
In short, his crazy parents instilled in him the moral fortitude to choose and then stick with that choice. From a household in which all emotions were heightened - there is a story where his parents have a fight involving a broken nose and knife swinging, followed by wild sex, for example - Matthew learns to live and love wild but mind the consequences. And then, with a series of greenlight events, he gets into acting and fame.
The way the author says it, his character was formed before he became famous. If you believe he does crazy stuff now, it's because he was always like this and he chose to do it. The wet dreams that also stand for premonitions on what he has to explore, the naked stoned bongo playing at night, the choice to not accept any rom-com scripts anymore, which led to him not working for two years until Hollywood finally managed to see him as an actor and give him other roles.
Same thing with love. He had a lot of temporary relationships and sex until he met the woman he saw as "the one", wooed her, married her and they have been together ever since. When he won the Oscar, he lost 30% of his weight for the role. I know this doesn't a performance make, but it shows the way McConaughey makes a choice and sticks with it.
A relevant quote: "What is success to me? Continue to ask yourself that question. How are you prosperous? What is your relevance? Your answer may change over time and that's fine but do yourself this favor – whatever your answer is, don't choose anything that would jeopardize your soul"
Now, did I like the book? I feel conflicted about it, as it provided insights into how the man thinks and feels, but which also felt bland and processed. At no time did I feel I was really understanding the person or experience things together with him. As an autobiography it wasn't very effective, but then again the book was never meant to be that, more a statement of belief on how life gives you paths to choose from.
Bottom line: good, inspiring work, but less personal that I would have liked....more