j's Reviews > Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert
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's review
Jan 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, book-club, classics, sci-fi-fantasy, wssfbc, sf-masterworks
Read from January 28 to March 11, 2011

DBR to follow, at Ceridwen's request. She must have used one of her Bene Gesserit tricks on me.

Dune. Dune is a fascinating book. A classic of science-fiction, it plays equally as fantasy and allegory. It is deeply textured, richly layered. And if you want to read a sensible review of it, I'd go read, say, Cedriwen's. This one is going to be full of silliness.

Arrakis. The desert planet. Home to spice and sandworms. Dune. You know, I went to the desert once. The Sahara Desert. It looked like this (ps I took this picture!):

Photo 028

I don't feel like tracking down a picture from the movie, so you have to imagine what Arrakis looks like. It looks a lot like the Sahara.

So anyway, one of the "things to do" when you're in Morocco is to drive out into the Sahara and go for a camel ride, stay overnight in a Berber tent. Ah, camels. I don't know if any of you have ridden a camel (but I'm sure if you have, you will back me up on this): not as much fun as you would think. Riding a horse is, let's face it, always a little uncomfortable. You have to straddle it (twss!), you have to keep your legs at a weird angle (twss!), it starts to hurt after a while (uh... twss?). Riding a camel, on the other hand, sucks. Camels do not wear saddles. They wear blankets. A camel's hump is not very squishy for something that is supposed to be full of water, if my elementary school understanding of why they can live in the desert is accurate. If kind of feels like you are sitting on a rock, and it feels like someone is repeatedly hitting your public bone with a baseball bat. This is not just a guy thing; my girlfriend confirmed that after about five minutes, riding a camel ceases being at all fun and becomes an exercise in pain management. It hurt like hell while it was happening, and it was hard to walk the next day (omg, twss!).

On Dune, the desert-inhabiting Fremen don't ride camels. They ride these:

Scary. But probably not more uncomfortable to ride than a camel.

Look, this is me with Fergie. I am smiling because I am no longer riding it.

i'm smiling because i'm no longer riding it.

Other than the sand and stuff, Arrakis is pretty different from Western Africa. Like the sandworms, which attack anyone who dares venture into the desert, there are the Fremen, a mysterious tribe of fighters who have a strange relationship with what they call "the Markers," there is this stuff called spice that must be carefully harvested from the sands, the risk rewarded by the incredible worth of the spice as a drug used by the Guild to gives the navigators the prescient sight they need to chart courses through hyperspace, and by the Bene Gesserit witches, why use it to preserve their ways from generation to generation. Also I don't think Dune had package tours.

Dune is a famously boring and complicated book. You may have heard that it has a lengthy appendix, and that when David Lynch turned it into a movie, the story was so complex that audiences had to be given cheat sheets along with their tickets. (Don't blame Frank Herbert for that, though. The Dune movie is just marvelously bad, as this chart will illustrate:


Don't let its reputation fool you. Sure, Dune is a little bit boring in parts (the characters like to philosophize redundantly and have prophetic visions). But it is also an awesome space opera, with an entirely transporting sense of place and vidiv world-building. The political struggles that drive the plot engine are fiendishly complex to the occasional point of obtusion (I can't believe that is a word), but also a lot of fun to read about, thanks to sneering villains like Baron Harkonnen, who isn't just any old bad guy, but a grossly obese, slithery, murdering, rapist pedophile. The Fremen, a tribe of deeply spiritual religious fanatics who control a natural resource and are willing to die for what they believe... in. Hmmmm. And then there are the sandworms. I loved everything about this concept, from Herbert's vivid descriptions, to their presence as an omnipresent threat throughout the book, to their epic inclusion in the explosion and violence-heavy climax. Awesome.

I haven't really said anything about the book. It's good. It's Dune. It is a super-famous classic for a reason. It has compelling characters (Lady Jessica is one of the most interesting female protagonists in classic sci-fi, and the book's take on gender politics, with an elite group of women are a powerful, secretive and controlling force in the galaxy , is worth examining.) It is epic in scope. It's nearly as deep as Tolkien (there's that appendix).

It's also just cool.

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Reading Progress

01/28/2011 page 30
6.0% "why did i start this! it isn't even the official march book club selection and i haven't read february's book yet. i blame donna for stealing my kindle." 2 comments
03/06/2011 page 80
15.0% "I'm on page 80 of 533 of Dune: i can't carrying this book around without humming "bennie and the jets." guess why." 23 comments
03/07/2011 page 160
30.0% "since no one guessed, i will tell you: "b-b-b-bene gesserit!" to the tune of "bennie and the jets.""
03/09/2011 page 310
58.0% "man, every time jessica starts going off about bene gesserit training and paul starts seeing the future, my eyes just glaze over." 2 comments
03/10/2011 page 401
75.0% "home stretch. tomorrow night, i'm watching the movie. the one with sting." 7 comments
03/11/2011 page 452
85.0% "can i get a ruling on whether i need to read the appendix?" 1 comment
03/07/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-40 of 40) (40 new)

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Kat Kennedy I can't say I ever really fell in love with this book. It took a long time for me to get into it and I never really connected with the characters.

Miriam Clearly you haven't had enough Spice.

message 3: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j wow all i have seen so far is the giant head of virginia madsen floating in space and already i can tell dune is going to be a great movie.

message 4: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j what is happening?!

message 5: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j picard!

message 6: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars


message 7: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j i feel like the star wars prequels are based on dune.

message 8: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j [image error]
eyebrow pop.

message 9: by j (last edited Mar 12, 2011 06:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

j DIRECTOR: "what should we do to make sure the audience knows the bad guys are evil? we want them to fear the baron. you know, like a darth vader thing -- an iconic baddie."

WRITER: "Well, in his first scene he should be grossly fat, but he'll have this belt so he can float around the room, and he bathes in blood and rapes and murders a slave boy?"

DIRECTOR: "i don't know, do you think they will get it?"

WRITER: "he could also be covered in boils."

message 10: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j i think at least 3 lines out of every 5 is just flat-out exposition.

message 11: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j sample dialogue:

BARON: "are you all right?"
PITER: "yes i am fine, thank you for asking."


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I am so excited about this DBR. Can't.wait.

message 13: by Glee (new)

Glee I loved this book when I first read it (which was long before the movie came out - I was just a pup then). Re-read it a couple of years ago and was struck with what a bad writer Herbert is/was. But it is a GREAT story, lots of action. But his writing is clumsy and the stuff about Paul and when he "transforms" - enough already - again, kind of like the Ayn Rand syndrome (i.e. if I had lived through it, it would have taken less time). And back in the 1960's/70's, the vocabulary in Dune was exotic because us "regular" Americans didn't know enough about the middle east to recognize how much of the setting and vocab were direct rip-offs. I mean, no one (unless you maybe were a Crusades scholar) had ever heard the word "jihad" before...

So, still one of my faves, but story and characters trump awful prose...

message 14: by Glee (new)

Glee Joel wrote: "DIRECTOR: "what should we do to make sure the audience knows the bad guys are evil? we want them to fear the baron. you know, like a darth vader thing -- an iconic baddie."

WRITER: "Well, in his f..."

I was thinking maybe they could have smeared poop all over him, but maybe they did...might have just looked like more dried blood...

message 15: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j i hope i didn't disappoint too much. i feel like i could have done better.

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Were you drunk???

I am finding this hard to believe.

message 17: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j I was inebriated.

Flannery Me too, Ceridwen. If he was drunk, he is the most coherent drunk person I've ever encountered.

Joel, you think you can just spell vivid and Ceridwen wrong and call it a drunk book review? You did html for cryin out loud.

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

The html was what got me too. I had to stop even trying to do html tags when drunk because I always messed them up and then the entire review would be in italics because I didn't close the tag right.

I still love Brian's misspelling of my name while drunk. I can't even duplicate it, but it was something like Ctrewejjelwen.

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

And I LOVE that Venn diagram.

message 21: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j I fixed the html. I wrote it last night but then I fell asleep.

message 22: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j There are many mistakes starting halfway through. I didn't fix any of those.

message 23: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j oh my gosh you guys, someone just liked this review so i reread it and i am torn, because to me, i am clearly drunk because wow, typos and run-on sentences and wandering clauses, but i think to everyone else it just looks like i'm an idiot. but if i fix the mistakes it will truly no longer be a DBR.

message 24: by Flannery (last edited Apr 05, 2011 12:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Flannery No way, dude. It is funny and readers of the review can just read the comments section to know it was a DBR.

message 25: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j yes, that's fair. i'll just have to resolve to be even drunker next time, so it will be really obvious.

message 26: by Ian (last edited Apr 05, 2011 12:12PM) (new)

Ian Tregillis The David Lynch version of Dune is the only Lynch movie I like. And I like it a whole lot. But I can't disagree with this review.

message 27: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j i stand by its placement on the venn diagram. it is kind of majestically terrible. best was every time characters would say something and then go blank for a minute so a voiceover could communicate their thoughts.

message 28: by Ian (last edited Apr 05, 2011 12:22PM) (new)

Ian Tregillis I can't fault your placement of the Dune movie in that diagram. It's a weird movie. (I still like it better than the SyFy miniseries, though.)

Have you ever read Norstrilia? I'm convinced it was an influence on Dune.

(Is Battlefield Earth hypnotically watchable? Well, I suppose it is, because I've seen it twice. Hypnosis is the only explanation. Or Rifftrax.)

message 29: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j norstrilia looks interesting. have marked for further study.

battlefield earth is really, really bad. it is much less enjoyable than dune, fascinating more for its sheer ineptitude than its weirdness. you have to keep watching to confirm it will indeed keep getting worse (tie between "If you had time to smelt it..." and cavemen flying jets).

i would only watch it again with the rifftrax though. the first time i saw it was in the theater with my whole family on opening weekend. that was a mistake.

message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Richard just watched Battlefield Earth again this weekend. There's something wrong with him.

message 31: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j Ceridwen wrote: "Richard just watched Battlefield Earth again this weekend. There's something wrong with him."

yes. he is a puny man-animal.

message 32: by Ian (new)

Ian Tregillis Ceridwen wrote: "Richard just watched Battlefield Earth again this weekend. There's something wrong with him."

Maybe he needs an e-meter reading.

message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Don't we all.

message 34: by Ian (new)

Ian Tregillis Not me. I'm clear.

message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Brian wrote: "...come to think of it, I haven't checked my midicholorion count since I got this home monitor at the pharmacy."

Aww, man, I was trying to go a day without slipping into LUCAS RAGE, and now you bring up midicholorions. Dang.

message 36: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j i like the special editions because they confirm that greedo shot first.

message 37: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j sweet! after watching the prequels (the REAL trilogy if you ask me), i couldn't stop thinking that the original trilogy suffered from a pronounced lack of legal and/or trade disputes.

message 38: by Ian (new)

Ian Tregillis Joel wrote: "sweet! after watching the prequels (the REAL trilogy if you ask me), i couldn't stop thinking that the original trilogy suffered from a pronounced lack of legal and/or trade disputes."

That can be said of most cinema. Indiana Jones would be much cooler if he used that whip to serve subpoenas.

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

I love/hate you guys.

message 40: by Miriam (last edited Apr 05, 2011 03:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Miriam There, there. It'll be all right. You just have another

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