Manny's Reviews > Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert
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really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, if-research-were-romance, islam-and-arabic
Read 5 times. Last read January 1, 1970.

There's a characteristically witty essay by Borges about a man who rewrites Don Quixote, many centuries after Cervantes. He publishes a novel with the same title, containing the same words in the same order. But, as Borges shows you, the different cultural context means it's a completely new book! What was once trite and commonplace is now daring and new, and vice versa. It just happens to look like Cervantes's masterpiece.

Similarly, imagine the man who was brave or stupid enough to rewrite Dune in the early 21st century. Like many people who grew up in the 60s and 70s, I read the book in my early teens. What an amazing story! Those kick-ass Fremen! All those cool, weird-sounding names and expressions they use! (They even have a useful glossary in the back). The disgusting, corrupt, slimy Harkonnens - don't you just love to hate them! When former-aristo-turned-desert-guerilla-fighter Paul Muad'Dib rides in on a sandworm at the end to fight the evil Baron and his vicious, cruel nephew, of course you're cheering for him. Who the hell wouldn't be?

So that was the Dune we know and love, but the man who rewrote it now would get a rather different reception. Oh my God! These Fremen, who obviously speak Arabic, live on a desert planet which supplies the Universe with melange, a commodity essential to the Galactic economy, and in particular to transport. Not a very subtle way to say "oil"! They are tough, uncompromising fighters, who are quite happy to use suicide bombing as a tactic. They're led by a charismatic former rich kid (OK, we get who you mean), who inspires them to rise up against the corrupt, degenerate... um, does he mean Westerners? Or only the US? And who is Baron Harkonnen intended to be? I'm racking my brains... Dubya doesn't quite seem to fit, but surely he means someone? Unless, of course, he's just a generic stereotype who stands for the immoral, sexually obsessed West. This is frightening. What did we do to make Frank al-Herbert hate us so much? You'd have people, not even necessarily right-wingers, appearing on TV to say that the book was dangerous, and should be banned: at the very least, it incites racial hatred, and openly encourages terrorism. But translations would sell brilliantly in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and a bad movie version would soon be made in Turkey.

I honestly don't think Herbert meant any of that; but today, it's almost impossible not to wonder. If anyone reading this review is planning to rewrite The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, you'd better make sure you get your timing right. Who knows how it will be interpreted five years from now?

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Finished Reading
Finished Reading
Finished Reading
Started Reading
January 1, 1970 – Finished Reading
November 20, 2008 – Shelved
December 5, 2008 – Shelved as: science-fiction
June 5, 2013 – Shelved as: if-research-were-romance
January 15, 2015 – Shelved as: islam-and-arabic

Comments Showing 151-178 of 178 (178 new)

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message 151: by Paolo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paolo Vallejo No need for irony, i just mean that the resemblance to the oil war is a superficial aspect of the book. What matters is how the book deals with ecology, religion and the possibilities of trans-humanism. Also i think Herbert made up a new way of writing sci-fiction, his own language and way of thinking. Cheers!


message 152: by Manny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Well, clearly all that stuff is in there too. But who's to say what the "deep" message of the book is, and what it's "really" about? It's hard to believe that all the references to the Middle East, Arabic, oil, Islam etc are accidental.


Chanticleer the Bard And who is this "Princess" character? And how many fricking books did she write anyways??


message 154: by Anca (new) - added it

Anca Sturza I never thought of Dune in these terms, but it sure is an interesting point of view!


message 155: by Gregg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gregg Wingo Folks, Herbert absolutely meant "Dune" to be a rewrite of "Lawrence of Arabia". It is a Postmodern work in the sense it represents a triumph of The Other over the Western narrative. Paul like the historic Lawrence comes to respect the "primitive" values over his own corrupt British one. There is not a required re-reading but simply a greater understanding of the book now than in your childhood. This is common of literature and why the Hugo and Nebula committees recognized Herbert's work.


message 156: by Josh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Josh Mack ^^^ came here to say this


message 157: by Jamie (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie Connolly Excellent review. Thank you.


message 158: by Manny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny I loved this book when I was thirteen...


message 159: by [deleted user] (new)

Gregg wrote; "Folks, Herbert absolutely meant "Dune" to be a rewrite of "Lawrence of Arabia". It is a Postmodern work in the sense it represents a triumph of The Other over the Western narrative. Paul like the historic Lawrence comes to respect the "primitive" values over his own corrupt British one. There is not a required re-reading but simply a greater understanding of the book now than in your childhood. This is common of literature and why the Hugo and Nebula committees recognized Herbert's work. "

Thank you Gregg. "Shawshank Redemption" might be right up your alley.


message 160: by [deleted user] (new)

Manny wrote; " I loved this book when I was thirteen... "

I suspect that changed somewhat now that you're a big boy.


message 161: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon Kirk very inciteful view on the book. I appreciate you giving your opinion


message 162: by Manny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Thank you Jon!


message 163: by Mary (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mary Trump, right? Trump is the Baron??! :)


message 164: by Manny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Mary wrote: "Trump, right? Trump is the Baron??! :)"

Mary, you may wish to take a quick look at this thread...


message 165: by Anders (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anders Manny, I know you've probably been told this, but you are a genius.


message 166: by Manny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Aw, thank you Anders. I rate myself on the genius scale as about 0.03 Borges, 0.01 Cervantes or 2.6 Brian Herberts.


message 167: by Oruç (new)

Oruç I read the whole rewiev


message 168: by Alana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alana I accepted the story as it was presented - different planet, different peoples. That’s how I tend to read. Like a kid. It’s never until afterwards that I find out it was an allegory for, say, communism, with direct real world correlates, and the pig was not just a pig — and I’m always surprised by these things. With Dune I did halt a few times over the word “jihad,” and I did think that the Missionaria Protectiva could be seen, in certain lights, as a cynic’s take on Christian missionaries, but that was about the extent of my insight.


Nakedfartbarfer Uhhhhh Dune is a pretty blatant allegory. Even a cursory google search will tell you that Frank Herbert was an environmental scientist who studied deserts. You have to be extremely apolitical not to know that US has been stealing oil from Iraq since at least the 1920s. Eisenhower sent troops there in the ‘50s. Ever heard of OPEC? Herbert published this in ‘65, several years before the start of the first oil crisis. All the Fremen names and expressions are Arabic! Arrakis even sounds like Iraq!


Meredith Davis I appreciate your post, I just finished Dune for the first time. I am 20 years old so I don’t really remember a world prior to 9.11. I have studied Islam but I am by no degree an expert. With all this I really enjoyed reading Dune for the purpose that it was an allegory to relations in the Middle East, and an allegory that came out of The United States prior to 9.11. I don’t think that Herbert had any ill feeling toward Muslims or the Arab world, so @nakedfartbarfer and the rest of you, why is this so offensive? The fact that it renders offense also shouldn’t ruin a book, it made you think deeply about something outside the book, I think that is pretty successful.


message 171: by Susan (new)

Susan It's now 2019, and we all know by now who Baron Harkonnen is. But where is our Paul Atreides?!???


message 172: by Manny (last edited Jan 19, 2019 01:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Where indeed? If you know Paul, tell him to quit with the mystical visions already and go get his ass into gear.


Fernando Goulart I have never read Duna, was aware of it (the classics we never read, but only did it recently, and had the same feeling


message 174: by Manny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Glad to hear that, Fernando!


message 175: by Rodr (new) - added it

Rodr This review didn't age well as the ones who chill free speech, threaten deplatforming, and argue for book bans are "progressives". This isn't a review of dune it's a silly virtue signal meant to denegrate political opposition with straw men arguments that are completely disjointed from reality or likelihood of occurrence.


message 176: by Manny (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Hm. Your reaction makes me wonder if my review means the same thing in 2019 as it did when I wrote it in 2009. I am quite surprised to see that you can read it as arguing against free speech!


message 177: by [deleted user] (new)

Manny wrote; "Your reaction makes me wonder if my review means the same thing in 2019 as it did when I wrote it in 2009. "

A lengthy forward written by an unemployed authority with sufficient time on their hands might clear that up.


message 178: by Joseph (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joseph Young I understand the unintended metaphors, but one thing that was intended, is that Paul was not a hero. It was critical of messiahs and that kind of blind loyalty and the cleansing that Paul undertakes toward the end. i definitely view the book differently as an adult.


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