Feb 25, 2010

Dune and Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

The day has come  to review one of the awesomest books I have read--dare I say--ever. Thanks to my dear friend Vjekoslav, who generously borrowed me his copy and gave me the final nudge to read a book that was on my TBR list forever, I am now officially a melange addict (only my eyes are not blue...yet...)

I started reading Dune before Christmas and read several other books while reading this one. I hate myself for not giving it the attention it deserves. Because of the numerous interruptions, I feel like I've missed the feeling of a dry, waterless sand planet, but serves me right--it was a completely wrong time for reading about a desert planet when the snow was knee-high. I wish I have had a whole week off to dedicate myself truly to the fantastic world of Arrakis and the genius of frank Herbert's writing.

Dune was originally published in 1965. It won the Hugo and Nebula Awards and became the first bestselling Sci-Fi hardcover. There are few sequels to Dune; Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune.

Though I'm not much of a Sci-Fi fan, Dune changed my attitude, partly because it's not a typical SF. This epic story of a young man who needs to find his place not only on the new planet, so different from anything he knew before, and squeeze in the fact that he is the Messiah, the new Emperor, not to mention losing his father... It's so much more. A true coming of age novel.

As odd as it may sound--I'm not a fan of Dune, but a fan of Frank Herbert. His writing style is compelling, dialogues intelligent and well-thought out,often cryptic and referring to events that are yet to happen.

What particularly caught my interest is Herbert's way of shaping his characters. Fleshed out to tiniest details, they will have you care for them, whether you hate them or fret over their safety. Though Paul was annoying at moments, getting very self-important (okay, I get it, you're the one the whole universe is waiting for, but still...), he changes a lot by the second installment, Dune Messiah.
Some editions actually put these two together, as one book, though I think separating them was a better decision; the tone is completely different, there is a twelve years gap between the ending of Dune and beginning of Dune Messiah, and, as I've mentioned, the tone changes extremely. Though I found Paul annoying in the first book, the second book sees him reconciling the bloody events his assertion has caused, and I felt a sort of sympathy for him. On the other hand, some characters I wanted to like turned out to be the bad guys. Another feather in Mr. Herbert's hat--each character has an agenda and his own means of achieving it, which only contributes to the amazing characterization.

Oh...when it comes to romance...the romance between Alia and Duncan Idaho is just the cutest romance I have ever read about. And there are five sentences at most about it. Go figure.

Of course I couldn't help myself comparing it to The Lord of the Rings. Both Tolkien and Herbert have managed to create fantastic worlds, very different though, yet both marvelous and seemingly spreading outside the boundaries of their covers. I've been paying a lot of attention to the difference in language. Tolkien's language is much more "colorful", with a brighter imagery than Herbert's. But Tolkien was a poet, a philologist, by nature prone to create vivid depictions of Middleearth. Herbert, on the other hand was a journalist (and an oyster diver, but that hardly matters here). The language of Dune is the language of politics, of diplomacy, often doublespeak and "gloved" speaking, completely suitable to the atmosphere of political games on Arrakis.Because of this, I recommend Dune to everyone. Taking into account what's sometimes being offered in the literature of today, with Dune I was actually reading English in its full beauty.

Dune is rich with--not only melange--but with a deep philosophy of nature. Herbert discusses climate changes, conscious alteration of the atmosphere, even at a cost as great as destroying the most valuable thing Arrakis can offer--melange spice. It clearly shows how one man's meat can be another man's poison. Figuratively, of course. It's about water that is so scarce on Arrakis that they have to retrieve it from their dead.

Since I've left my reading journal with my favorite quotes in Osijek (and there are so many) here are few I found online. I'll add the others late. 

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. (Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear)
The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere. Climb the mountain just a little bit to test that it's a mountain. From the top of the mountain, you cannot see the mountain. 
Anything outside yourself, this you can see and apply your logic to it. But it's a human trait that when we encounter personal problems, these things most deeply personal are the most difficult to bring out for our logic to scan. We tend to flounder around, blaming everything but the actual, deep-seated thing that's really chewing on us. 
 Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.
Do not be trapped by the need to achieve anything. This way, you achieve everything.  
 You do not take from this universe. It grants you what it will.
Oh, my rating? Do I need to say it?
Disclosure: the books reviewed came from a personal library. This is an honest review for which I receive no monetary compensation.

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