October 21, 2015 2:07 PM - by Frank Herbert - Subscribe

The landmark first novel in Frank Herbert's Dune canon, which introduces a far-future universe in which the fate of a pan-galactic human empire hangs on the machinations of powerful families, political machinations, and the life and leadership of a young Paul Atreides.
posted by cortex (150 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
(This is the first discussion for Dune Club, which you should totally join because you are rad and like Dune.)
posted by cortex at 2:36 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am definitely rad like Dune.

I live in Oregon and have never been to the inspirational sand dunes, so maybe I need to make a trip down there!

I will begin a re-read this weekend.
posted by curious nu at 2:59 PM on October 21, 2015

So, embarrassing confession time. The first time I read Dune as a young pre-adolescent I was very intrigued by the still suits, because I figured that they somehow reclaimed water by helping the wearer stay still out in the harsh environs of Arrakis somehow.

Then I read it again as an adult, having forgotten much of it, and came across the still suits again and recalled how young I had been the first time I read the book and as a result how little I had understood about what was going on in the book, beyond just the lack of comprehension of some of the technology.

Fear may be the mind-killer, but youthful ignorance is a mind-fuck sometimes.
posted by nubs at 3:13 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

The addition of books to Fanfare was revealed to the inner sight of the terrible purpose of Fanfare's prescient memory.

I've been listening to the audiobooks of the series, rather unhurriedly over the past few months (I'm currently nearing the end of God-Emperor of Dune), first time through the sequels, second time through the first one in many years. I appreciated Dune itself much more the second time through, mostly as a function of age I think; I wish there had been more time spent with the political machinations before Paul really launches into the Muad'Dib arc--in particular, there were a couple guitar solo moments with Jessica doing the Bene Gesserit thing, circulating and registering and manipulating like crazy through a formal dinner gathering in the Atreides' new sandy digs and the like; I would have liked more of that, both for its own sake, and to throw the sheer disruption of Paul's coming of age into even sharper relief.

But on the other hand, I also loved how much of the history and future myth of the entire setup was simply taken as read; the prose didn't drop huge exposition-bombs on the reader, much of it was approached sideways and indirectly because of course the characters have no reason to exposit at one another about common culture and history.
posted by Drastic at 3:19 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

But on the other hand, I also loved how much of the history and future myth of the entire setup was simply taken as read

Yeah, that, very much. I've always liked the way Herbert's approach to world-building on the page was one of just having people do the things they do and talk about the things the talk about, without an inexplicable character tic of wanting to explain things that everyone would have already understood. The way it leaves the reader much of the time to just catch up and put things together from context.

Which makes for an interesting contradiction, because very much up there with the Herbert novels themselves in my mind is the Dune Encyclopedia, a book that (a) Herbert didn't write and which (b) is chock full of explanatory and historical and expositional details about the world. It's its own thing though very much done with Herbert's approval and cooperation, and my wife will note that I've been making my way through it repeatedly for a long time now as my standard bedtime reading. It's lovely and I'm sure I'll natter on about it more in the future. But I'm excited to have given myself an excuse/obligation to actually reread the novels themselves now.
posted by cortex at 3:27 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I blame Dune for making me obsessed with Environmental anthropology, such as Rappaport' Pigs For The Ancestors .

Rereading it, I wish I could find some way around the regressive sexism of it.
posted by gregglind at 3:54 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I mention this in like every Dune thread but note that there are no sentient aliens. There's plenty of fauna, but everything with consciousness is a direct descendant of human beings.
posted by griphus at 4:03 PM on October 21, 2015 [11 favorites]

Another embarrassing confession; I was first exposed to Dune by a two part miniseries of the Alan Smithee version of dune (with the watercolour stills and a voiceover explanation about the universe) on TV when I was 12 or 13 or so.

Mind blown.

Read Dune. Mind even more blowner. Read the rest of the series. Re-read Dune about once a year until about college, then once every couple of years. I've owned four copies and given away three of them. Started reading the non-existant prequels when they came out, gave up after Atreides or Harkonen, I think. Realized that they weren't prequels but rather poorly done fanfic. Played and loved all the RTS games; the original Dune (by Westwood?) is one of the earliest inspirations of the RTS gaming genre.

I keep reading Dune because the prose is excellent, it's a well written archtypical coming-of-age story, the political machinations is fascinating, and ecology-economics is awesome.

Because of how I was exposed to it, in my mind's eye, Paul is Kyle Maclachlan, Chani is Sean Young, and Kynes is Max von Sydow. Leto I, however, is the guy from the original Dune game.
posted by porpoise at 4:07 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

griphus - good point! Wasn't there a Foundation-like secret group of humans revealed in the final books, or am I misremembering?

Drastic - are the audiobook versions any good? I've been spoiled by really good audiobook readers; I keep wanting to audiobook the Amber series (Zelazny) but the only version I could find is atrocious and I have had to ragequit every time I've tried.
posted by porpoise at 4:11 PM on October 21, 2015

I almost didn't graduate high school because of Dune. Well, more because instead of studying for AP Economics over a weekend I read Dune and skipped the test. In order to pass my economics class, it turned out, I was supposed to have taken it. In order to graduate I needed an economics credit. I got dispensation to retake it and I managed to pass the class by failing the exam and graduate by passing the class.

Worth it.
posted by griphus at 4:12 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

hello i am here in this nerd club and i would just like to say that i read all of the books, even the terrible prequels. i made this great sacrifice so you would not have to.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:41 PM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Dune really is an amazing book, almost timeless is style and subject matter. I reread it every few years and am constantly surprised by how fresh it feels for a book that old. Of course there are parts that haven't held up: the dodgy sexual politics and the whole "white man comes down from the heavens to lead the natives" theme are maybe regrettable - but even there I feel the Herbert was at least trying something different and mainly succeeding.
posted by AndrewStephens at 4:56 PM on October 21, 2015

"So, embarrassing confession time. "

Worse: I haven't read them at all. Hopefully this will be the kick in the pants to correct that oversight.
posted by Mitheral at 5:25 PM on October 21, 2015

I saw the David Lynch film in about 1991 and was so thoroughly confused that, upon something else confusing happening to me, I would have flashbacks to the film. Then, I read the novel in about 1997 and saw the film again shortly thereafter and it was perfect.

sallamaka al-lahu wa-nasaraka
posted by 256 at 5:30 PM on October 21, 2015

Drastic - are the audiobook versions any good?

They're mostly okay, with occasional dips into the lower-end-of-tolerable scale (mostly from foibles of a particular narrator really should not be doing certain voices kind of way). They're definitely not audiobooks to sell the format, though.
posted by Drastic at 5:45 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

AndrewStephens, I get that the theme of the white savior is like, really not on. But, I sorta wonder if the novel is lampshading it a bit. Like, IIRC, the whole mythos about the Mahdi that the Fremen held, was purposefully planted there by Bene Gesserit missionaries in case one of them ever needed to survive among those people.

Also, it's mentioned several times that the Fremen are doing really quite well at their incredibly long-term secret plan to terraform Arrakis into a habitable world, and that Paul arriving and recruiting them into his revolution severely messes that up.

So the story that Frank Herbert wrote is not like, "White dude ends up with natives, shows them how to Do It the Right Way, everyone lives happily ever after because the white dude finally helped turn things around for the poor benighted natives." The story is "White dude ends up with natives, exploits a myth created by previous white folks (with liberal use of mind control technology, the Voice), for his own purposes. White dude rides into power on the back of the natives, in the mean time completely derailing a centuries long plan by the natives to remake their planet into a livable place, which was going just fine before the white dude showed up and plunged the world into bloody revolution."

So I guess the theme is still "white man comes down from the heavens to lead the natives" but I don't think the book shows this in any way as an unalloyed good.
posted by rustcrumb at 5:51 PM on October 21, 2015 [27 favorites]

One of the things I really like about Dune is that Herbert steadfastly refused to deal in moral absolutes with his protagonists. Paul's true triumph is political, not moral or spiritual, and Herbert really pounds in that the answer to "is what Paul did Good?" is a sort of resounding "ehhhh."
posted by griphus at 6:17 PM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

There's a part in I am p. sure the first book when someone on the Atreides side mentions some succesful (and, implicitly, worthy of emulation) leaders of old Earth and two of them are Genghis Khan and Hitler.
posted by griphus at 6:22 PM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

So, we're in a weird and highly-experimental place with Books stuff, and one of the things we should think about (in general but also specifically in here and future Dune novel threads) is spoilers vs: later entries in the series.

I know a lot of us have read through many or all of the books, and I look forward to digging in in general on the series as a whole thing, but my general feeling is that for this thread we should try and focus on keeping the discussion limited to just the first novel, to keep it reasonably free of major spoilers for the later books for folks coming to some or all of the series for the first time.

Then we can fold in longer-arc stuff as it comes along in each book, etc.

That doesn't have to be the way it always works, and we may end up making a distinction between first read and re-read analogous to TV and movie stuff, but seems like a good default for here at least.
posted by cortex at 6:26 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh plz delete the spoiler comment then!
posted by griphus at 6:35 PM on October 21, 2015

Done, you understanding gent.
posted by cortex at 6:35 PM on October 21, 2015

Does that mean we can't talk about the battlepug bjorn?
posted by poffin boffin at 7:01 PM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Heh. I think we can certainly acknowledge his existence without causing too much inter-canon difficulty.
posted by cortex at 7:04 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

the prose didn't drop huge exposition-bombs on the reader,

Something his son will never learn.
posted by juiceCake at 8:01 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Something his son will never learn.

Best summed up by the best Penny Arcade of all time.

Which, incidentally, I printed out and it hung on my fridge for years and years.
posted by barchan at 8:43 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

The gender politics are definitely icky here. Although, in fairness, I don't think Herbert is portraying this as a desirable society.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:44 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sooo I just tried to borrow it from my local library's ebook collection. I figured it would be easy since it's been out for years and all...but two people have holds ahead of me. Are any of you jerks in King County, WA? Because if so you are bogarting the ebooks.

This ordeal maaay have caused me to remember that I actually own the paper edition of the book as well. Commencing reread posthaste.
posted by town of cats at 9:33 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know a lot of us have read through many or all of the books, and I look forward to digging in in general on the series as a whole thing, but my general feeling is that for this thread we should try and focus on keeping the discussion limited to just the first novel, to keep it reasonably free of major spoilers for the later books for folks coming to some or all of the series for the first time.

I have always felt like a nerd dilettante because I only read the first three Dune novels. I'm just happy to be here, but my preference would be spoiler free.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:03 PM on October 21, 2015

The gender politics are definitely icky here. Although, in fairness, I don't think Herbert is portraying this as a desirable society.

The intense homophobia shows up in enough places and ways that I have to think it's more Herbert than the Empire.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:07 PM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's been a while, but I've read Dune three times and loved it every time. But each time I try to start the sequel, I only get about 30-50 pages and give up. Without getting into specifics about any sequels, I'm wondering how many other people think Dune is the bee's knees, but are not into the sequels?
posted by isthmus at 11:24 PM on October 21, 2015

Without getting into specifics about any sequels, I'm wondering how many other people think Dune is the bee's knees, but are not into the sequels?

What sequels?
posted by PenDevil at 12:56 AM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

The Sequels are definitely inferior, I think, because Dune is so good, that by comparison they sort of feel like typical space opera, but there's still a lot of cool stuff in them.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:57 AM on October 22, 2015

clueless n00b alert: I have never read Dune! I have meant to for ages, and this is my catalyst. I have just right this minute sent it to my Kindle.
posted by corvine at 5:16 AM on October 22, 2015

Yeah, I'll say that I am also someone who isn't so hot on the sequels. I'm pretty sure I never finished them, even though I've read Dune at least a dozen times. Maybe this club will help me remedy that.

Regarding Dune itself, aside from the creepy weird homophobia with the Baron, I still love this book from start to finish. It gets so much right about pacing and how it doles out information about the universe it exists in, and I really enjoy the perspective we get on the various characters whose eyes we get to see through. Even Yueh's internal motivations are way more interesting and human than those you get in a lot of books/movies from ostensible villains.

Plus, in the stillsuits, there's a sort of ... I'll call it a lightsaber analog, even though Dune came first, by which I mean a really fascinating piece of fictional technology that, while not the whole point of the story, really engages the reader. Stillsuits and thopters and slow blades, oh my!
posted by tocts at 5:19 AM on October 22, 2015

Reading Dune was my first experience of the sudden whiplash when you think you have lots of book left and it turns out that, no, it's just the appendix and the book is over.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:58 AM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

Oh hey all the Dune first-time readers: don't read the appendices/dictionary as you're reading the book. It's full of spoilers and 99% of the stuff you can figure out by context from what I remember.
posted by griphus at 7:05 AM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

The sequels definitely have cool bits, and enough of them that I'm looking forward to later threads on them. But the overall tightness and focus and just general wow-factor is a steady decline through God-Emperor at least (and my quatloos on the same continuing for the next ones). So there's definitely no shame in thinking Dune itself is the bee's knees, cat's meow, and purpose's terrible, but giving the sequels a pass. (Though as noted above before and around the series-spoiler discussion, some of the cool bits that are there throw extra light on the White Savior reading of the first.)

There's certainly gross-to-eye-rolly-and-back-again gender politics and homophobia shot through it, most of it flowing from a baked-in gender essentialism--ie, it stems out of the same silliness about why exactly the kwisatz haderach would be so special, what with being a male who could nonetheless do what only hoo-man feeeemales (ferengi font brackets in play) could do, just imagine such a thing, so alien!
posted by Drastic at 7:12 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well-timed for me! I read and loved Dune as a pre-adolescent (I read it in probably sixth grade, a process that took a few months, and involved me carrying around a yellowed, decades-old, huge paperback everywhere; when the cover eventually fell off, I reattached it with scotch tape), and just happened to dip into a Kindle version recently. There's...certainly a lot of stuff that little kid me would have missed.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:17 AM on October 22, 2015

kittens for breakfast, get out of my life story (I also read it just before 6th grade)!


But yes, I think it's probably mandatory for me to participate or I'd be forced to find a new name. Thanks to town of cats for the heads up!
posted by Atreides at 7:55 AM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Over in Katullus's Foundation thread, there's some brief discussion of psychohistory, the notion that the future can be predicted mathematically in broad strokes, and the heroic future-people using those principles to not only predict but change the future. Dune is the flipside of that. Despite all the social science advances of the future and the Nietzschean heroism of the future-people to attempt to write their own destinies, they are hamstrung by their culture, the decisions of their forebears, and just being human animals.

"Muad'Dib must not do this," says Stilgar, and Paul-Muad'Dib replies, "But Duke Paul must." At any point after the surprise attack Paul could have chosen his own way and avoided the galactic jihad he could barely see over the ever-changing horizon in his visions. He tries and tries to keep his terrible visions from becoming true! At the same time, though, he keeps the revenge-focus of Reverend Mother Mohiam's humanity test in his mind and bides his time, waiting and plotting, plans within plans. This leads to his fatalism and acceptance of the universal war which his follower-worshippers will gladly lead for him. It's really out of his hands even before the climactic knife fight (this is the key reason why the sequels are kind of lame IMHO).

Dune is a big box of downer wrapped inside a shiny victory wrapping paper, and I only understood that as I got older, more aware of my limitations, and less optimistic about the future. It's like a future Aeneid.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:57 AM on October 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

The intense homophobia shows up in enough places and ways that I have to think it's more Herbert than the Empire.

Part of David Lynch's genius is that the Dune film addresses this by being intensely homoerotic.
posted by maxsparber at 8:09 AM on October 22, 2015 [8 favorites]

One thing that bothered me the last couple times I re-read Dune was what seems like the incredibly short period of time it took for the Fremen to restructure their beliefs to accomodate the Kynes' terraforming agenda. It was Liet Kynes's father who introduced the whole idea as the Emperor's planetary ecologist - introducing plants and animals to Arrakis to lock up moisture and such. It could only have been 50-60 years between the start of the project and the events of the book, but the impression the main text gives is that the possibility of flowing water is tantamount to a religion for the Fremen. It seems like too short a period for the idea to become so universally entrenched in Fremen society.
posted by logicpunk at 8:21 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

There's certainly gross-to-eye-rolly-and-back-again gender politics and homophobia shot through it, most of it flowing from a baked-in gender essentialism

This is something I'm (grimly) interested in rereading the novel for; I've spent a bunch of brain space on the Dune universe as a whole the last several years, but haven't sat down and reread the original book itself in a good long while and wasn't doing so with all that keenly critical an eye towards that stuff when I last did because I was partly just trying to get a running start at the later books by plowing through something familiar.

So I'm curious how much more some of it will stand out to current-me vs younger-me.
posted by cortex at 8:24 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

And one thing I'm also curious about, for this and for the rest of the books: I've developed this impression in retrospect of Herbert's writing in the novels that it is almost uniquely humorless. Like, my early thoughts about the story were of fascination with the characters and the technology and the culture, in a sort of "this is an amazing world" way, and I continue to love that stuff, but at some point I started to try and think idly about how I would relate Dune stuff to other crossover media and how characters would interact or react, and it struck me how incompatible most of the characters as written would be with anything remotely funny or goofy or bumbling.

Everyone in Dune is whip smart. Everyone in Dune is dead serious. Every little thing that happens is a move in a chess game inside another chess game. There's a dry, cautious deliberateness to the whole of galactic humanity (or specifically the various power players that we get a perspective lens on) that, in my memory at least at this point, is striking. Frank Herbert occasionally writes about characters laugh, but he never writes a scene that's actually funny or particularly joyful. Humor and joy are things to be referred to as a background characterization.

So I'm curious whether that holds up on a reread, or if it turns out Frank had a little bit more of a lighter side snuck into the crannies than I recall.
posted by cortex at 8:33 AM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

I vaguely recall some interactions between Thufir and Gurney that were mildly chuckleworthy but yeah, for the most part everyone is grimdark all the time.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:55 AM on October 22, 2015

This is the closest thing to "humor" that I remember in Dune:
"Mood?" Halleck's voice betrayed his outrage even through the shield's filtering. "What has mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises — no matter the mood! Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It's not for fighting."
Also I think Baron Harkonnen is the only person that has actual fun that has nothing to do with finding fun in training or chores.
posted by griphus at 9:01 AM on October 22, 2015

And at the risk of breaching the walls of pop culture, I'll note that the serious, calculating, deliberate-to-the-point-of-conspicously-dragging pacing of the conversations in the Hannibal television series is my mind the most Dune-like interlocutional vibe I've ever gotten from something on TV. The kind of extreme care and wariness of most of the exchanges between the core characters, the...duelist aesthetic of their various dialogues, is (minus the literally slow pacing) more or less what I would imagine conversation between most of Herbert's key characters to be like.
posted by cortex at 9:06 AM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

and also if paul and feyd-rautha ever made out they would definitely fall off a cliff together.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:07 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

There were bits that made me laugh out loud, but I doubt they were intentional. The standout couple were all sequel fodder, though. In the first, Harkonnen is definitely the only guy actually enjoying himself.

One could probably torture an interpretation where part of the galactic dystopia being painted is that the Bene Gesserit breeding program has literally bred humor out of the species, leaving only grim passion, calculation, and intent.
posted by Drastic at 9:11 AM on October 22, 2015

I'm wondering how many other people think Dune is the bee's knees, but are not into the sequels?

Didn't much enjoy Messiah or Children, but God-Emperor and beyond are good and enjoyable but verrrrrry different than Dune.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:21 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Totally unrelated but Grimes released an album called Geidi Primes with many songs named after Dune Stuff and it could be a concept album if you want but probably isn't. It's pretty good though.
posted by griphus at 9:21 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ok, I guess I'll join this! I'm out of town right now and I don't remember if I sold my copies of the books at the last yard sale, though.

Dune was one of the first "grown up" books I ever read, also around when I was 10 or 11. It was also the book that made me lose religion. I mean, I'm not sure how strongly I had it to begin with - I was raised Catholic, but like most kids I never really questioned religion or its merits all that much. And then I read Dune and the discussion about the Bene Gesserit just making up religions on various planets out of whole cloth... you can do that?! And that let to a whole long episode of doubt about the church coupled with the fact that we were in a foreign country so we weren't going to church regularly anymore and then there were some uncomfortable conversations with my mother about why I didn't want to go to confirmation classes.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:31 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's a case that one could make about Herbert intending Dune Messiah being the final part of the novel Dune. I believe Dune works best without Dune Messiah, though—too many new ideas are introduced in Dune Messiah for it to be part of the novel Dune. More I can't say without spoilers for DM.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:36 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's kind of a coda.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:58 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just sat down and read the first chapter of the book for the first time in a long while, and I'd forgotten just how much of the arc of the whole series is in there in broad themes. How much of that is Herbert knowing where he was going all along vs. him just coming back to strong themes as he improvised book to book I don't know (and that'll be fun to discuss later), but I'd forgotten how on point the first few pages are about a lot of the core ideas of a Long Now philosophy, prescience, shades of truth, and Paul's early self-awareness of his looming terrible impact on the galaxy.
posted by cortex at 9:58 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

And of course the weird love-and-hate (or more broadly good-and-bad) duality of the Bene Gesserrit, something that without any kind of spoilers I can say is one of the most interesting things that the last two books in the series in particular explore.
posted by cortex at 10:00 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does the first chapter take place entirely on Caladan or am I misremembering?
posted by griphus at 10:10 AM on October 22, 2015

yeah, it's all preparation for leaving plus RM helen etc's visit.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:14 AM on October 22, 2015

Didn't much enjoy Messiah or Children, but God-Emperor and beyond are good and enjoyable but verrrrrry different than Dune.

I did like Children, but not so much Messiah and God-Emperor.
posted by francesca too at 10:17 AM on October 22, 2015

I remember the descriptions of Caladan being really evocative for some reason. Maybe it was just because it's the first chapter or maybe it's how harsh the difference is between the idyllic ocean-planet and Space Australia.
posted by griphus at 10:18 AM on October 22, 2015

The last chapter of Caladan action takes place during a torrential downpour; one of the last descriptions is of Leto's grim mood as the rain is hitting the windows during his conversation with Paul about the parallels between the Sardaukar and the Fremen.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:23 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

(there are like 3-4 chapters in caladan plus another one of the piter & vlad comedy hour before any arrakis stuff starts)
posted by poffin boffin at 10:25 AM on October 22, 2015

It's also the same scene in which Leto tells Paul that he's been receiving mentat training all his life, and Paul has that sudden WHOA moment where everything he's ever learned suddenly has New and Important meaning, and it's like, this huge tragedy in retrospect because you see what kind of a father Leto would have been, what kind of a leader he could have been in Arrakis, and how well-suited he and Jessica were as a team in forming and encouraging differing but complementary aspects of Paul's personality and abilities.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:31 AM on October 22, 2015 [13 favorites]

I think one of my favourite things about Dune has always been the chapter heading quotes, it's such a satisfying way to deliver worldbuilding without groanworthy "As you know Bob" dialogue. I'm surprised I don't see it used more often.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 11:33 AM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

The Big Reveal as to the author of many of those and why she matters was super satisfying too.
posted by griphus at 11:41 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

I thought the chapter heading quotes from Princess Irulan were nice but kind of clunky. I was delighted when Herbert lampshaded that near the end by having a character note Irulan's "literary pretensions."

Another way that Dune compares to Asimov's Foundation—the latter starts many chapters or parts of the story with entries from the story-future Encyclopedia Galactica, published a thousand years or so after the action depicted, "used by permission."
posted by infinitewindow at 11:43 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm in.
I typically read dune every other year, and each time, I find something different in it.
As a teenager, I read it more as a coming of age story. Being from the Middle East, it was also the first time for me seing words from Arabic being used in a sci fi context.
Later, it was much more of a prescient political thing for me (irak for arakkis, shaddam , spice for oil etc)
Recently I've been more touched by the interpersonal relationships- as well as the homophobia, which I hadn't realize was there until reading the book in my thirties, I was also struck by the level of sexual violence in some scenes, of which I must have been completely oblivious at the time.
I'm curious to see how it'll be this time.

Visually, I've been very much influenced by the cryo video game, especially for the stillsuits and ornithopters
posted by motdiem2 at 11:47 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh and in my mind, Gurney Halleck has fun at what he does too. For some reason he's a joyful character in my head.
posted by motdiem2 at 11:48 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

The bene gesserit 'litany against fear' gets me through a lot of days.
posted by French Fry at 12:14 PM on October 22, 2015 [8 favorites]

Revisiting a couple of thoughts from upthread as I get a few more chapters in:

1. Humor:

The scene with Paul and Gurney on their last day on Caladan, with the bit about mood and cattle and balisets, is an interesting contradiction of my perception of joylessness because it does start out with the two of them actively joking around and enjoying teasing each other. And Gurney is in fact the one who initially seems to be in the mood for music rather than fighting. There's genuine friendship and affection and a nervous joie de vivre in the first bit of the scene, even though it does then become angry and serious and turn into, essentially, a lecture on the constant danger of ever being happy and non-paranoid. But that this is Paul at the youngest and least-burdened that we'll ever see him may make it not so much a contradiction of the thesis of humorlessness so much as the exception against which the rest of the story will be contrasted. Curious to see.

2. Exposition dumps:

The very second chapter (section? they're not formally labeled, really) of the book is the Baron, Piter de Vries, and Feyd-Rautha engaging in what is by one read in fact a hugely side-eyeable bit of exposition and As You Know, Bobbing. The Baron and Piter take turns laying out their whole scheme for inducing the Duke and his family into the deadly trap of Arrakis, the use of disguised Imperial troops to make the trap work, etc. The Baron, as part of his first line of dialogue in the book, literally asks "Is it not a magnificent thing that I, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, do?" It comes of as hugely, clunkily theatrical.

And the thing there is, as the scene continues it becomes a little clearer that the sort of dramatic talking-at-each-other thing is a little self-conscious, that there's a weird performative aspect to this as the Baron plays off of Piter and plays up for Feyd, and the patterns of sassy back-and-forth between Piter is very much a thing both are into and which Feyd is not keeping pace with or taking an interest in. So is it clunky? Or is it just character? Or is it both? Herbert does a really good job of building out careful dialogues and internal monologues, of characterizing effectively the details of what a given person is thinking and planning and why; the Baron may just be an exception to most of the cast in being so blustery and dramatic, and that might just be something Herbert doesn't really pull off as well.

But I have a remembered impression of the Baron coming off as more canny and less ridiculous as the narrative continues, so maybe it really is just this opener that comes off as an overdone attempt at a study in contrasts.

For that matter, the monologuing (or dialoguing) explanation of the villainous plan would be far more out of place and groanworthy if the following chapters didn't make it clear that, in fact, literally everyone up to and including Duke Leto himself seems to know that the Harkonnens are specifically planning to trap and murder the Atreides on Arrakis, and that it's more a matter of relative certainty that it will happen that varies from person to person. In a narrative where it was all just a big surprise, it'd be embarrassing, but with this sense of bigger-than-any-of-us web of intractable and deadly imperial politics as the level at which everybody's already actively playing it takes the edge off somewhat.

Still, really interesting as a short chunk of text that collides strongly with the more holistic general sense of the series I carry around in my head.
posted by cortex at 12:44 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, my people.
posted by blurker at 2:39 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

Behind the sophomoric substitutions (beer for spice, sugar for sand, giant pretzels for sandworms) National Lampoon's Doon is a genuinely hilarious skewering of Herbert's style. Tricky to find these days but grab a used copy if you find one.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:50 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I thought it was a good bit better written than Bored of the Rings.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:49 PM on October 22, 2015

So even in my first couple chapters of reading, one thing I wanted to discuss with people the first time I read it is already jumping out at me again: how thoroughly and shamelessly George Lucas ripped off Dune. Did people talk about this when Star Wars first came out? I gather Dune was rather popular, and Lucas took more than a few pages from it, from the basic immersive and visual worldbuilding technique (which, granted, pretty much every great scifi world created since has at least attempted) to the random minutiae of life on a desert planet. Doesn't Leia at some point outright accuse someone of having been "chewing spice"?

I feel like I know a lot of guys who really love Star Wars who've also read Dune and proclaimed its greatness to me but nobody ever told me, "Oh, and by the way, one reason you should read Dune is because you'll know where Lucas picked up half the good tricks he employed when he was figuring out how to do exposition about the Star Wars universe, plus also he just snagged most of Arrakis and called it Tatooine." I would've picked it up a lot earlier if I'd known it was a sort of Star Wars urtext.

Am I overestimating how blatant this is? Am I just Too Obsessed with Star Wars, or what?

Also, if you like the "opening chapter quotes" conceit, Ursula K Le Guin also uses it in The Left Hand of Darkness, which is a fantastic book for a bunch of other reasons. I just picked it up after meaning to for years and really regret waiting so long.
posted by town of cats at 9:40 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

The documentary Jodorowsky's Dune tries the make the case that Alejandro Jodorowsky's unfinished (but much-publicized) adaptation had major effects on science fiction movies of the late '70s and early '80s, both through the specific visuals he created, and the more general promotion of the book to the new wave of Hollywood filmmakers. Quite some time is spent on the Dune influence on Star Wars, as I recall.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:58 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

So one thing I was wondering is did anyone attempt to write some of the books mentionned in Dune ? Like the Orange Catholic Bible, or the Irulan Diaries ? - would there be fan fiction of that somewhere ?
posted by motdiem2 at 4:43 AM on October 23, 2015

I don't know if anyone ever took a shot at a full volumes, but some of those fictional works do get discussed and very slightly excerpted in the Dune Encyclopedia; there's comparatively large entries on both Irulan's literary/historical works and the history and content of the O. C. Bible, as well as on the stage play writing of a God Emperor-era poet.
posted by cortex at 6:56 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

So I started re-reading it last night and here's some stray observations:

-The Reverend Mother has metal teeth.
-Thufir Hawat suspects that the Reverend Mother is here to "whip our dear Lady Jessica into line" which seems reasonable but was just prior revealed to be almost the opposite of the point of her visit.
-I totally forgot that the fall of House Atreides on Arrakeen, Duke Leto being doomed, and Jessica having a bounty on her head as she escapes with Paul is all known by the Bene Gesserit from the very start.
-This weird bit of bureacracy-metaphor:
How soon this child must assume his manhood , Halleck thought. How soon he must read that form within his mind, that contract of brutal caution, to enter the necessary fact on the necessary line: "Please list your next of kin."
posted by griphus at 7:16 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, yeah, the Dune Encyclopedia is a pretty massive work of sanctioned fanfic disguised as a reference volume. There's bylines for most entries attributed to scholars and many of them conflict with details and often later editors annotate earlier entries to specify that something is speculation or just outright incorrect. It's not like the numerous SF Franchise Encyclopedias out there that are just dry reference works mimicking real-world encyclopedias. It's a lot more like an actual work from the Dune universe which acknowledges that transformational effect time has on history and the stories we tell about it.
posted by griphus at 7:22 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I will chime in on "Dune" vs "all-the-other-ones". I'm not a big reader. I read very few novels in general but I've always loved Dune and I've read it a several times. I've played the Dune games. I've watched the David Lynch movie a lot. (I think my love of the new starwars trailer is in large part because the choral+drums music sounds so much like dune)

I have tried to read the other dune books. Tried repeatedly over the years but they just don't do it for me.

I feel part of the magic of Dune is that it's both sprawling and focused. It's a story about Paul. One guy for a few years of his life. Through his relatively brief journey, we learn about a giant universe and epic history but it's still about Paul. I could not understand something historical and still understand what the hell Paul was up to; and through his transformation and victory, maybe later get that historical tidbit.

In the other books I didn't feel that anchor to hold onto and frequently felt lost.
posted by French Fry at 7:44 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love Dune on a number of levels. A big part of it as how thoroughly and confidently Herbert seems to have imagined the larger story world; events, places and things are referenced in a way that convincingly evokes a very rich history without having to go into excruciating detailed tangents. (For this reason, I remember having a lot of trouble the first couple of times I tried to read the book as a kid; most of the exposition is achieved by context and I kept waiting for some "As you know Bob" passages to tell me what the hell was going on.)

The whole "Tech advanced enough for interstellar travel but no thinking machines allowed" weirdness of the story universe, and the ways humans have found to compensate for (and dance on the edge of) that proscription is also quite compelling to me.

Regarding the sequels: I think I read up to and halfway through Chapterhouse: Dune in high school before stalling out. I do remember them having interesting concepts but feeling generally weaker than the first book. I'm not sure I've read past Dune Messiah since then, but maybe I'll give it a try.
posted by usonian at 8:14 AM on October 23, 2015

Speaking of the As You Know, Bob stuff I thought that the Harkonnen/Piter/Feyd stuff was at least kind of cleverly camouflaged as "please explain this to my idiot nephew" and the general sense of frustration in that whole scene adding to the characterization of House Harkonnen while doing some necessary world-building.
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm also wondering about Herbert's influence on cyberpunk w/r/t defamiliarization/alienation. Consider stuff like Neuromancer where when starting the book you are very much aware you're practically an intruder in this world and the narrative really hardly has any time for you to question the basic details. But that the same time it works because the context is so well-thought out that it's not necessary to dumb things down/patiently explain for the relative yokels the audience are.
posted by griphus at 8:33 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The whole "Tech advanced enough for interstellar travel but no thinking machines allowed" weirdness of the story universe, and the ways humans have found to compensate for (and dance on the edge of) that proscription is also quite compelling to me.

Speaking of technology, rereading Dune has also brought to my mind something else I missed as a teenager. How there is a distinct lack of personal technology ("thinking machines"). References are made to the Butlerian Jihad (his son attempted to write the backstory for this in the prequel books, the less said about those the better).

Aside from the heighliners (space ships), harvesters, ornithopters, etc. there isn't much in the way of personal computing. It's interesting how often other SF writers make use of technology in their stories, but Herbert seems to actively turn his back away from these ideas.
posted by Fizz at 8:43 AM on October 23, 2015

I have tried to read the other dune books.

Tried and failed?
posted by cortex at 11:45 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]

posted by poffin boffin at 11:48 AM on October 23, 2015 [15 favorites]

Aside from the heighliners (space ships), harvesters, ornithopters, etc. there isn't much in the way of personal computing. It's interesting how often other SF writers make use of technology in their stories, but Herbert seems to actively turn his back away from these ideas.

He also created a space emperor and landed (planetary speaking) noble class. He definitely wanted to set the clock back, so to speak, even refusing to allow space travel to happen by means other than organic.
posted by Atreides at 11:54 AM on October 23, 2015

It's a lot more like an actual work from the Dune universe which acknowledges that transformational effect time has on history and the stories we tell about it.

Yep. To the point where it has entries that are e.g. long-form meditations on how it's impossible that Dr. Yueh could have been the betrayer because Let's Look At The Facts etc. It's got a lot of that really wonderful riffing on the idea that when a few thousand years go by shit unravels a bit.

Aside from the heighliners (space ships), harvesters, ornithopters, etc. there isn't much in the way of personal computing.

It's one of the really brilliant things about the world he built, I think: get away from some Asimovian "technology just keeps getting more futuristic" vector, and all the ways that threatens to date itself inside of a few decades, and instead give yourself an excuse to have humanity resolving solved problems in new and varyingly clever or suboptimal ways. I love that the future of the galaxy in Herbert's take is both a strange, far-flung place and yet not just a shitload of chrome and lasers and increasingly small iPhones.
posted by cortex at 11:58 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

He also created a space emperor and landed (planetary speaking) noble class.

The shield mechanics play into that too. If you want to hurt somebody, you have to stick 'em with a knife at just the right speed. Apparently this conduces to a feudal society based around who can field the best-trained fighters, with the Emperor on top thanks to his Sardaukar.
posted by Iridic at 12:15 PM on October 23, 2015

I think "don't fire lasers at shields" is one of my favorite Chekhov's guns in SF.
posted by griphus at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

I read Dune as a teenager and found it an amazing world that I didn't want to leave with a lot of shades of grey, tragedy, and stark beauty. I reread it as an adult, and was struck by how Paul was an inexplicable jerkface to his allies, especially Jessica, a great deal of the time. I tried to chalk it up to Paul being young, but it was interesting how time changed my perspective on the Chosen One being a bit of a tool.

I still think the Bene Gesserit's manipulations of the Fremen and the galaxy generally are a great concept, and I wish we'd been able to see things a bit more from their perspective. The grand feudal favor trading and underhanded deals basically running the universe gave it a political backdrop I could buy into. I'd struggle to name another SF series in which so many conflicting political factions are compellingly portrayed, since other than the Harkonnens most of the factions are at least a little sympathetic. Most of the other SF I can think of is either "lone wolves against wrong-headed bureaucracy" or it's more about personal conflicts than galaxy-spanning plots.

I don't think I ever made it very far in the sequels/prequels. I got about a third of the way through God-Emperor before checking out, and I don't think I even got that far into the first prequel. I think it's best as a standalone meditation on the price of power and revenge, really.
posted by tautological at 12:44 PM on October 23, 2015

cortex: "get away from some Asimovian "technology just keeps getting more futuristic" vector, and all the ways that threatens to date itself inside of a few decades"

This may be a bit pedantic, but I don't think Asimov really did this all that much. The milieu of Foundation is basically 1940s America with starships.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:47 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hm. Read this through Chapterhouse/Heretics at a pretty young age. Of all six, I like Dune and God Emperor of Dune and have reread both repeatedly. I didn't really care for the others all that much. I saw just enough of the prequels to agree completely with Penny Arcade - they were intolerable.

Other people have covered some of my thoughts about this well enough above, but the thing I have big feels about with regard to Dune is the gom jabbar test. Frank Herbert is sort of at the core of my understanding of what it means to be a grown person, instead of something less. I still think the benchmark for adulthood is being able to pick the box over the needle, metaphorically, and still find it one of the most compelling images in all the stuff I read in my youth.

(I was also fascinated by a few bits in the Destination: Void series, concerning what it meant to be human, and how we go about deciding that stuff.)
posted by mordax at 8:30 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

(Of course, I also based my life long approach to academics on Isaac Asimov's Sucker Bait, so maybe this was more about me than how cool that scene was.)
posted by mordax at 8:41 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Most of the other SF I can think of is either "lone wolves against wrong-headed bureaucracy"

It's funny you should say that, seeing as Herbert created the concept of a heroically obstructive bureaucrat in his Bureau of Sabotage books.
posted by Iridic at 6:23 AM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Dune Encyclopedia is just wonderful, it would justify the existence of the books up to God Emperor all on its own. Anyone who wants backstory on things like the Butlerian Jihad and sensibly wishes to avoid the prequel dreck is recommended to check it out.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 8:48 AM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

The prequel stuff is good if you are the kind of person who despairingly reads mediocre fanfic based in your small fandom universe.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:53 AM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I read Dune in my teens, again in my 20s and just again last month, now that I'm in my 40s. When I first read it, I focused on what it would be like to be Paul, especially in terms of having and wielding his powers and position in life. What it would be like to have his adventures and be the most special and important person in the universe. In my latest reading, I felt I had a much richer understanding of some of the subtleties of the story and its universe. Not only that, but I found myself focusing more on the roles of Leto and Jessica as his parents, the decisions they made and what it would be like to have a child like Paul.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:30 PM on October 24, 2015

I'm about a third of the way through my re-read now, and I'm relieved to find myself really genuinely absorbed by it again even after what felt like a little bit of clumsiness in the opening bits (particularly that scenery-chewing introduction of the Baron).

Even knowing the story beats well, even having a picture of the long long arc of the narrative across the six books, even in a story where the trap is predicted and discussed overtly ahead of time, the moment of Duke Leto resolving to talk to Jessica about his cold-shoulder tactics but then finding the dying Mapes and the sinking disquieting doom of betrayal coming to fruition was gripping and heartbreaking.
posted by cortex at 6:15 PM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm loving rereading this. This book (series not so much) had a huge influence on me.
Oddly enough, I don't think I had ever realized that it was copyrighted in 1965. It seemed so contemporary when I read it before.
posted by gt2 at 3:11 AM on October 25, 2015

I like the fact that the Bene Gesserit planted all these clues and so called prophecies presaging the coming of Paul, which was calculating and highly manipulative and yet Paul would spontaneously say and do the things in the prophecies. It's such a weird blending of manipulation, fate and free will.
posted by gt2 at 9:50 AM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Drinking orange cinnamon tea, eating cinnamon/sugar toast. Am basically Fremen now.
posted by curious nu at 1:06 PM on October 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

One of my favorite descriptive phrases occurs during one of Baron Harkonnen's lectures to Rautha. As he's unfolding his plans there's this phrase about "tensions of a new understanding" crossing Rautha's face. I think about that phrase all the time for some reason. It really gets me.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:01 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have any of you ever read the original magazine versions of "Dune World" and "The Prophet of Dune"? I've always wondered how much they differ from the novel version.
posted by The Tensor at 11:52 PM on October 25, 2015

Oh, man.
I spent years of my life having such strong feeling about Dune. I couldn't stop thinking about it. It is etched into my consciousness. I probably don't even know any more when my thoughts are Dune thoughts.
Somewhere in probably my parents' attic, there are tiny painted sculptures of Gurney Halleck and God Emperor Leto that I made, based on descriptions in the books. I should dig those up.
I've read the entire series (prequels excepted; never touched 'em) twice, and I have totally lost count of how many times I've read the first book.
Dune Messiah slows me down, but Children and God Emperor are my favorites, after the first one, of course.
I think I may be due for another full read-through, because it's been a few years.

And while the Dune influence on Star Wars is pretty clear, holy crap Robert Jordan shamelessly swiped the Fremen whole for the Aiel in the Wheel of Time. I'm amazed he even bothered to change their name.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:35 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

So I started my re-read over the weekend, and man am I having a tough time getting into this book. The first few chapters feel really clumsy. It's not just the first chapter with Baron Harkonnen (which has some cringe inducing dialogue), but everything feels like it's just weighted down with import.
posted by nubs at 11:06 AM on October 26, 2015

Just had a thought, rereading the bit where Liet-Kynes is dying in the desert and seething at the lecturing, disembodied voice of his father: it can be explained away as just dying delirium, but it could also be seen as a spontaneous, naive development of some sliver of ancestral memory trick of Reverend Mothers and Sayyadina et al. The planetologist, in a moment of extreme crisis, amid a concentration of spice, innately breaching the wall into those memories in a way that he's too far gone to stop and contemplate.

It feels like a stretch to get away from what is otherwise a totally standard dramatic device, but given some of the stuff that develops later in the series with the ideas of e.g. ghola consciousness it's also not exactly incompatible with Herbert's ideas.
posted by cortex at 9:06 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Especially if you consider that by the time Paul actually becomes Kwisatz Haderach, the BG breeding program has probably produced a fair number of people who are almost KH's -- Count Fenring is explicitly described that way, but presumably Vladimir Harkonnen and Leto Atreides (the father, not the son) were also pretty close.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:43 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

it can be explained away as just dying delirium, but it could also be seen as a spontaneous, naive development of some sliver of ancestral memory trick of Reverend Mothers and Sayyadina et al.

Plus, maybe he's inhaling low levels of spice?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:50 PM on October 29, 2015

One thing I'm consciously realizing on this read-through is that pretty much every noteworthy character in Dune has undergone some form of relentless, vigorous, years-long training that pervades their every thought and action; Mentats, Suk doctors, masters of weapons, Bene Gesserit, Sardaukar soldiers, the Fremen with their discipline for desert survival, the Guild steersmen, the Landsraad nobles and their need to be masters of leadership and political intrigue, and so on. And of course we learn that Paul's has been trained in several of these arts from early childhood, so even without the Bene Gesserit's genetic tinkering he would be well prepared to become a formidable force.

I can't remember whether the story ever follows any workaday slobs in the Dune books. I guess it would probably be kind of boring.
posted by usonian at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

Well I know now why I never read Dune before. The first few chapters are a horrible slog of interpersonal interaction and name checking; something I have trouble keeping straight. It's the same problem I have with GoT and why I haven't read though that book yet. Luckily it settles down after that and it's not a bad read.

The homophobia is strong though and I found it pretty off putting. It seemed to be written to show the Baron as an over the top evil but for me with more current sensibilities it just comes off as weird in a why are they making such a big thing about his sexuality kind of way. In a way it is more humanizing that othering. Also the fat shaming for a condition that is at least hinted at being because of genetics.

Finally how incompetent are the people doing body searches? The flip-dart is just the most egregious example of a complete failure of the security services to do their job. Completely unacceptable in a world where poison and assassination are rampant.
posted by Mitheral at 9:16 AM on October 30, 2015

(Meant to say rigorous. Although the combat training would indeed be vigorous.)
posted by usonian at 9:49 AM on October 30, 2015

What are people citing as the homophobia? Baron reads more to me as just a straight-up pedophile.
posted by curious nu at 10:05 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

My feeling is the mingling of the two—Vlad is both the only overt homosexual we see in the story, and has a thing for boys and an explicit disinterest in consent besides—is just an extra pile of problematic grossness, not anything that takes any responsibility away from Herbert for the homophobia itself present in that characterization.

There's enough super nasty historical conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia that I can't at all take for granted that a scenery-chewing gay pedophile character written in the 60s was intended to be only and uniquely looked at askance for the pedophilia in isolation, basically.

If there was some contrast of the Baron with some other prominent well-regarded, non-villain gay character that'd suggest something about Herbert being clumsy about his characterization of the Baron rather than just probably being genuinely (however possibly unselfconsciously) homophobic, even if the whole thing would still feel super uncomfortable, but there's not really even that. The only other thing I can think of is someone referring to or thinking of Piter de Vries, unflatteringly, as having an "effeminacy" about him. Otherwise it's all just unmarked heterosexuality across the board.
posted by cortex at 11:05 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

as having an "effeminacy" about him

Ah, yeah, I remember noticing that.

re: following normal people: The books never really do this. Although I do note that "regular folk" are the only time there's what would be anything approaching normal dialogue. The example that stands out in my mind are when the soldiers are heading into the command tent midway(ish?) through part I. Soldiers talking about sand and gravity and whatnot.
posted by curious nu at 3:23 PM on October 30, 2015

I thought Fenring had some less than hetero subtextiness to his characterization too but ymmv.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:13 PM on October 30, 2015

What are people citing as the homophobia?

It goes beyond Dune and into the sequels. I get that real discussion of the sequels would quite properly be haram here, but I don't think it will spoil anything to say that I remember bits about how awful gayness is from God-Emperor or Heretics or both when I re-read them a few years ago.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:54 PM on October 30, 2015

Yeah, I recall that shading about Hasimir too, poffin boffin, though I'm not sure it shows up in the first book. If I recall, he and Margot Lady Fenring really start being active characters in the second or third.
posted by cortex at 7:37 AM on October 31, 2015

Finished my re-read last week.

It's interesting how the tone shifts significantly in each of the three parts. First part is pretty grounded in sci-fi and politics, with only shadings of terrible purpose. Second part.. doesn't stick out in my mind as much. Aftermath of the attack, early refugee status. Into the third and it gets a wee bit mystic.

There are a lot of chapters that feel.. I don't know. Like maybe they were written out of order. I'll need to go back to my notes. There are also places where very particular turns of phrase get repeated, like he had a thought and wrote it and then a couple paragraphs later just wrote it again.

Oh man are there a lot of weirdly-written uhms and ahhs. I have no idea how any of these people would actually speak.

There's a very early mention of a static charge that could disrupt a shield, but "no one's ever seen a storm that big" or something to that effect. Interesting bit of foreshadowing, totally forgettable until you reread. Never gets mentioned again, and when they use the storm, it's just taken as a fact.

I think the first biographies of TE Lawrence came out around the time of Dune. Wonder how much of a direct impact that had on Paul's freedom fighter arc.

Why does Chani suddenly thee and thy and thou out of nowhere during the sandrider test? Was that the only occurrence?

There are a lot of ideas in this book. It's also super hard to think just about Dune as itself, and not in the context of the rest of the series, and how those ideas get explored later.
posted by curious nu at 7:30 PM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just finished my read through today. So much of it went right over my head the last time I read it age 13- 22 years ago! I must have just glazed over a lot of the philosophical/ mystical parts.. but a lot of scenes sure stuck in my mind, had some very strong deja vu happening in certain scenes e.g. when they first show Paul one of their huge water cistern, when they're doing Jamis' funeral ceremony. Funny also that for some reason a babysitter of mine age 9 or 10 showed me the Lynch film! I had a lot of parts of the book and film fused together, it was only in reading it now that I could separate the two!

curious nu:
With all the umming and aahing- it really stood out to me when Count Fending (sp?) was speaking in the presence of his Lady- I wonder if that was actually their secret language? The language is described as 'humming'- and they seem like the kind of subterfuginous couple that would constantly be passing discrete notes back and forth.. perhaps his stuttering speech was just a cover for their under-the-table conversation?
posted by Philby at 12:28 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had the same read as Philby as far as the Fenrings went, though I think curious nu may have been referring more generally to Herbert's odd protracted-and-hyphenated revelatory Ah-h-h-hs from seemingly every damn character in the the book. Is trilling aspiration just how they do it in modern Galach? Did Herbert's editor hate the look of "Ahhhh"? Just odd.

Unrelated, I've noticed in the ooold printing I'm reading, in last little bit I've been reading, a lot of italic lowercase 'o' characters that were mistakenly set upside down, so they sit a little too high in the line. It doesn't mean anything except sloppy typesetting but I want it to have some deep cryptographic meaning, like a secret Ixian battle code about Ovaltine.
posted by cortex at 6:21 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have always assumed that the incessant hmming was their secret language being used right under everyone's noses.

also i am annoyed that "make jessica think that leto suspects her" was a legit plotline that was supposed to make sense, that a woman who could examine 7 billion different individual physical and emotional clues to tell if someone was lying or not, would not immediately discern that something was happening as a trap for someone else. like it was saying "see these incredibly powerful brilliant successful terrifying genius ninja women who secretly run the universe? they are nevertheless susceptible to romantic insecurity! HA HA!"

why even
posted by poffin boffin at 9:56 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

To be fair, (a) Jessica wasn't a Truthsayer, (b) Leto knew her better than pretty much anyone other than RM Mohaim so if someone was gonna bluff her he's got a good shot, (c) his whole plan was to cold-shoulder rather than actually tell her some big lie she could see through in a hot second, (d) Jessica loves the dude and so is less able to be detached about it than most things, and (e) anyway Herbert regularly reveals all these various sorts of perceptual/cognitive ninjas to be fallible and vulnerable to distraction after all on account of being human. Hawat's apparently the best goddam Mentat in the galaxy and yet can't think it through because of his own prejudices.
posted by cortex at 10:07 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's a reference to Sunni ancestors that's interesting. (On my book, it's location 568)

“We are the people of Misr,” the old woman rasped. “Since our Sunni ancestors fled from Nilotic al-Ourouba, we have known flight and death. The young go on that our people shall not die.”
posted by gt2 at 2:28 PM on November 8, 2015

Back in the day when I first read Dune, I got the associations of desert people, the naming conventions, etc. But I didn't pick up on the specific references before. I just caught this line:
"Far down the corridor, an image-voice screamed: “They denied us the Hajj!”
posted by gt2 at 3:43 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Arabic and Islamic themes in Dune, compiled by Khalid Baheyeldin
posted by mbrubeck at 2:55 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hawat's apparently the best goddam Mentat in the galaxy and yet can't think it through because of his own prejudices.

he was definitely distracted by his own eyebrows a lot i am sure
posted by poffin boffin at 3:46 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think of the weird long scraggly hairs slowly infiltrating my normal eyebrow hairs as "Thufirs".

I'm getting right up to the end of my reread finally, and one thing I had forgotten entirely was the revelation that Alia became a kind of forward-presence in the otherwise ancestral memories of the RM Mohaim—that she was in Mohaim's mind in an active way as another voice-from-the-past despite not being in the past. That's a neat little twist, and I'm curious now to be see whether that was specifically elaborated on in Messiah and Children.
posted by cortex at 5:12 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

I finished my re-read yesterday - I remembered the big chunk of appendix at the end, but I did not remember how abrupt the ending seemed.

Also, one thing that I always wonder about is: Why do the Fremen, who are so utterly and necessarily obsessed with water discipline and frugality in general, drink so damn much spice coffee? It seems like a huge indulgence of water and supply logistics. Where the hell do they get coffee beans? How do they transport them from sietch to sietch? Presumably cargo capacity is at an absolute premium if you have to travel by worm or clandestine ornithopter, but apparently coffee is worth it. I kind of like that idea... and suddenly I wonder if Herbert intended the fremens' coffee habit to be an observation about everyone having their addictions. The spice is the most valuable substance in the universe, but apart from trading/bribing offworlders it doesn't seem to have much monetary value among the fremen themselves; it's everywhere for the taking, used liberally in food, plastics, etc. Whereas coffee has got to come at some kind of appreciable expense to the fremen, whether by trade or by resources expended to grow it in the hidden green pockets of the southern latitudes.
posted by usonian at 8:44 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

The whole coffee thing leapt out at me too- really incongruous to the whole water discipline thing- a water intensive beverage that dehydrates you to boot. I wonder if it is meant as actual coffee- or just a spice drink that is brewed like coffee? I don't suppose the books ever go into more detail? Or the encyclopedia, cortex- is there an entry? Cos this is of course Very. Important. To. Know.
posted by Philby at 3:55 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yup- they're talking about real actual Arrakis grown coffee- which is, as we all know, one of the first types of plants grown in the older Kynes' project to make the desert bloom etc.

Here is the Spice Coffee recipe, as extracted from the Dune Encyclopedia:
Use 175 ml water for each cup of coffee.
Place boiling water in the top section of a drip coffee pot.
In the center coffee basket place 15 gm Fremen-grind coffee (very fine).
Allow the water to drip slowly through the coffee into the bottom container.
Remove the top and basket, and add sugar or honey to taste.
Add 5 ml of spice for each cup (but not if you use melange — then use the cut melange in the marked container: this means you, Daba!).

(I don't know how kocher this is- but here's a pdf of the encyclopedia I found online)
posted by Philby at 4:05 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

175ml of water!!!

Are they gone mad?! That's like, a week's worth of water at least- no self respecting Fremen of the Open Bled would ever dream of wasting such on a frivolous beverage!!
posted by Philby at 4:07 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

a water intensive beverage that dehydrates you to boot.

1. They've got a (relative, for a hellish desert planet) lot of water sitting around, just carefully sequestered. It's both a holy treasure and something that they need to use all day every day. It's the wasting of water, not the consuming of it, that is a taboo.

2. The have really good methods for capturing and reclaiming water, both in stillsuits and in-sietch. Sietch life, in particular, is portrayed as explicitly more comfortable and luxurious in a lot of ways than village life for the graben. And the coffee seems to only get drunk at home, not in thermoses on the go. (Though I'd be delighted, now, if the Encyclopedia included a writeup about some oddball Fremen who figured out how to add something like flavor packets to his stillsuit water recycling system so he could have a cup of joe on the go from his go.)

3. Growing coffee beans on Arrakis can be seen as both a wasteful, taboo thing (all that water, for plants, to make a recreational beverage?) and as a small mark of connection to their grandest vision for the future (the bean and plant and indulgence of the beverage representing a tiny but positive vignette of their greatly deferred paradise planet their grandchildren's grandchildren's grandchildren will experience in full).

So, a slightly-ritual indulgence, managed essentially losslessly because they know how, that incorporates a small reification of their dreams of paradise? Not so weird. It's not like they're starting up Starbucks kiosks for the out-freyn or giving coffee to the dead.

In fact I think it's kind of interesting to think about the nature of their excellent water reclamation tech; in the sietch, water discipline isn't really all that necessary at all; they can recapture atmospheric moisture, they can hermetically seal structures at will, they can molecularly water-proof containers and surfaces to prevent loss of water to a porous material. So it's taboo, not practicality, that makes it so unthinkable that people would e.g. bathe or shower. With their tech and knowhow, they could have a goddam olympic swimming pool in every sietch without putting a dent in their secret water reserves, and not lose significant water in the process.
posted by cortex at 9:58 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

A swimming pool filled with Water of Life.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:22 AM on November 11, 2015

Good points all, cortex!

And of course, as I think it was Paul said to his mother- the best place to store your water is in your body. So it's not like drinking recreational beverages would be much of a net loss anyways- it mostly gets recollected in whatever form it is processed into.
posted by Philby at 3:02 PM on November 11, 2015

The time of discussing Dune Messiah is nearly here; tossed a check-in in the scheduling thread in case people are collectively lagging behind on getting it read, otherwise we'll have a new post tomorrow to start digging in on that'n.
posted by cortex at 7:02 AM on November 20, 2015

Alrighty, get your conspiracizing caps on: Dune Messiah.
posted by cortex at 1:28 PM on November 23, 2015

how awful gayness is from God-Emperor

I think you're remembering a ghola of a popular character from long before, expressing disgust to Monio, the God Emperor's major domo, that some members of his all-female army were seen kissing passionately while in the barracks, as if homosexuality is one of grossest perversions possible. Monio then schools him pretty hard in how homosexuality has been beneficially present basically forever, especially in military settings, all to bring the ghola up-to-date and say "Dude, you're thousands of years out of touch. Chill the fuck out." Given how randomly it pops up in the narrative and doesn't serve much of a larger purpose, it feels a bit to me like an apology from Herbert. The rest of the books still rely heavily on advanced sci-fi heterosexuality (except for Face Dancers, who are, like, puttysexuals), but I'd guess that by 1981 Herbert was a bit more aware than when Dune was published.
posted by fatbird at 9:46 PM on November 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

When I think about 6th grade, what I remember is sitting on a school bus on my way to school, reading Dune with a bookmark made up of a NY subway token with an orange pipe cleaner wrapped around it. Loved the book, never saw the movie (though I do remember the iconic photo of Sting as Feyd-Rautha).

Off to find a copy to read and see how it holds up.
posted by mogget at 1:07 PM on November 25, 2015

Let's talk Children of Dune!
posted by cortex at 9:17 AM on January 26, 2016

But I have thoughts!

Well, not so much thoughts as whines and quibbles. I think I've read Dune three times since the nineties and the only things I ever remember are Leto's rescue of the Spice workers, the tooth, and the Fenringeses secret language (Though I always think it's Jessica & Leto, earlier in the book) and while there's a lot of conflict, there's never any tension. Maybe it's supposed to be a statement about the inevitability of destiny, but the conclusion is forgone (Irredeemable foes vanquished, obvious Messiah messiahs, righteous jihad cleanses decadent empire). It makes the Paul parts drag because there's little doubt where his path will lead. Plus Paul is borrrrrrring. Now Liet Kynes, there's a fellow to hang a story on and who really gets short shrift. Or Hawat under the Harkonnens. Or develop Feyd so he's more than just a cardboard nemesis. Or Gurney with the smugglers.

Plus Herbert totally tells and doesn't show all through the damn thing, and seems clunky and sloppy a lot of the time. I got 80 pages left, so I'm in it to finish it (Paul just reunited with Halleck in the desert and promptly sheaths his unblooded crysknife - SLOPPY HERBERT) but I dunno if I'm down for Messiah - is it more of this sort of thing?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:19 AM on February 17, 2016

Kyle MacLachlan has just explained the whole thing in a single tweet!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:39 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Unrelated, I've noticed in the ooold printing I'm reading, in last little bit I've been reading, a lot of italic lowercase 'o' characters that were mistakenly set upside down.

I first read these books in the seventies paperbacks, and Dune in particular had terrible typesetting, misaligned blocks, random pointsize changes, sometimes even sections where a condensed serif font was used for a passage. The type was so unpolished that it was almost certainly the first book I read that led me to actively think about type design, typography, and typesetting. I have clear memories of wanting all the sloppy typenoise to be somehow intentional, to carry meaning - but after rereading the book many times I finally came to the conclusion that they simply had done a rush job on setting the paperback type and made many errors which were in turn addressed as hackishly as imaginable.

I have a memory of once many years ago reading an account of this exact process online somewhere, like a fan buttonholing a retired publisher or editor or something, but I haven't ever been able to raise that ghostlink and my memory is suspect.

I'm just now starting a reread, my first in many, many years, likely since my teens. So far I am enjoying it and the familiarity of words and phrases sunk deeply into my mind.
posted by mwhybark at 2:08 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

and another few years later, lemme drop this vintage link:

Professor Willis E. McNelly recorded and typed an interview that he made with Frank Herbert and his wife Beverly Herbert

This is a 1997 web publication of a 46-page transcript of a 1970(?) interview. The interview was conducted before the publication of Dune Messiah so it could actually be from 1968 or 1969. It is fascinating.
posted by mwhybark at 2:11 PM on February 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm a lazy reader. The interview was conducted on the third of February, 1969, as it plainly reports.
posted by mwhybark at 4:52 PM on February 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sure, it's been 2.5 years since the last post, but this level of awkwardness and irrelevance is what I have been painstakingly bred for! Is anyone feeling hype/doing a re-read due to the new movie coming out? I appreciated this brief-ish video essay on the Dune movie's impact by Filmjoy/movies with mikey (slyt).

My first experience with dune was reading the first novel over the course of a weekend on the shores of a lake in Ontario. I feel the contrast enhanced the experience.
posted by LegallyBread at 7:02 AM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I found a free viewing of Jodorowsky's Dune documentary. It was found here . Man, considering the insanity of Jodorowsky's El Topo and Holy Mountain, his version of Dune would be actually his most accessible film with clear narrative arcs. Soundtrack by Pink Floyd and Magam with art by Giger and Moebius. Yeah, throw in Carradine and Jagger and we are talking one hell of a cast.
posted by jadepearl at 6:23 PM on September 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Did Paul ask for the name of the mouse because he knew it translated to muad dib, and chose to take the name of the prophesied savior, taking advantage of the bene gesserit implanted religion?

Or did he ask for ask for the name of the mouse because he saw the mouse in his dreams, and confirmed the prophesy the bene gesserit foresaw in the visions of the water of life?
posted by rebent at 6:41 PM on December 17, 2022

I don't think Muad'Dib was the name of the saviour. The Missionaria Protectiva planted the prophecy of the Mahdi.
Muad'Dib only became the name of the saviour because of Paul.

He did forsee that they would call him Muad'Dib which may have influenced him, but he was also unusually wise to the ways of the Fremen so chose a name that meant teacher or guide. The whole prescience thing makes it all a bit weird and recursive though.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:36 PM on December 18, 2022

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