Friday, August 13, 2010
Friday Flashback Review (7): Dune by Frank Herbert ★★★★
"Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature created by JG, The Introverted Reader.
Disclaimer: Some of these reviews may not be the best I've ever written, so just be forewarned! ;)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one of those books that I've always thought that I should read, but never actually wanted to read, simply because I thought that it would have to be tedious and dry and, I hate to say it, boring. Which goes to show what a poor book-cover judge I am, because this book was anything but tedious, dry or boring. In fact, one of the first things that struck me about this book was the readability and fast-paced action and intrigue. So much happened in such a short amount of time, that I'd have to go back and read sections over again to be sure that I understood everything that had happened. Good stuff.
I have to say that I loved Herbert's writing style. It's deceptively simple and to the point... until 10, or 30, or 100 pages later when you realize that what seemed so simple and unimportant was a set-up for a revelation later, and your brain (or mine, at least) has this little "AHA!!" moment, and you feel so smart for figuring out exactly what you were so expertly and subtly led to figure out. Just imagine the possibilities for multiple readings... This book is one which can be read a dozen times and still reveal hidden nuggets of goodness.
Herbert's world, or universe, was so intriguing to me. I loved the political structure of having major and minor power families, an emperor, a 3rd party Guild to manage trade, and the 3rd party Bene Gesserit women, who sort of control-prophesy-manipulate to reach an end. The skills of the people inhabiting Herbert's universe are incredible, and so much based on mind-control. Not necessarily power over another's mind, although there is that, but I mean control over your OWN mind, to the point where instinctive reactions and involuntary bodily functions can be subverted and held in check, simply by will.
I loved Dune, as in the planet Arrakis, and the people who inhabited it, except of course for the Harkonnen jerk-faces. The Fremen are interesting and resourceful and bad-ass and wise, and are able to accept their lot, while trying to make a better lot for future generations. We could take a page out of their books, I think. We should be improving our planet, ensuring its inhabitability for as long as we're able (at least until the sun implodes and kills us all), but instead, we're polluting with reckless abandon, as if the planet is able to just reset with each generation.
Herbert's characters are some of the most interesting that I've read about as well. I loved that he infused a clear-cut Good vs. Bad struggle with deviousness and subtlety, and then on top of that, threw in characters that had to make choices that left you wondering who was real and whether they acted of their own accord or if there was something more... I loved the Atreides. They were, to me, the pinnacle of honor-bound deviousness. That seems strange to say, but I mean it in the best way possible. They were devious only to try to detect and prevent deviousness against them, and to right wrongs that have gone on for generations of animosity between houses. I do wish that there was a reason given that the Atreides house was singled out for this treatment, but reading between the lines, it seems that greed and power-mongering was the cause, and the Atreides were honest enough to stand against it, and so became the enemy.
This book is one that has a great many moral and religious and life-lesson undertones, which is a fine line to walk in any book for me, as I really, really dislike being lectured to. But I think that Herbert handled this all very well, and I was able to read it without feeling as though there was a wagging finger in my face.
Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. The only reason that I am not able to give this 5 stars is that I felt like the entire book was leading up to a spectacular ending... but the ending drug on for just a bit too long and wasn't as spectacular as I'd hoped that it would be. It was a good ending to a very good book, but I felt that it just could have been a little bit more.
I definitely recommend this book though. It's entertaining and informative and prescient and timely as well as timeless. Just go read it already. :)