Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dune Readalong: Part One

These questions are a part of the Dune readalong hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  As part of a readalong, this post will very likely contain spoilers.

If I were a Mentat, I would not have to reread Dune.  I would remember all of the plot elements and be able to move seamlessly on to Dune Messiah even though it's been about ten years since I've read it.  But the reality is that my memory is about as reliable as the water supply on Arrakis... 

Thus, a reread.  Here are this week's questions:

1.  (Question for those who have read it before) Did you see anything in this first section of the book that either you hadn't seen before or that you had forgotten about, anything that stood out to you?

It's easier for me to understand this time, now that I'm more familiar with all of the titles, customs, and other random vocabulary Herbert throws at you.  Is it just me, or is there a lot?  And the first time I didn't realize there was a glossary at the end.  That's always a little scary when a fiction book has a glossary.  But then, my copy of this does look rather like a textbook. >>

2. What did you think about the plot device of the early revelation that Yueh was to be the traitor? 

It created a lot of other tension in place of  trying to figure out if there was a traitor or who it was.  Wondering if the plot would be uncovered before it's too late, or if Yueh would really go through with it (because of course the Baron is a big fat liar (literally) and most likely won't hold up his end of the bargain.) It allows us to see his struggle, and feel more satisfaction when he does what he can to help out Jessica and Paul. 

3. What was your favorite part of this first section? Which character(s) do you find most interesting and why?

I liked the end of this part when Paul kind of freaks out and can't mourn for his father as his mind is flooded with his new understanding and sharp awareness of everything about him.  Our view of Jessica takes on a new dimension, as well, and I loved the change of setting--I was ready to leave the great house and all of its intrigues behind. 
I found Yueh most interesting because of the choice he had to make and that his love for his wife allowed him to overcome his "conditioning."  Yeah, I guess I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff. 

4. Did the revelation about the Harkonnen surprise you? Why or why not? Thoughts.

 It was kind of sudden the way we found out.   You knew something would come up about Jessica's parentage, but not so soon or so suddenly.   But I don't recall any other specific foreshadowing, but maybe there was just so much other stuff going on, I didn't notice it.

5. Finally, please share some overall thoughts on this first section of the book. Are you finding it difficult to follow? Easy to understand? Engaging? Boring? Just share what you are thinking thus far.

I get the idea that Herbert was a really, really smart dude.  He seems to have a handle on politics, ecology, psychology, sociology, religion, etc., and incorporates them into a richly complex story that really gets under your skin.  Sometimes it is hard for me to understand, even having read it before, but I find a certain satisfaction in having to work at comprehending new worlds.  I try not to think too much about how the stillsuits work...


  1. I actually had no idea there was a glossary at the back until you all started talking about it. LOL! I hadn't looked back there.

    As it played out I did really like the Yueh revelation. It came so early in the book that at first I was thrown off and not sure I liked it but I ended up being glad of it as not only did it create a different kind of tension but it also allowed for Herbert to explore more of Yueh's motivations, making him a little more of a sympathetic character.

    I also liked that part of Paul's story. When I was an early adolescent my father had cancer. I remember being concerned but also remembered that I couldn't cry and it bothered me on one level and was sort of like an out of body experience on another. Years later, after watching My Life with my wife, I went on a long (hour or more) sobbing jag with my wife trying to comfort me. I finally had a real revelation of what I could have lost and what my dad was going through. It was quite the experience and I could relate to what Paul was going through during those detached moments.

    I had expected any kind of "surprise" revelation at that point in the story so the parentage revelation was quite a shock to me. I enjoyed it though and will be interested in seeing what it sets up for the rest of the story.

  2. I also thought that the revelation was a bit sudden. I wonder if I reread this book years from now, I would pick up on more and it wouldn't be so shocking. But my memory is so bad and I read so many books I probably won't.

  3. I really hear you on point one. I'm a first time reader and constantly use the glossary.
    I agree about Herbert being smart I only think he isn't such a good writer. I know I'm one of the rare people to think that, still. On the other hand, if he had written it in another way it might not be as memorable as it is.

  4. This is such a coincidence! I have just down loaded the audible version of Dune. I know it is cheating a bit. I have been reading more sci-fi lately and thought this would be a good one to listen to. I only skimmed your post Shelley as I have yet to start it, but it is a lovely prompt for me to get going, and I will be spending a fair bit of time hanging around airports next weekend so hopefully I will catch up :)

  5. Cool, Mel, it would be great for you to join us in this read. And audio isn't cheating at all. :)

  6. Carl,
    Yeah, I think they need to put some kind of note at the beginning--"Hey, there's a glossary in the back if you need it!" Thank you for sharing that experience about your dad. Grief is such an unpredictable thing. It was heartbreaking when Paul does finally grieve.

    Same thing with the memory for me. I consider it more than a blessing than a curse that my memory is bad. It's nice not to remember the surprises and twists when rereading a book.

    I do see your point about the writing style. I can love a book just based on the words and how they are put together regardless of the plot, but this book it is more the opposite. His writing style doesn't do much for me, but I like everything else.

    Audio is definitely NOT cheating. I often get more out of an audiobook than reading a print copy. It forces me to slow down and really savor a book. I hope you enjoy it and join our readalong!

  7. Hi Shelley, I agree with your entire post. I too think that Herbert was a super smart guy, he's got that expectations of his readers as well, almost an Umberto Eco type thing. doesn't make for light reading, that's for sure!

    I like what you said about Yueh, he's a traitor, and everyone will come to hate him, but since we get to know him a little before and during the betrayal, we do come to feel sympathetic towards him. The reader is probably the only person who doesn't hate Yueh.

  8. Hi Shelley. The memory issues usually isn't a problem since I can reread my favorites and rediscover things I had forgotten or overlooked. However, sometimes it is embarrassing when people try to talk about a novel I've read and I can't remember a thing.

  9. I kept getting annoyed with Yueh as I was reading. I wanted to like him, but I felt like he was being as stupid and blind as everyone else. Why the hell did he trust the Harkonnens to keep their end of the bargain? I felt like he was so blinded by his love that he was unable to think rationally, which I think was the effect that the Harkonnens were going for.

  10. I'm not sure Yueh did trust the Baron. There were a few references in there that led me to believe that he had to act in the event that perhaps his wife was still alive but that he suspected she wasn't and that he needed to do this to first confirm that was the case and then to try to exact his revenge. Whether they were good motives or not (and they were misguided at best) I think Yueh was all about trying to avenge what had happened to his wife. It is sad that he couldn't see the best vengeance would have been in helping Duke Leto ensure the defeat of the Baron.

    Yueh is definitely a good example of how one can get obsessed and narrow minded and miss the bigger picture.

  11. I haven't read anything by Umberto Eco yet, but I think I would like his books.
    As far as Yueh, yes, there was that one chapter heading "A million deaths would not be enough for Yueh." He wasn't going down in history with a great reputation, and he knew it. But I liked him.

  12. Yes, that does happen to me too!

  13. I think Yueh just didn't have many choices or power in the situation, except in trying to get his revenge on the Baron, which just didn't work. I did really want him to figure something else out.

  14. I installed Disqus in the midst of all this discussion and am still learning a bit about it. Hopefully it is all working as it should...

  15. Yeuh became the character I had the most interest in, as well. I felt so sorry for him!

  16. Too bad he left us so soon! Maybe we'll run into another character like him.