Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dune Readalong: Part Two

I'm a little late on this (if I had a nickel for how many times I've typed that...), but this last week I've been busy with eye surgery, which set me back a couple of days; one of my kids' birthdays, which included a trip to the mall (I hate shopping, but I love my daughter) followed by dinner at a restaurant (woohoo!);  and a Harry Potter movie marathon crammed into two days.  We're running a little bit late on that too.  Hopefully we'll see how "It All Ends" on Monday.

As far as Dune goes, in Part One we see how good Herbert is at giving us the 411 through dialogue, whether we liked it or not.  It slowed me down, but I liked it.  In comparison, Part Two was like running downhill after a steep climb.  Was anybody else just flying through the pages like I was?  I loved the shift in the pacing and the setting. 

Here are this weeks questions, written up by Little Red Reviewer:  

*Once again, this is FULL OF SPOILERS.*

Was Liet's identity a surprise?  who do you think he really works for?
I wasn't surprised, but I'm not sure if that's because I've read it before or if the foreshadowing was pretty strong.  I got the idea that his greatest desire was to continue the dream of his father in making Arrakis more habitable, and anyone else he served or pretended to serve he was just using to get to that end.
What do you think of the Fremen culture?  Is this a culture you think you'd enjoy spending some time with?
The Fremen culture actually terrifies me.  In a society trying so desperately to survive and carve out a better future with the barest of resources their way of doing things is inevitably harsh.  They must maintain control through a very strict tribal structure heavily dependent on religious extremism.  I find their culture very interesting, but prefer observing it at a distance. 

What do you think of Count Fenring's unusual verbal mannerisms?  
Annoying and misleading.
This is a far future empire with very little in the way of computerization. Information is often passed down orally, and schools (such as the Mentats and the Bene Gesserit) have formed to train young people in memorization and information processing.  What are you thoughts on a scifi story that is very "low-tech"?  Does that sound like a feasable future? a ridiculous one?
Herbert has created such a bizarre mish-mash of processes(?) to replace computerization.  I like that rather than just a direct progression of the world's computer technology in the future things are scrambled up a bit.  And from what I recall it was because of an event in the past that caused a fear of computerization.  That in itself is interesting because the alternatives seem quite frightening themselves.  Can we really stop progress and innovation, or will it force it's way through any avenues it can find?  Also the power of the spice has more of a supernatural than a scientific vibe to it.  All of the really cool stuff they are able to do depends this cinnamon-like narcotic.  I don't feel that it's ridiculous so much as scary.

If you found the beginning of the book tough to get into, do you find that you're having an easier time with the middle portion, now that all the "set-up" is complete?
I enjoyed the beginning of the book, although it was a bit of work at times.  Part Two, as I mentioned previously, was a purely page-turning, heart-thumping experience, but not lacking in substance.  We're still learning so much about this world. 
The center portion of the book is still pretty dialog heavy, but what I've noticed is the subtlety of the dialog. Things left unsaid are often more important than things that are said.  What do you think of that as a stylistic choice? does it make the dialog more interesting? less interesting? 
I hadn't specifically noticed the subtlety and things left unsaid, but now that it's mentioned I agree that it's there and I must have liked it.  Perhaps that change in the style of dialogue is what kept things moving.

Dune was written in the 60's. Does it feel dated to you? How does it compare, writing style-wise, to more contemporary science fiction you've read?
I probably haven't read enough science fiction to answer this adequately.  I just keep thinking of a connection between the drug-like dependence on the spice and the drug-culture of the sixties.  Was Herbert purposely trying to make a connection?   Did events in the Middle East influence some of his depictions of the Fremen?  Did society's attitudes about computers at the time play into the story?  What was going on in the area of environmentalism at the time?  I should do a little research.

If you've never read this book before, where do you think the storyline is headed?  
I've read it before but only remember bits and pieces.  In general, I find the book so original that it's pretty unpredictable.

Okay, back to HP.  We're on Goblet of Fire and although I dearly love those wizards and witches, my eyes are starting to cross.  Thank goodness for multitasking.


  1. BeautyisasleepingcatNovember 18, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    I have never seen this cover before. Makes the Fremen look even more like Tuareg. The TUareg are also called "Blue people" ...
    This part is a page-turner, I agree.
    I wouldn't want to live among the Fremen either, find all of it too harsh.
    Spice/drugs/sixties sounds like a dated connection but I think when you read it nowadays it still does make sense and does not feel that dated. Drugs have always been used and will always be used. The type of mind-altering drugs they used in the 6os is reflected in the book, tat is true.

  2. This second part really was a page-turner. The pacing was so fast at times and the suspense so palpable that I couldn't help but keep turning and turning those pages. As with the first part I started reading little snatches at a time and then ended up reading a huge section all in one big gulp.

    I hadn't thought of the drug culture of the time, but the spice definitely shares some qualities with that without being a super-obvious, beat-you-over-the-head preachy message either in favor of or against the use of drugs. In considering this it is also interesting how the drug so strongly effects Paul with all of his other training and his possible role as the chosen one who fulfills ancient prophecy. It was certainly the catalyst that has propelled him to where he currently is mentally, spiritually, philosophically.

    I do like how the use of technology in Dune is such that it doesn't necessarily feel like it has to be just the future of the human race that started on Earth but could instead be a wholly different timeline of humanity started and played out in another galaxy, perhaps even simultaneously to our own. I'm not saying it is that way, but it feels that it could be that way and that adds to some of the timeless nature of the story and keeps it from feeling dated.

  3. Interesting about the Tuareg. I don't know much about them but would love to learn more. I probably should have stated that the book doesn't feel dated at all to me, but those thoughts about the sixties just sort of float in my head while I'm reading. The book says a lot about humanity that is true in any age. I don't think I've ever read a book before where a drug was so central to the plot. Maybe it just freaks me out a lot because I have a general anxiety about even prescription drugs. I had to take Valium for the first time the other day and I was freaking out. It turns out though that I was wishing it was stronger, lol! Maybe I needed some melange.

  4. The book is definitely not preachy about drugs--very neutral, like you mentioned. It is amazing the effect it has on Paul. I often pity him that he has so much on his shoulders first with his training and then the knowledge he gains with the spice. I haven't really "liked" him so far yet, but as he seems to be emerging as sort of a reluctant hero with power thrust upon him, I'm sure he will grow on me.

  5. I hadn't thought of it that way, but the Fremen really are terrifying in their dedication to purpose, aren't they?!

  6. Interesting how one's own preferences and beliefs colour what we read. Drugs, even over-the-counter stuff, are't part of my world and until reading these comments, I never saw how drugged up the Dune universe is. It's not just the spice. One of the Baron's men is hooked on some sonic drug (sorry, the exact name has long since slipped my mind) and the Harkonnens apparently routinely drug slaves.

    Harry Potter and Dune? Interesting combination!