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Overdue Review: Dune

February 6, 2015

 

Why This 50-Year-Old Book Can Go Pound Sand

 

Dune by Frank Herbert.  Published by Chilton Books, 1965.

 

What is the point of reviewing a 50 year old book that is already the world's best-selling science-fiction novel?  Why bother putting in my two cents about the winner of the Hugo and the very first Nebula award?  What difference does it make if one blogger doesn't like a book that had to get published by a publisher of automotive repair manuals?  Who cares?

 

And that, right there, is my beef with this book.  Who. The Hell.  Cares.

 

I have tried to like this book for almost my entire life, but before you can like something, you have to be interested enough to finish it.  And while Dune has many cool things in it, those are outweighed by flat characters with lofty goals far beyond us mere mortals, self-important dialogue that sounds like it should be on the title cards of a silent movie, and purposely strange-sounding, impossible-to-pronounce made-up words.  With these obstacles in the way, it takes a certain kind of masochistic reader to fight their way through to the end, a feat I attempted at least five times before succeeding.  And you know what? Even though I reached the end, I can't for the life of me remember what that ending was, BECAUSE I DON'T FUCKING CARE!

 

Let's look at a brief synopsis, shall we?  Paul Atreides, our hero, is about to go to Arrakis where he might turn out to be Muad'Dib, but before he can do that, the Bene Gesserit want to threaten him with a gom jabbar to see if he's a Kwisatz Haderach and then...blah blah herp derp yakkity smakkity.  This is just in the FIRST CHAPTER, mind you; it feels to me like reading a menu at a kosher deli.  In Thailand.  Sure, there is portent aplenty, freshly trucked in from the foreshadowing department, but why should I care if this rich kid is an Ersatz HaddockRadish or whatever?

 

So that's the good guy.  You know the bad guy, Baron Harkonnen, when you see him, because he's fat and prefers young boys as his sexual partners and spouts lines like "Is it not a magnificent thing that I, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, do?"  Come ON!  He might as well be saying, "As you know, I am the Baron Harkonnen and I twirl my mustache at you for the sheer evil of it!  Mwa ha ha haaaa!"  He wants to control something called Spice, because reasons.

 

Why should I care about these reasons?  There are huge lectures on these from different characters, and the lectures read like the title crawl from The Phantom Menace, full of corporations and noble houses and trade disputes and...but it doesn't matter.  The real reason I should care is because if I don't, then I won't be able to grasp the IMPORTANT things that happen in the countless sequels to this tome, among them Hairstyles of Dune, Toddlers of Dune and Godawful of Dune.  

 

Yes, I know that Dune is a cultural touchstone, an important influence in science fiction writing and one of those things we nerds are supposed to obsess about.  I know it has awesome things like stillsuits and sandworms and "Fear is the mind-killer".  I don't care.  It's a boring book about people I don't care about, set in a place I don't want to imagine.  Hell, I don't even like to vacation at the beach.

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