Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dune Group Read, Round 2

Part two of our group read of "Dune" reaches the section where things really (pardon the pun) heat up.  The Harkonnens' plan kicks into high gear as Duke Leto is betrayed while Jessica and Paul go out into the desert.  Will Paul fulfill his destiny and become the savior of Arrakis?

Warning, spoilers are heading your way...after the page break...

Was Liet's identity a surprise?  Who do you think he really works for?  I will skip these questions because I have read the book many times.

What do you think of the Fremen culture?  is this a culture you think you'd enjoy spending some time with?  I find myself agreeing with Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  The fall is my favorite time of the year.  Any evening when I can walk outside and feel a slight chill in the air is a good one.  I love watching the leaves turn colors in our area.  It doesn't get better than a crisp clear night in the fall.  As much as I respect the Fremen and their culture I do not believe that I would do very well in an environment that is all desert.  Like Carl I am not prepared for the kind of life the Fremen lead.  It is fun to dream about being one of the Fremen but then reality sets in and I remember that I am sitting in an air conditioned room typing on a laptop.  I do not believe this is a good training ground for their style of life.

What do you think of Count Fenring's unusual verbal mannerisms?  I found the Count to be one of my least favorite characters in the story.  I could have done without his mannerisms.  This was a case of the concept being better than the execution. 
 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?  I liked the idea.  The memorization system serves the Israelites well in the past.  They managed to pass their history down through numerous generations.  It is logical that this tradition would be utilized on a world like Arrakis.  It becomes obvious in the early parts of this story that technology does not function on this world.  I think that the "low-tech" approach helps keep the story from feeling dated.  
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?  In my case, I had no problem getting through the beginning of the book.  I do believe the second part is more exciting.

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? People probably get tired of hearing me say it, Herbert is on my short list of all time favorite writers.  I find his stories fascinating, thought provoking, and exciting page turners at the same time.  Reading a Herbert story is an experience.  The unsaid things make you pay attention to even the smallest details.  Herbert makes it worthwhile.

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 recently had a discussion about this with my good friend, Terry Kissinger.  You do not see many authors write in the style of Herbert.  He just finished reading "Th Windup Girl" by Paolo Bagicalupi.  Frank Herbert is one of Terry's favorite authors.  He pointed out that Bagicalupi uses some of the same techniques as Herbert.  One of the most obvious was the use of internal dialogue.  I need to get around to reading "The Windup Girl" so I can compare the style of both books.  Because Herbert's style is not common in today's world, it appears more innovative.  I am a big fan of Herbert's work.


TBM said...

Hi Jim! I'm with you and Carl. I love fall and today I found myself wishing that it would arrive soon and take this humidity away.

I really liked your comment about Herbert's use of dialog and his characters not saying everything. "The unsaid things make you pay attention to even the smallest details." That sums it up. I feel that this shows how Herbert can get readers sucked into the story and all the levels of his thinking.

Carl V. said...

Great to see your answers Jim.

In regards to Count Fenring's speech/mannerisms you summed it up much better than I did:

"This was a case of the concept being better than the execution."


I have enjoyed reading this book with some Herbert fans as well as with those of us who had not previously read the book. You and Andrea (Little Red) are especially big fans of the novel and I enjoy seeing your enthusiasm come out. One of the reasons being is that before the advent of this kind of internet community I hadn't meant many people who liked to re-read science fiction novels nor ones who felt the re-readings stood up to their expectations. I am slowly discovering a handful of people like that and it makes me feel good that I am not alone in this. Not that it would stop me from doing it, but it is nice to know that SFF novels can affect people as strongly in this manner as they affect me.

I have certainly become a fan of Herbert because of this novel. I am not quite finished, but given what I've read I feel safe in saying that this novel deserves all of its praise and will sit right up there with some of the best reading experiences I have had.

I haven't read The Windup Girl but I really enjoyed Bacigalupi's YA novel, Ship Breaker. It remains one of my top reads this year. I've also read a few of his short stories and have been very impressed.

Anonymous said...

I really loved what you wrote about fall. I guess I'm somewhat luckier that all of you as I live in a country in which it is fall most of the time (not kidding) at least temperature wise. Drizzle and a bit of fog as well but the leaves are still very green.
Count Fenring isn't my favourite either.
I also agree that it is nice to toy with the idea to live among the Fremen but then you remember that there are no trees, no plants... I'd love to see those sandworms. That is a reason why I would really like to see the movie but maybe they are much better in my imagination. What I saw on the movie poster isn't what I imagine them to look like.
Despite my initial problems, I'm very glad I read it. The pictures I created in my mind are very powerful and I enjoy them a lot.
I tried to leave a comment on your last post but it didn't work.

Shelley said...

What a lot of Fall-lovers we seem to be! I wonder if that goes hand in hand with sci/fi fantasy fans? Or maybe because it truly is the best time of year. Sadly, I live in a more desert-like area where the change from summer to fall is pretty subtle. I still love the change in the air, though.
One of the best things about books is being able dive into a place like Arrakis, but then come right back out again into the air-conditioning!
You've made me even more excited about continuing with the series.

Jim Black said...

It is great to find other fans who share your interests. I don't have anyone local who is a sff fan. The only person I can talk literary sff with is my good friend, Terry. Fortunately we live in this wonderful age where we can communicate with other fans from around the world.