Have You Read Dune? (My Thoughts)

The last 12 months have shaped up to be a time when I’ve read books I should have delved into a long time ago, starting with The Wheel of Time and now Dune.

This wasn’t actually my first venture into Dune. I downloaded a Kindle sample 5 or so years ago and couldn’t really get into it. But after playing and loving the 2020 board game, Dune Imperium, my interest was piqued, and I bought the book to try again.

I say this in the best possible way: I credit Game of Thrones for acclimating me into political speculative fiction, and without it I don’t think I would have enjoyed Dune as much as I did. That’s a huge part of what Dune is–the first book, at least–as it follows a few characters who scheme, perceive, and engage, with only a small handful of memorable action moments.

The worldbuilding in Dune is superb. I was most fascinated by the Fremen and their relationship with water and sand wurms, followed by the near-magical Bene Gesserit. I like that the book focuses primarily on a single planet, allowing us to go deep into the cultures, ecology, and economy of a single place.

I’m excited and curious about the upcoming movie, particularly how Paul Atreides is portrayed. In the book, in my opinion, he’s too godlike. He has some internal struggles, but nearly everything he does works out exactly as he hopes it will. The way he talks to groups made me think he’s someone who is difficult to follow, but everyone just seemed to accept his leadership.

Have you read the book? Did you continue with others in the series? What’s your favorite part of the book?

12 thoughts on “Have You Read Dune? (My Thoughts)”

  1. I think I read Dune when I was a bit too young, when I was around 8 or 9 and have read it several times since, it is a great classic.

    Paul being unlikeable isn’t by accident, he is literally bred to be better than anyone. A living computer thanks to his mentat training, the culmination of a thousand generation breeding program thanks to the Bene Gesserit, trained as a leader to instill loyalty in the Atreides way and that’s even before the spice kicks in.

    There’s some great resources for interested people. There’s this podcast which really digs deep into it which I listened to over the past year and gave me new insights even after all these rereads.
    https://mythgard.org/academy/dune/

    And there’s this interesting deep dive by a military historian into the Fremen:
    https://acoup.blog/2020/01/17/collections-the-fremen-mirage-part-i-war-at-the-dawn-of-civilization/

    (that blog is a great read on all sorts of topics, including pop culture as the Battle of Helm’s Deep or Minas Tirith, GoT and more)

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    • Thanks for sharing those resources.

      I don’t mind Paul being awkward and stilted. I’m just a little surprise that people seem so eager to follow him given his relative lack of personality. 🙂

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  2. I’ve not read it in years, but did enjoy it a lot back at the time. One thing to note is that originally the book was meant to be about 1/3rd shorter, with that last section combined with the second book in the series to make two books of roughly equal length, but the publisher wanted it to reach an ending point so the lengths were adjusted (making Dune Messiah a much shorter book).
    I do think the next two books do a lot to flesh the story out more (Dune Messiah and Children of Dune), showing more of the vision Paul saw of the future, and so are well worth reading. I was much less of a fan of God Emperor of Dune (book 4) along with the last two “original” books that followed, but are probably still worth a read if you want to complete the story and see the full “golden path” play out.
    As for the other books written Frank Herbert’s son, I think I only read one and didn’t get the feel for them. While they’re based on Frank’s notes and his details of the setting, there’s a notable change in the voice of story from what I remember.

    As for the movie, I’m really looking forward to it. I have issues with the David Lynch film in that it messed too much with some parts of the story (bringing in sonic weapons for the Fremen and making it rain). The miniseries was so much better in many ways, but the lack of budget showed. I’m hopeful that a movie sized budget combined with a brilliant director like Denis Villeneuve (who has shown to be able to understand source material – notably making a great sequel to Bladerunner) can deliver. The fact that Denis insisted on it being two films to give the length he needed for the full story was a good starting point in my mind.

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  3. I haven’t read it in years. I suspect I would view many of the characters differently now. Perhaps I’ll make time to reread it before the movie comes out. I’d like to comment on your impressions of Paul, but I really don’t remember enough details from the book to say anything of substance.

    Actually, I do hesitate to reread the book for one reason. I’d rather Denis Villeneuve’s interpretation of that universe stand apart from the source material. Denis has done some great things with science fiction movies and I’d rather experience his movie without thinking too quickly “that’s not how it really happened!” I already know I love the Dune universe, so in a way, I’d rather forget the book and rediscover the world through the movie’s eyes.

    I’ve read all the other Frank Herbert Dune books, though Dune is the only one of those I’ve read a few times (still, this was years ago). The rest of the books feel much different, and in my opinion, Dune stands alone. It’s not a series where I can say, “If you like Dune, keep reading!” But the good thing about Messiah (the 2nd book) is it’s relatively short and one of the easier reads of the whole series. The later books can get long and dense. I’m very happy I read them and may do so again someday, but I can’t say they have as wide of an appeal as Dune.

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    • I broke down today and watched the trailer for the movie, figuring I’d already “spoiled” it by reading the books…and I can completely understand why you’re holding out for it. It looks absolutely brilliant.

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  4. Like others here, I’m looking forward to the Dune movie. I read the book and it was okay for me. I can see how it is foundational and inspirational for the genre.

    I’m more interested in your thoughts on the Wheel of Time. I’m looking forward to the WOT on prime tv show. I’m hoping its good and leads to more WOT content. Anything in the books inspire board game ideas? I can imagine a good area control game based on the battles or some hidden roles/deduction game based on the Game of Houses.

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  5. Having just read Red Rising, I see a lot of similarities between Paul and Darrow. Things just seem to work out the way they want, and they somehow always quash adversity rather quickly. I’m looking forward to some more struggles in each series’s 2nd book.

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  6. I read the first 3 Dune books twice, and while I appreciate them all, I see the enormously interesting conclusions and thoughts of the later books, what they say about power, about trying to shape the future… I actually enjoy the first one the most, it’s (for me) best written, keeps me invested and I love how it changes the tone and narration, basically being two books together. I feel that knowing the book well does increase my enjoyment of the game a lot too, the little touches on cards, how everything kind of makes sense etc.

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  7. Among my resolutions for 2021, which includes incorporating weight lifting into my physical fitness regimen and learning Indonesian, I have set a goal of reading the six books which comprise the DUNE universe. I’m currently 700 pages into the first book and absolutely love the characters. Having seen Beautiful Boy, I think CHalamet (sp) will make an incredible Paul.

    As to one of my favorite scenes…far in a way it has to be when Leto met with one of the Fremen. After their introduction and discussion, the Fremen spat upon the table and it was initially (especially to the reader) seena s a disgusting affront to the Duke. However, until you understand the gravity of water on the planet does it finally sink in how powerful a message it sends.

    Reply

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