Sunday, January 2, 2011

Book Seventeen - Dune - Part Two

Frank Herbert

Overall, this book was a strange experience. There were times when I raced ahead to discover what happened and times when the plot slowed to a worm’s pace. One of the interesting characters in Dune is the Mentat, defined as a human computer. These people are trained from the time they are very young to absorb and evaluate data. They’re sorta like Mr. Spock only Spock is half human half Vulcan, at least according to David Brent. I’m not sure which came first, the Mentat or the Spock, as Dune was first published in 1965. (The first dozen or so times I read Mentat I thought it should be Mentak because a friend’s predictive text of two phones ago used to write “mentak” when she meant “mental.” Her phone also predicted that “predictive” actually meant “spediatite.” Her texts were always fun.)

Herbert includes minutiae about the world he created and I’m sure the rabid Dune fans loved the minutiae. To me some of it seemed unnecessary to the plot. By the way, if there were/are massive fans of the Dune series, like Star Trek and Star Wars, would they be Duneites? Dunies? Sand Heads?

Since Dune is the story of warring royal factions, there are the usual intrigues of espionage/counterespionage, the form and function of state dinners, jealousies and rivalries, money and power. It made me wonder about the Windsors. I really want to see the new Colin Firth movie, The King’s Speech, about Queen Elizabeth’s father. What if David (the brother who abdicated to marry Mrs. Simpson) has a grandson who decides he is rightfully due the throne? Surely this sort of thing still happens. 

In any case, during all of the political and war-related discussions I wondered when the action would begin. But then the Duke was assassinated and it suddenly got interesting, at least until the next session about tactics. I’m aware that many people enjoy studying military tactics. I am not one of them, but even I will admit that there are interesting twists and turns in this book. However, it doesn’t hold the drama of a Tom Clancey novel or even of the science fiction Ender’s Game.

I won’t get into the stuff about the conservation of water and moisture. Let’s just say that since it is a desert planet, the currency of Dune is water. The humans go to extreme measures to conserve their most precious resource and Herbert goes into extreme detail about how they do all of this. Some of it is icky.

The character of Paul changes significantly throughout the book and it didn’t seem that these changes were well explained. I never really got the sense of who he is. I realize I’ve said this before and wonder if I’m just incredibly particular about character development. That could definitely be true, but the pattern established by Herbert is that the changes in Paul are explained through the narrative and then he acts. Yet his actions don’t seem to match the narrative. How can I trust him? Isn’t the measure of a man what he does? Additionally, the ending felt a bit hollow, as if the author were merely at a stopping point for the next book. However, the great quotes continue throughout -- “What do you despise? By this are you truly known.”

Next up is War and Peace which I’m reading with Allie at A Literary Odyssey. 

Don’t do me wrong, Leo.

Tolstoy: You do know, Madam, that this book has been acclaimed  “one of the most celebrated works of fiction?”

Me: You’ve been reading your Wikipedia page again, haven’t you?

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