Dune Readalong, Part I

This post is a part of the readalong hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings.  I should have posted it Saturday, but I was camping and didn’t even have a cell phone signal, let alone internet.

1.  What, if any, preconceived ideas did you have before you started reading Dune and how has the first section measured up to those preconceptions?

I actually didn’t have any preconceived notions about “Dune.”  I had heard that it was a classic of sci-fi, and had been meaning to read more science fiction.  The picture to the left is the cover from the edition of the novel that I read, which doesn’t really give much of any idea what the book is about.  When I mentioned to my boyfriend that I was reading it, he claimed that it was a quintessential nerd book.

One of the things that I really like about the novel is that even though it’s sci-fi, it reads a lot like well-written epic fantasy.  The worldbuilding is so good that you pretty much forget that it’s supposed to be sci-fi.  I also really like the way that each chapter is framed by a piece of writing written by Princess Irulan.  These segments are to have been written after the story has already taken place, and serve as foreshadowing of events to come.

2. What did you think about the plot device of the early revelation that Yueh was to be the traitor?

This plot device made me want to slap several major characters for their inability to see what was obvious to me.  It makes the first segment a bit like watching a train wreck–you know what’s going to happen, but at the same time, you are fascinated and can’t look away.

3. What was your favorite part of this first section? Which character(s) do you find most interesting and why?

I rather enjoyed Paul’s first encounter with the Bene Gesserit.  In his meeting with the Reverend Mother, he kept being a smart ass even though he was supposed to be taking everything seriously.  It reveals a lot about Paul’s character that he’s willing to question authority, and to question the motives of characters who we as readers have no real reason yet to distrust.

Edit:  I forgot to answer the second part of the question!  I really like Gurney Hallack’s character.  Even though I may criticize some authors for having too many characters that are artists and musicians (Charles de Lint, I mean you!), the truth is that I am drawn to such characters.  Gurney is a seasoned fighter, but he is also a bard, and has a quotation or song for every occasion.  I think that’s pretty cool, and gives him a sense of humanity that can be harder to see in other militant characters.

4. Did the revelation about the Harkonnen surprise you?

Not particularly.  The Bene Gesserit are a creepy fertility cult that are obsessed with making genetically perfect babies.  I figured that Jessica’s lineage was a deep dark secret for a reason, and guessed that it was either going to involve political problems or incest.  Since this isn’t “Game of Thrones,” politics win.

5. Finally, please share some overall thoughts on this first section of the book. Are you finding it difficult to follow? Easy to understand? Engaging? Boring? Just share what you are thinking thus far.

I actually finished reading “Dune” on Thursday, mostly because once I got started, I couldn’t put the book down.  I didn’t expect to read it so quickly.  I don’t think I really expected to enjoy it nearly as much as I did.

Out of curiosity, has anyone here read the rest of the “Dune” series?  I’ve heard mixed reviews about whether they are worth reading, and I know that some authors’ work tends to go downhill after the first book.  If they are close enough in quality to the first book, I’d be interested in reading more.

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Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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23 thoughts on “Dune Readalong, Part I

  1. I did like Gurney, too! I liked how he had a quote for everything; that added so much to the book, in my opinion, by sharing so much of the culture’s literature.

    • Gurney is a great character. He was the kind of character who gave me the impression that Herbert was well-read and loved quotes and just had to have a character he could work them through. Reminds me in some ways of Heinlein’s character, Lazarus Long, who had become essentially immortal. He had all kinds of sayings and was regularly spouting them off to all who would listen. I like it when characters in fiction have their little quirks. Makes them more human and more real for me.

  2. I know I’m jumping in kinda late, I’ve been out of town for a few days. Like Shaz, I’ve read the rest of the original Dune books, and I feel like the first three can be read as a trilogy and are excellent, the 4th is OK but interesting and worth the read, and the 5th & 6th are just plain weird and bizarre to read. I only read the very first “prequel” book by his son, and it didn’t do a thing for me.

    although. . . Frank and BRian Herbert wrote a complete stand alone called “Man of Two Worlds”, and it’s actually pretty cool.

  3. Yes Stacey, you should be doing this with us! 🙂

    I will take “quintessential nerd book” as a badge of honor. 🙂 LOL!

    The train wreck analogy is a good one, because that is exactly what it is like. And (without spoiling anything) I have noticed that despite Yueh’s demise his betrayal is continuing to effect events as the story continues.

    That opening scene with Paul and the Reverend Mother is a really good one. I hadn’t thought about him being a smart ass, but he really is sort of being one. He is obviously confident in his own abilities plus his attitude matches what you would expect from a 15 year old boy towards his elders. Good stuff.

    I answered back your statement about de Lint and artists/musicians in my Best of Charles de Lint post.

    I love it that you got so into this that you couldn’t stop reading it. I look forward to your thoughts on the next two sections as we get to them.

    • It really frustrated me that Yueh was so trusting that the Harkonnen would stick to their end of the bargain. The whole thing had a very tragic air to it.

      I can’t wait to do the next section! Thanks for hosting the readalong; I’m loving it thus far!

      • It did have a very tragic air to it, which did make it frustrating, but in that good way that keeps you engaged in the story (and by ‘engaged’ I mean yelling at the characters in your head) 🙂

  4. Hi Grace, I followed the link from Carl’s blog. Yes! I’ve read all of the Frank Herbert Dune books, and quite a few of the Brian/Kevin books (some of which, I thought, fit into the world Frank created, and some that did not hold true.) I’ve read or listened to Dune enough times that I’ve lost track. The only other one I’ve reread is Chapterhouse, which is more overtly philosophical. I adore it, but it’s probably way more “niche” than the others.

    I should be doing the read-along!

  5. “Quintessential nerd book”–love it! Camping is a great excuse to be late. I also loved the intros to each chapter-it added just the right amount of drama to an already dramatic story. I loved Gurney as well, and almost put him as my favorite. He was a great addition to the cast of characters. I love that so far all of the participants have had different favorite characters!

    • Everyone I know who has read it has a different favorite character. My boyfriend was rather partial to Hawat. It’s cool that so many people can read the same book and have different favorites.

      • Hi Grace and Shelley. I think that is one of the reasons I really like this book. All of the characters are unique and there is a lot of character development. He doesn’t work on developing a few of the characters and have the rest of the crew there just because. All of them add value and dimension to the work.

  6. I’ve read a lot of the other books. Dune Messiah was okay. Children of Dune was good. God Emperor of Dune was dismal. Chapterhouse was so dull I couldn’t finish it. I read one of the prequels by Kevin Anderson and Herbert’s son, but it did nothing for me. Overall, I think Dune is the best of the bunch.

    • I kind of assumed that the ones by his son wouldn’t be the same, just because it’s a different author. I might have to check out one of the ones you mentioned that are alright.

  7. i’ve never read the other books. i tend to avoid reading books in a series unless it’s essential (like harry potter). i’m always terrified the author will dissapoint me, so i just ignore their other books alltogether. my friend on the other hand says the other books are great as long as you avoid the ones his son wrote.

    • I did enjoy the fact that “Dune” had an actual ending. A lot of times when authors write multiple books, they keep throwing out cliffhangers to sell more sequels. I like that the novel had a sense of resolution at the end.

  8. It seems as if everyone participating had another favourite character. I see you are one of those who liked it. Good for you. I liked the first ten or so pages and then I just didn’t connect anymore. I’m in the middle of part II now and think it is getting better but part I… I’m still glad I’m reading it.

  9. Hi Grace. I hope you enjoyed your camping trip! I loved the description by your boyfriend: quintessential nerd book. I used to think that about sci-fi, but I’m starting to rethink this. I am loving Dune. This weekend I read the second part and I am trying to hold off on the third part so I don’t accidentally give away anything during the discussion.

    I would also like to find out what others think about the rest of the series.

    • I had to try really hard to keep my answers from going past the first book. At the same time, I just couldn’t stop myself from reading the rest, lol.

      • I understand. I finished the second part last night, and I think I might have to hide the book this week so I don’t finish it. Knowing me though, I’ll hide it and then when I want to get it back I won’t remember where I put it. I’ve done the same thing with my birth certificate. Can’t find that at all.

        • That’s never a good thing to lose, lol.

          • I know! That is my life though. I either misplace that or my social security card. I don’t know if I’ve ever known where both are at the same time. 🙂

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