I blame the movie.
I was an avid but novice fantasy and sci-fi reader in 1984 when David Lynch’s Dune rolled out as a big-budget adaptation of the 1962 classic book. It was an artistic and box-office failure with Roger Ebert calling it “a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion.” Numerous references were made to its excessive length, particularly a tv edition that was over 3 hours long. I never did pick up the classic sci-fi book, assuming the commentary heard about the movie applied to the book. All that changed when I broke my finger and found myself with a lot of extra time on my hands (groan).
Dune has a lot of ingredients that don’t fit into my preferred stories, yet the gestalt was not only tolerable, but engrossing.
It begins with the Atreides family preparing to shift their holding from their current home to the planet of Arrakis. The Emperor has given the Atreides the territory and trade on the planet of Arrakis, formerly under control of their enemies, the Harkonnen. The planet Arrakis is hot, arid and generally hostile to life. There is, however, a small population of native, fierce Freman who have managed to build an existence in the desert.
Paul Atreides is the young heir of the family, and mystical testing reveals he might be the one prophesied.
Paul undergroes a rapid growth curve, facilitated by his teacher Dr. Yeuh and his father’s advisors.
But it is in the desert that Paul will discover his strength as well as his new people.
Honestly, I have to wonder how much of this like is generational. If Sanderson or Rothfuss wrote this book, two chapters in Dune would have made a whole book and the book itself a series, and while detail may have been added, it likely would have made for a book as slow as the movie. I liked the scope of Dune, and that a resolution is obtained. It is also interesting that despite the volume of concepts packed in here, with political maneuvers, terraforming, technology, cultural assimilation, and mysticism all playing roles that I didn’t find it overwhelming, perhaps because so much is genre-familiar.
On the downside, it could have perhaps used a bit more transitions, particularly near the end when months at a time are skipped. Writing was solid; nothing really stood out, but it told the story well. There’s some vague mysticism that might irritate those who like explanations. It was a bit of an eye-roller to have the chief villain be a fat, gay, sadistic pedophile, but Herbert really isn’t thinking outside the trope character box much (it’s not enough that he sentences people to death but he has to be physically abhorrent? And gay?)
Overall, I’m glad that I finally took the time to read it and put those old assumptions to rest.