This post is in the theme “A Long Waltz Through Nerddom”. Read the first.
July 27, New York: This is a review in two parts. I set out to just read Dune, just as I did at 14. And just like that first time, the dizzying momentum of the first book sent me soaring into the second, Dune Messiah. They are very different books. We’re going to talk about Dune first.
Dune is one of those books that deserves every accolade ever thrown at it. It charts an incredibly detailed and imaginative world, tells you of a possible future rich with detail without getting bogged down in how we got there from here. It comes with Appendices like The Lord of the Rings— the mark of an author who really delved into creation.
When I read it at 14 and even reading it again now, I wanted to be Paul Maud-Dib Atreides. He is an incredible character and so powerful. In my youth, I wanted nothing more than to be touched with destiny and Paul’s story rang that chord for me. In my adulthood, I want to be powerfully mindful, and re-reading Dune made me want to spend more time working on that.
The book moves so fast, though. It almost feels over-edited. I recalled this in the film, but it’s here in the source text too. You leap into the story, zip past the first act in a blink and then you tear through this richly-imagined world with a breathtaking speed of plot. And at the end, when all of a sudden Paul is victorious, you are left wanting more, combing through the appendices for an extension of the narrative. And this leads you to buy Dune Messiah. I did it twice.
After the hectic pace of Dune, you want Dune Messiah to luxuriate in the world on Arrakis, to spread and explore deeper into the concepts breezed through in Paul’s ascent to power. This doesn’t happen. We skip over the dozen years of the great jihad Paul has been trying to avoid and all the growth and construction of his empire right to what feels like its end. Instead of delving deeper, Herbert introduces wholly new concepts, like he’s done with the first world and can’t wait to move on. To read the synopsis of the following books in the sextet, it seems like that happens every time. #3 (Children of Dune) takes place another nine years in the future; #4 (God Emperor of Dune) is 3500 years later! I remember in my first reading I’d planned to tear through all six, but lost steam in the third.
I thought this reading of Dune as The Godfather, the most award-winning book of its day. Dune Messiah also won the Hugo, much like Godfather II also won the Oscar, but we all know which of the Godfather movies is the landmark of American cinema. And we all know how disappointing Godfather III was. I didn’t try to read Children of Dune this time.
But Dune is an amazing book and you should buy it and read it and then restrain yourself at its conclusion!