Dune, by Frank Herbert, is a book that’s been on my list for ages. I kept putting it off because there was a movie and a mini series at hand and there are so many other books on my list. What put me over the edge was the Mind Voyages reading challenge. I decided that this was the year I would finally read Dune so I could cross it off my list.
Let me start by saying that I really love this book and wish I had read it years ago. Going in I was concerned I would be let down after all this time and all the hype. Dune is on top of just about every “best of” list I’ve ever seen and people would boggle when I told them I hadn’t read it yet. I was expecting something amazing and in the back of my head I thought it would end up being a let down.
As it turned out my concerns were unfounded. I love all the detail in this story: the Fremen culture, the political intrigue in the Empire, the Arrakis ecology, the Bene Gesserit manipulations and on and on. Dune is an excellent example of world building. I find it nigh impossible to separate the book from the movie so it was great to see some characters I knew from the movie fleshed out. The film version relegated some great characters to the side line. My familiarity with the movie had me seeing Kyle, Jurgen, Patrick, Sting and all in my head as I was reading which turned out to enhance my enjoyment a great deal.
I understand why so many fans of the book don’t like the movie but there are some scenes in the movie that turned out to be better than what was in the book. The Water of Life scene in particular. In the book Paul goes off by himself to drink the water and falls into a coma for weeks. Not very cinematic, or indeed dramatic, at all and frankly a bit of a let down. Give me the awesome “Shai-Hulud Salute” over “Muad ‘Dib unconscious in the cupboard” any day. The movie did sacrifice a lot as is the case with most movie adaptations but the feel was right. The richness of a layered story like Dune gets lost in translation. I’ve grown to accept the trade off as the price you pay to see this kind of stuff on the silver screen but I have been wondering what David Lynch could have done with Dune had it gotten the LOTR treatment. Three films back to back to back to tell the story in full? That would have been amazing.
The book fully deserves the accolades that have been heaped on it. Indeed, I’ll be able to add my voice to the chorus now but best of all, I can take my turn to stare with incredulity and gasp “You’ve never read Dune?!” when some poor soul admits the flaw. I just have to find someone who hasn’t read it. The Sleeper has awakened.