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A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.  This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows.  To begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time... And take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place:  the planet Arrakis.

-- from "Manual of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan.

When David Lynch's film version of Dune was released in 1984, many of my friends in the campus science fiction club anticipated it with a mixture of hope and dread.  After all, despite the boom in science fiction movies following the success of Star Wars, there hadn't been any really big, serious SF films since 2001: A Space Odyssey.  "Let this be our 'War and Peace'," one friend said.

Well, the movie turned out to be disappointing; but I still like to think of the book as "Our War and Peace"; a big, sprawling work about conflict and intrigue, religion and politics and destiny, on a scale the size of Shai-hulud.

Chapter 1:  The Gom Jabbar
Chapter 2:  Baron Harkonnen
Chapter 3:  Paul's Dreams
Chapter 4:  Thufir Hawat & Gurney Halleck
Chapter 5:  Dr. Wellington Yueh
Chapter 6:  Duke Leto

Last week I announced that we'd be discussing the first five chapters.  I'm revising thatto the first six, since it brings us to a good natural pause.  The chapters in Dune aren't titled, or even numbered, which is annoying for the purposes of marking out what we're going to read.  But each chapter is given a bit of introductory flavor text; excerpts from histories and commentaries written long after the events of the novel.  Sometimes these bits are illuminating; sometimes they're just pretentious; but they add to the atmosphere of the World of Dune.

The story is set so vastly far in the future that Earth is not even a memory, in a galaxy-spanning empire with a feudal society.  Duke Leto Atreides, ruler of the planet Caladan, has been given the planet Arrakis by the Emperor.  Arrakis, the planet also known as Dune, is a desert world with exactly one important resource:  a substance known as the spice melange.  Spice is a drug with life-extending qualities; it neutralizes many popular forms of poison; it's highly-addicitive and will turn your eyeballs blue.  It probably also mends vinyl and freshens your breath.  In high enough doses, it expands the user's consciousness and enhances precognitive abilities.  Navigators on starships use melange to calculate routes through hyperspace, and the Creepy Space Nuns of the Bene Gesserit use it to enchance their own mental disciplines.  It is the most valuable substance in the galaxy, and Arrakis is its only source; therefore the ruler of Arrakis is sitting on the wealth of the universe.

But Arrakis is also a trap.  The planet's former rulers, the Harkonnens, are hereditary enemies of House Atreides, and the Baron Harkonnen has set up an elaborate plot to destroy Duke Leto and his house forever.

Paul Atredies is Duke Leto's son; a boy of fifteen who is just on the verge of manhood.  And he has unusual dreams.  Yes, this is a story about a Boy Becoming a Man as he discovers that He Is Special.  But Paul is more than a Mary Sue, and although he does indulge in angst occasionally, he does not wallow in it.

As the story begins, Duke Leto is preparing to move his family and his court from Caladan to Arrakis; and it is through these preparations that we meet Paul's family and the Atreides' closest retainers.  Thufir Hawat is the Duke's mentat; a man trained to be a kind of living computer; skilled at analyzing data.  Gurney Halleck is a veteran fighter and something of a bard.  Dr. Yueh is the court physician and one of Paul's teachers; he also has a dark secret and a tragic destiny hanging over him.

We also get a chapter introducing the Harkonnens:  Baron Vladamir, corpuant and vile; his own mentat Piter, nasty and hedonistic; and his nephew Feyd, who in many ways is Paul's parallel, the way Hal and Hotspur parallel each other in the the Henry IV plays.

The moving plans on Caladan are interrupted by Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, a high-ranking woman of the Bene Gesserit.  This quasi-religious order is one of the most powerful groups in the galaxy; and their chief purpose, putting it crudely, is improving the species through selective breeding.  Their ultimate goal is to create a genetic super-being called the Kwisatz-Haderach, a male who can utilize the Bene Gesserit's mental disciplines to see backwards and forwards in time.  Paul's mother, Jessica, thinks that he might be the one; and the Reverend Mother has arrived to test him.

These opening chapters touch on a lot of things:  elements of the culture and religion of the novel's world; foreshadowing hints about Arrakis; and above all, premonitions of doom.  From the very beginning, the narrative marks Duke Leto as a man destined for tragedy.  Everybody knows it; his wife, his mentat, he himself knows it; but Leto sees Arrakis as an opportunity as well as a trap and intends to take the risk.  Yueh also is a tragic figure, and the historical chapter heads direly remind us of his fate, even as we watch him struggle against it.  

And also Paul, in his way is something of a tragic figure.  His glimpses of the future show him things he cannot avoid and choices to make where every option leads to bad results.  This is only hinted at in the early chapters, but Paul's grappling with this aspect of prescience is one of the main themes of the book.

NEXT WEEK:  We'll discuss the next six chapters.  The Atreides arrive on Arrakis and an assassination attempt is made on Paul.

Chapter 7:  Shadout Mapes
Chapter 8:  Conversation between Jessica and Yueh
Chapter 9:  The Hunter-Seeker
Chapter 10:  The Weirding Room
Chapter 11:  "They have tried to take the life of my son!"
Chapter 12:  Strategy Meeting with Leto's Staff

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 06:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by oo.


Who is your Favorite Member of the Atreides Family/Staff ?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Everybody sing along! (18+ / 0-)

    There's a guy, he's the Madhi who I'm sure you've heard;
    (Muad'Dib, Dib.  Dib.  Dib-Dib)
    Well he lives on Arrakis, that's the desert world.
    (Muad'Dib, Dib.  Dib.  Dib-Dib)
    The best Fremen warrior what ever lived;
    (Muad'Dib, Dib.  Dib.  Dib-Dib)
    Yeah, this cat's name is, uh, Muad'Dib!
    (Muad'Dib, Dib.  Dib.  Dib-Dib)
    Got a stillsuit that looks pretty rad,
    But them Harkonnens got him hoppin' mad
    Gonna start up his own Ji-had
    Look at them sandworms go...

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 06:36:49 PM PDT

  •  Really? I prefer the movie over the book (5+ / 0-)

    It's probably the only story in which I found the movie better than the book.
    The book draaaaaaaaaaaggggged! I did not need the extensive history. It really got in the way of the story for me.

    I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

    by WiseFerret on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 06:43:56 PM PDT

  •  I loved Dune when I first read it (11+ / 0-)

    I spent a lot of my childhood in the Middle East & I felt that Herbert really understood desert people. Then when I went back & read it again in college, the idea that humans in the future would be so extremely sexist was really disappointing & I set the book aside.

    •  Women in Dune (15+ / 0-)

      The role of women in the world of Dune and Herbert's attitudes towards them is definitely something I hope we discuss more in this series.

      Since the society of the Imperium is modeled after old feudal society, it's not too surprising that it is paternalistic.  Women in Dune actually do wield a great amount of power, but it is almost exclusively behind-the-scenes, hidden power.  The Bene Gesserit have the humble motto:  "I am Bene Gesserit, I exist to serve", but in reality they are manipulative schemers.  Which also is a sexist stereotype.  

      But there is definitely more to say on the subject.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 06:52:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it also reminds me of (9+ / 0-)

        how women used power in the old south. Another reason it was hard to reread them as an adult. And disappointing that he imagined a future where we had regressed so much.

      •  If you read the later books that flesh out (4+ / 0-)

        the entire history, women are some of the most powerful characters.

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

        by zenbassoon on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:26:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Alas, we're only discussing the first (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Not to mention that there is a big drop off in quality between the first two and the rest of the series.  I stopped reading after Children of Dune and had no interest in picking them up again.

          •  Funny, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            quarkstomper, mrkvica

            God Emperor is my favorite (other than Dune itself,) and is in some ways the deeper book. I've read it dozens of times, and I'm still finding new layers.


            "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
            "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

            by Leftie Gunner on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 12:18:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  manipulative schemers maligns their glory (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quarkstomper, RunawayRose, mrkvica

        I have always found the Bene Gesserit to be the ideal humans

        They manipulate to promote species survival, that is what their whole breeding scheme is about

        Their vision is vast as vs just being bothered with the day to day stuff

        They are the culmination of every valid bits from every philosophy, every martial arts form, evry evrything....with their genetic memories they were able to remember everything all of humanity had acomplished and took the best parts and cobbled it together into a working whole = Themselves

        I should have said tried to, Leto points out where they lost track of the goal and he had to whip them along (with the rest of the universe) to get them on the right track  :-P  The golden path

        But in the later 2 books they look back on the tyrant's reign and acknowledge him as a wise willey worm that was still teaching them lessons down through the ages

        •  There is Much that is Admirable about the B.G. (9+ / 0-)

          I was telling my daughter a bit about the book this morning.  When I got to the part about Jessica being ordered to bear Leto a daughter instead of a son, she said, "How can she do that???"  

          "Like I said, the Bene Gesserit have incredible control of their bodies."

          "But gender is determined by the male!!!"  My daughter is taking pre-med classes in her high school.  She's highly aware of these kinds of details.  "Biology does not work that way!!!"

          "They can control which sperm they allow to fertilize their eggs."

          "That is SO WRONG!!!"

          "But awesome.  They can be both."

          "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

          by quarkstomper on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 08:00:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  see, eugenics is good. (4+ / 0-)

          The Bene Gesserit breeding scheme was basically eugenics with the desired outcome of producing a messiah.  

          I suppose that makes it more palatable than the usual eugenics aimed at improving a species as a whole.  

          But take a look at where humans today are headed: people with ecological foresight are having fewer offspring, and those with little to no ecological foresight are having more.  This generalizes from ecological foresight, to foresight in general, and thus overlaps with intelligence.  It also overlaps with cultural variables where people who are under the thrall of religious dogma are having more offspring than rationalists.  

          In effect we have a global dysgenic program that is breeding us into collective stupidity.  It's immaterial how much of that is "genes" and how much of it is "culture," as we see routinely in elections for local boards of education.  Not to mention the 25% of hardcore rightwing Republicans, young-Earth creationists, and similar instances of large groups of people who are apparently allergic to facts or at least proudly profess their immunity to facts.  

      •  Yeah. Those incubators (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        for clones are really over the line. Hard to imagine a civilization capable of galactic conquest reverting to such ultimate degradation of the female sex. Or unable to produce decent clones without them.

        Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

        by Joieau on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 08:36:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Kwisatz Haderach (8+ / 0-)

        I never understood the rationale behind the B.G.'s quest to create a Kwisatz-Haderach.  Why would they ever have thought that would work out well?

        Herbert was trapped in a sexist outlook that's typical for male SF writers of his time--I'd say he did better than most, but still my sense of Jessica is disappointment that she wasn't a more fully developed character.   I agree that the Rev. Mother is surprisingly well-developed as a strong though sinister force.  I was frustrated by the lack of development of Shadout Mapes, who could have been a very powerful character; and likewise the Fremen women that Paul meets later.  Shallow and frustrating.  "History will remember us as wives"--sheesh!  Alia was pretty cool in a kick-ass sort of way....

        It's been quite awhile since I've read these--I'll try to refresh my memory in time for next week's discussion.  I feel a certain responsibility to this subject matter....

      •  I was very bothered by the status of women (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Limelite, quarkstomper, RunawayRose

        I know that Jessica was powerful in the end, and Alia, and Chani (before she became obsessed with having a baby), but women seemed to exist solely as concubines or religious figures.  Given that we're talking a huge, star-spanning empire, surely one planet would have had female equality or something close to it?  Or one of the great families would have been matriarchal or matrilineal?


        •  Matriarchy and feudalism (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          quarkstomper, mrkvica

          don't blend well, either in history or in fiction.

          If you're creating a society that is hyper-technological (except for computers) but structurally feudal, it is going to end up at least superficially male-dominated.

          But don't overlook the Bene Gesserits' power. They are clearly stated to be one of the three underlying structures supporting the whole society.

          This idea gets fleshed out more in God Emperor, when Leto II (actually III, but that's how Herbert wrote it,) basically describes the purpose of the society he creates as controlling and channelling male impulses.

          The Bene Gesserit were trying to do this by manipulating breeding, but what they didn't understand (because they were veiwing the problem solely from the female side) is that what was needed was a fusion of the very different male and female worldviews. It took the God Emperor, with both complete memory on both male and female genetic lines and a multi-thousand-year lifespan to mold humanity into the best shape for species survival.

          I'm a dude, and so that may disqualify me from having an opinion, but I don't see Dune as a sexist novel at all, although you have to read the whole series to really understand what Herbert was trying to say.


          "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
          "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

          by Leftie Gunner on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 12:29:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  One Interesting but Overlooked Character... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          susans, RunawayRose, Gabriel D, mrkvica

 Lady Margot Ferning, the wife of Count Ferning.  We only really see her in one chapter, but I've always found her striking in that she and her husband seem to have a genuine partnership.  Yes, they do have seperate agendas; he's a spy for the Emperor and she serves the B.G.; but they still work as a team and, it seems to me anyway, treat each other as equals.

          And going back to Jessica; it occurs to me that Paul was trained by some of the best swordsmen in the galaxy, but what impressed the Fremen about his fighting was the stuff he learned from his Mother!!!

          One more thing; this time about Chani.  At the very end of the book, when Paul is negotiating with the Emperor, and Princess Irulan is wheedling her Daddy to please let her be a bargaining chip, Chani asks Paul if she should leave.  Paul says no, and takes time to reassure her of his unshakable love for her.  Then he says one thing more.  He says he wants her to stay so that afterwards he can compare notes with her about the negotiations.  He says he wants to look at this scene again through her eyes.  He doesn't just love her, although he certainly does that; he also values her wisdom and affirms her importance.

          "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

          by quarkstomper on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 06:42:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  All true (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, Gabriel D

            For its time, Dune wasn't bad at all.  But even in the most feudalistic societies in medieval Europe, a wealthy widow could and did have enormous power, and some concubines were raised to the status of wives.  Some women from ruling families even put on armor and fought in wars, either with their husbands or by themselves (Sichelgaita is a great example).  I didn't notice Dune's lack of this when I was a teen, but I can't help but notice it now.

            It's still a great book, though :)

    •  I was surprised this time through (7+ / 0-)

      how much I disliked Jessica.  I didn't remember that from before.  That is sad, though.

      I console myself with the young Freman woman coming later.

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:18:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I tend to be the opposite (3+ / 0-)

      And find uber-tolerant, kumbaya futures to be unrealistic.

  •  I only read the Dune books (7+ / 0-)

    once, a very long time ago.  So this is bringing back vague memories.    Is there a reason why Jessica has such an ordinary name?

  •  interesting (13+ / 0-)

    thanks. Not sure what I want to say about these chapters specifically though...

    a year or so ago (while still out of work) i re-read the entire saga, including the last 2 volumes written by F Herbert's son. Not his barrage of prequels though.

    for me one of the really interesting parts of the Dune universe is the existence of interstellar travel and its luxury goods for the wealthy few, in a feudal society where the lower classes were subsistence-level peasantry. They needed a revolution not a messiah.

    "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

    by esquimaux on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 06:49:20 PM PDT

  •  Regarding Harkonnen, corpulent misspelled. (12+ / 0-)

    I'd recommend mentioning the "Fear is the mind-killer" mantra and the jom gibbar.

    Interesting idea for a diary sequence.

    It is a do things about injustice.... It helps to have a goal. I've always tried to have one.--Ted Kennedy, True Compass

    by Timaeus on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 06:56:36 PM PDT

  •  The first chapters (19+ / 0-)

    also set up the huge contrast of the ecologies of Caladan and Dune.  Not only are the Atreides moving into a trap with their eyes wide open, but they are moving into a totally foreign environment, from the water planet to the desert planet.

    And prophets always seem to show up in deserts.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 06:57:48 PM PDT

    •  The Ecological Motif (14+ / 0-)

      preoccupied me throughout the entire novel when I read it long ago.

      That, and I thought Doom would have been a better title.

      I loved the book; reading it was a very dreamlike experience for me.  Perhaps the pages of the volume I held had been suffused with the spice?

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:02:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree (8+ / 0-)

        The setting always impressed me.

        Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

        by cfk on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:13:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Do You Think Setting is the Strongest (6+ / 0-)

          element in many/most sci-fi?

          Generally speaking, I think this is often so when characterization is poor, which was not the case in Dune!  Or when the plot is banal and worn from retreading, or when one cannot suspend disbelief, which for me is often the case in this genre.

          There are intense works of literary fiction where I am unaware of setting or it remains in the background of the story because other elements of fiction are much more powerful.  I'm thinking of works like Jude the Obscure or Buddenbrooks.  I'd be hard pressed to come up with a good sci-fi title that wasn't most memorable for its setting.

          Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

          by Limelite on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:32:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree (6+ / 0-)

            The setting is important in so many of the stories.

            Dune still stands out, of course.  :)

            Lord of the Rings is another.


            Cherryh's Atevi world in the Foreigner series.

            Lord Valentine’s Castle

            The  Sun Sword series by Michelle West

            Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

            by cfk on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:47:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Well, to be fair, (7+ / 0-)

            the setting is kinda what makes sci-fi what it is. I mean, you can take the characters and plunk them in any setting you like and see how they react, but for it to be sci-fi, the setting has to be based on a speculative "what if" scenario. "What if" we can warp through space? "What if" there are aliens on other planets? "What if" the North lost the Civil War?

            "What if" it's many, many thousands of years in the future and the galaxy is run by humans who've reverted to a feudal political system but on a galactic scale, and there is only one planet which produces the stuff that makes the whole thing work?

            And any setting which doesn't take place on modern earth is necessarily going to require some attention so that the reader/viewer can understand the plot. That includes historical and fantasy stories, too.

            So it's kinda unfair to ask for sci-fi works to disregard what is fundamental to their genre, especially when the setting is particularly foreign to our own world. So as for whether it's the strongest element in sci-fi, I think it's more accurate to say that it's the defining element of sci-fi.

            There can be no left-of-center if the left is in the center.
            Have you seen a pest, critter, or bug? You need KosBusters!

            by Gabriel D on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 08:07:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  In General, You Are Right (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Gabriel D, quarkstomper, RunawayRose

              However, when I think of a novel like Anathem it isn't setting that makes the strongest impression on this reader; it's characters and their development, the plot and the puzzles that must be solved by them that capture me.

              Admittedly, I tend to shun sci-fi because of the argument you make.  While there are books where setting plays as active a role as any person or theme, I prefer the setting to be Earth-bound and the story not fantastical.

              An example: For me McMurtry is the master of using setting as a "character," symbol, and background for the action in Lonesome Dove.  Perhaps because I am willfully underexposed to sci-fi, my experience with setting being fully exploited in a literary sense in that genre is bereft.

              Another example: All of McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe books are set in Botswana.  The bush is ever-present but it is balanced by thematic content of this psychology dominated detective fiction series and the powerful personalities of the warm people.  This control of the elements of fiction is due to McCall Smith's skill as a writer.

              I must admit that setting is the foundation factor that literally makes sci-fi.  Probably that's why most of it is not to my taste.  Without the at least as strong or stronger elements of fiction, setting is a poor substitute for the one element that commands good fiction -- characterization or character development.

              Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

              by Limelite on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 08:35:37 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Try Lois McMaster Bujold (6+ / 0-)

                Yes, her works are set in the future, on other planets.  But the characterizations are excellent, the plots are full of lovely twists, and development of the main character, Miles Vorkosigan, from a brilliant but defensive youth into an adult capable of taking his place as husband, father, and politician, is brilliant.

              •  That's different, though. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                quarkstomper, Limelite, RunawayRose

                Talking about the strongest element vs. the driving element of a story, these are two different things. Just because one element of a story is strong does not necessarily mean it's the driving element.

                For example (and this is an obvious one), the strongest element in the Lord of the Rings is the setting. (As a reminder, so you don't have to click on the parent links in these comments, I did point out that fantasy and history also use setting as a defining element, so I think it's fair to use them as comparisons, even though we're focused on sci-fi in this diary.) Without that setting, the whole story breaks down. Yet the driving element of the story is the characters. Their interactions. Their suffering. Their ultimate triumphs (including Gollum's).

                OTOH, I would say Asimov's stories are driven more by the setting. This doesn't mean his characters and stories aren't interesting. Far from it. But he focuses more on how the elements of the setting affect the people and how the people deal with those elements. In a sense, he writes more in the Man vs Nature style, just that his "nature" is technology and the Three Laws.

                Moving back to character driven, I would say Steven Brust's Taltos series is one that easily fits. Again, fantasy setting, but it's told in the first person, so the entire story revolves around Vlad's actions, thoughts, and words. And I just finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy, which is an excellent sci-fi story also told in the first person. Like Brust, Suzanne Collins doesn't dwell on her story's setting, choosing to write from Kitness's point of view. So the story is entirely driven by the character, but without the setting, it wouldn't make sense.

                For me, it's the imagination of the setting and how the characters interact with it (and because of it) that makes the stories interesting. Because whether it's sci-fi or fantasy, the characters have to be essentially human in order for us, as readers, to relate to them. So these stories are all describing us, as humans, and trying to understand how we might deal with things given a particular set of circumstances. Sometimes more sociologically, other times more personally. (I tend to think of fantasy as being more about personal morality while sci-fi tends toward ethics and societal behavior. This isn't absolute, but on the whole, it seems to fit.)

                You know, it occurs to me after writing all this, that we may have different definitions of "strong element." To you, from rereading your comment, it seems that what makes an element strong is what leaves the greatest impression on you. That is, how you feel about the element. To me, a strong element is one that is well defined. In other words, if I were to role play in that story, I would be able to use that element in the game without being confused about how it would behave.

                There can be no left-of-center if the left is in the center.
                Have you seen a pest, critter, or bug? You need KosBusters!

                by Gabriel D on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 10:47:01 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Prophets and Deserts (8+ / 0-)

      Very true.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:15:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I really enjoy the shakespearian feel this (14+ / 0-)

    story has. Two houses battling it out, two young men polar opposites, a mother with torn loyalties, a father & uncle with sure tragic endings, etc. The beginning chapters set-up really well for the oncoming drama. And of course humor here and there makes the story run along at a quick pace.

    As a movie, I'm a huge Lynch fan and will say that while the studio bastardized what would have been a truly great Lynch film, I still enjoy it if anything for at least attempting it. I will never blame Lynch for how the movie came out. The studio can suck it though.

    Earth: Mostly harmless ~ The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (revised entry)

    by yawnimawke on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:00:16 PM PDT

  •  What does everyone think... (8+ / 0-)

    ... about the sequels (both Herbert's and his son's) as well as the prequels?

    My 15-year-old (who loves SF) wants to read Dune, but didn't want to take on all the other books.

    I read the first three books years ago (and have since reread Dune a couple of times). I was always underwhelmed by the second and third books in the original trilogy, but never read any of the others.


    "We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it." -- Willy Wonka

    by Huginn and Muninn on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:03:30 PM PDT

  •  It had been so long since I read it (10+ / 0-)

    that I wondered if I would still like it.

    This time through I am not as much in awe because I know about things, but I am still enjoying the story.  

    In the Wheel of Time series, Jordan used ladies who could control others and who thought they knew how to do things to prevent a future from happening.  They hunted down men who had talents.

    I wondered at first if it was fair to warn us of the Duke's fate, but I guess it worked.  I chose him on the poll because he seemed to know and still chose to go.

    So many ruthless people...can Paul be different?

    The question of the Emperor's involvement struck me, too.
    I surely do not understand him.  That the Houses are all who oppose him and that he can pick them off one by one was interesting for our times.

    Thanks for the diary!

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:05:36 PM PDT

  •  About The Movie..... (13+ / 0-)

    Maybe it's because my first exposure to the story was the film, but whenever someone mentions Dune, the aesthetics of David Lynch's film is what comes to mind. While the execution of the story leaves a lot to be desired, I think he pretty much defined the "look" of the Dune Universe pretty well.

    The scale of Herbert's book is immense, and would be difficult for any writer or director to condense into a 2 hour film (and just recently another attempt to adapt the book ended after four years in development hell). But it's interesting that the powers that be chose Lynch, a director known for films with unorthodox narrative, to shepherd a film that needed to desperately find a way to streamline its source material's narrative.

    Any Dune film (and there is another film adaptation of the book in the works) or miniseries, just as exposition, has to set up:

    • The "Houses" (Atreides, Harkonnen, Corrino)
    • The relationship of the Houses to each other & the role of the Emperor of the Known Universe
    • What the "Spice" is, where it's located, and what it does.
    • The use of the Spice by the Spacing Guild & Bene Gesserit, their motivations, and their relationships & connections to the Houses & the Emperor.

    And that's all before ya even get into the main story with Paul.

    The 1984 film attempted to do this with a three minute prologue in which Princess Irulan (Virginia Madsen) breaks the fourth wall, and I believe some theaters passed out guides which provided backstory. However, audiences were still lost. The intro to the Special Edition cut of the movie is 7 minutes long, and has the feel of a history course.

    From A.V. Club:

    Bringing Frank Herbert’s novel to life was a Herculean task that had already defeated such formidable directors as Alejandro Jodorowsky and Ridley Scott. Jodorowsky was set to adapt the film in the mid-1970s, with design assistance from H.R. Giger and Jean "Moebius" Giraud, music by Pink Floyd, and a prospective cast that included Salvador Dalí (who agreed to play the emperor for $100,000 an hour), David Carradine, Orson Welles, and Gloria Swanson. It is a testament to just how mammoth an undertaking Dune had become that Jodorowsky’s adaptation, which burned up $2 million in mid-1970s pre-production costs before dying, was to run 10 to 14 hours.

    Next, Ridley Scott took a crack at the project, but left to direct Blade Runner, a film that seems to have drawn heavily on his and Jodorowsky’s plans for Dune. (Jodorowsky also felt, perhaps not unfairly, that Star Wars "borrowed" from his Dune storyboards.) The project then somehow fell into the hands of an eccentric young filmmaker with two strange, small projects under his belt: a weird little AFI-funded arthouse oddity called Eraserhead, and The Elephant Man, a gorgeous biopic of Victorian medical oddity Joseph Merrick.

    Heaven knows what attracted David Lynch to the project, since according to Cinefantastique, he hadn’t read the novel, and didn’t even know the story. Yet he signed on anyway, and committed roughly three years of his life to directing a movie whose daily outlay for bottled water was probably more than Eraserhead’s entire budget. It consequently fell upon a filmmaker not particularly interested in linear stories to make sense of a mammoth, insanely complicated tome for a mass audience. He did not succeed, to put it mildly.

    Interesting enough, even though the 1984 film takes liberties with Herbert's book, Herbert was reportedly pleased with the film.
  •  The archetypes were so blatant... (10+ / 0-)

    they were almost Star Trek: Brit WASPs, Russians, Jewish advisors, Indians... Typical of the time, tho... It's interesting to see reactions to the  'identifying characteristics' change as global circumstances change.

    I was fascinated and slightly appalled by the 'witches' growing up, and I had the same reaction when I reread the series last summer... I couldn't identify the archetype, and in my mind filed them under 'Catholic nuns,' because of the mysticism coupled with covert political manipulation. And the headgear. :)

  •  I have used the Bene-Gesserit Litany (14+ / 0-)

    at times of stress (no Gom Jabbar) and thank Frank Herbert for it.

    "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

    I don't dislike all conservatives... mainly just the ones that vote Republican.

    by OHdog on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:19:14 PM PDT

    •  I printed that and it has (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OHdog, Limelite, quarkstomper, RunawayRose

      been sitting on my desk for years.

    •  It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it (8+ / 0-)

      Ah, the connections our brains make when we're barely even paying attention.  Not quite the wisdom of the Bene Gesserit:

      I must not have fun. Fun is the time-killer. Fun is for children, dogs, and the help. I will forget fun. I will take a pass on it. And while it is going, I will turn a blind eye toward it. Where fun is gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain--I, and my will to win. Damn, I'm good.

      I quote from memory, and therefore perhaps with imperfect accuracy.  (From the Harvard Lampoon's Doon, if the same imperfect memory serves.)  But to this day, I can't think of either litany without the other.

    •  I think it's utterly nonsensical (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Limelite, quarkstomper, RunawayRose

      Fear sharpens the mind and makes us think more clearly.

      Without fear, none of us would make it past childhood.

      Founder Math and Statistics Geeks . Statistics for progressives

      by plf515 on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 03:35:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  fear clouds the mind to rational thibking (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OHdog, Limelite, quarkstomper
        •  LOL and typos cloud posts (sorry for typos) (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OHdog, mrkvica
        •  I disagree (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          quarkstomper, RunawayRose

          At least, in many cases, fear OPENS the mind to things that might happen, suggesting that we take precautions.

          Without fear, we invade Iraq.

          Or, on a more prosaic level, we jump into swimming pools without looking.

          Founder Math and Statistics Geeks . Statistics for progressives

          by plf515 on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 07:41:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  W and Cheney used fear to invade Iraq. Fear of (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Anthrax, fear of mushroom clouds, fear of radical  Islam.

            I don't dislike all conservatives... mainly just the ones that vote Republican.

            by OHdog on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:27:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think plf would argue (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              that the ones making the decision to go to war (Cheney, Bush, et. al.) were not afraid and thus failed to open their minds to the possibilities.

              And I would argue that you have allowed yourself to be entrapped by his argument's framework. The problem with his argument is not the examples. It's that he fails to explain why people experience fear in the first place. Thus, his argument lacks any foundation.

              People experience fear only after receiving some sort of sensory stimulation. Seeing something, feeling something, tasting something, etc. The brain must process that information and then be able to associate it with losing something important (usually our lives). For example, when we are kids, we have to learn not to touch the burners on the stove or we'll burn ourselves. The fear doesn't open the mind. Experience opens the mind, and then an emotion is associated with the experience to help us remember.

              In the case of fear, it also provides an immediate reaction necessary for survival. What we call the fight or flight impulse. This is a very neat evolutionary trick because of how it is almost instantaneous. No other emotion provides the same immediate physical reaction. It is this natural behavior in regards to our fear that causes us to close our minds. Rather than consider alternatives which may be neither fight nor flight, or perhaps a synthesis of the two, or just doing the opposite of that which it impels us to do, fear directs us unthinkingly toward one of these two actions.

              Thus, fear closes the mind to critical analysis and logical thinking. It shows us that we remain nothing more than animals ruled by instinct, rather than the higher-order thinking creatures we delusionally believe ourselves to be.

              With this foundation, we can now better explain plf's examples than he.

              When it came to Iraq, the thought of invading Iraq did not evoke fear in those who lead the charge because their concerns were not about the people of either country or international relations or any of the other geo-socio-political possibilities. It's not that they didn't consider these things. Rather, they considered those costs acceptable to their goal of oil profits. Oil profits were their concern, so the only thing that would have scared them off of invading Iraq was if there was a significant threat to those oil profits (or their own well being, of course).

              Similarly, looking before you leap is a matter of prudence, not fear. The fear comes after the thought of, "what if that isn't (just) water?" Once you have the thought, your concern for your well-being comes into play, and you fear for it. This may increase the likelihood that you at least will look, but that just shows that fear is nothing more than a motivational force (in this case, facing what you fear).

              In general, plf's argument must assume that the actors are not only idiots, but also irrational. After all, if fear is the motivational factor for opening the mind, then those who do not experience fear must necessarily not consider the consequences of their actions. Indeed, fear becomes the ruling emotion without which we cannot think.

              And if, as plf argues, fear is not always necessary, then he has provided himself an "out" by being able to say that any particular example you provide obviously fits in that oh-so minor catch-all he has provided. How convenient. Needless to say, I call bullshit.

              Now, while I agree that people are generally stupid (some more so than others, and not about the same things; and yes, I include myself), I do not find my fellow humans to be irrational. Illogical, immoral, and/or unethical? Absolutely. But on the whole, not irrational.

              It's easy to pigeon-hole people into being stupid and irrational because their actions run counter to what we see as obvious. But what we have to understand is that their behavior should not be equated with lack of mental faculties, especially when talking about people who have achieved a certain level of success in any field, much less politics. Their actions can be explained when we assume their concerns and goals are different from ours. And it is these same assumptions about concerns and goals which help us understand what they fear, and thus what motivates them.

              (I'm looking forward to the end of the book where Muad'Dib reveals the nature of power. It dovetails nicely with this discussion of fear, and I expect we'll have an interesting discussion or two on how it applies to real world politics, too.)

              There can be no left-of-center if the left is in the center.
              Have you seen a pest, critter, or bug? You need KosBusters!

              by Gabriel D on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 02:01:12 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Yep -- Kept Me from Plunging (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quarkstomper, plf515, RunawayRose

        off the high dive into the Olympic pool when I was 5 years old!

        L o o o n g  story.

        Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

        by Limelite on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 08:53:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's all about being thoughtful (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OHdog, RunawayRose, mrkvica

        Sometimes it is rational to be afraid, but not always. Fear is the mind killer when it is not warranted, but takes the place of clear thinking and decision. YMMV

  •  TV miniseries (9+ / 0-)

    The 1984 movie made me cringe a few times. The SciFi Channel's (now SyFy, argh) more recent miniseries worked better for me, although it still just couldn't match the book.

    Just thinking about Dune makes me thirsty.


  •  Book over film (7+ / 0-)

    The film was a good representation of the first portion of the book, however given the rate the film was moving it would have turned out to be a 20 hour film.  The film broke out into a sprint and did not do much justice to the rest of the story.

    Read the book and enjoy it for being a master work.  Then see the film and take it for what it is - a decent attempt to catch the spirit of the book that falls a bit short.

    "don't let your sense of morality stop you from doing what's right"  Isaac Asimov

  •  book #1 Sci-Fi vrsn movie #2 Lynch movie #3 (5+ / 0-)

    The book(s)  have to remember their is Dune , Dune Messiah , Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse: DUNE

    The son's prelude books not included

    Anyway; the Dune series far out ranks either movie

    Sci-Fi did an excellent version and stuck close to the book

    Lynch's version was beautiful to watch but sucked for diverging from the series way too much

  •  Lynch's Dune "disappointing"? (6+ / 0-)

    It might be the worst movie I've ever sat through.

    The Sci Fiction channe's version was much better.

    If you want a link, I'll look for a link. If you really want it. Just ask.

    by Inland on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:46:58 PM PDT

  •  Off topic: Ebert on "Battle: Los Angeles: (6+ / 0-)
    "Battle: Los Angeles" is noisy, violent, ugly and stupid. Its manufacture is a reflection of appalling cynicism on the part of its makers, who don't even try to make it more than senseless chaos. Here's a science-fiction film that's an insult to the words "science" and "fiction," and the hyphen in between them. You want to cut it up to clean under your fingernails.

    If you want a link, I'll look for a link. If you really want it. Just ask.

    by Inland on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:50:56 PM PDT

  •  A radio interview with Herbert and Lynch (5+ / 0-)

    It's in at least five parts posted by "mattcash" at Youtube:

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 07:59:22 PM PDT

  •  Do they talk about the pilots of the space ships (5+ / 0-)

    in the first 6 chapters?  The space ships were so fast that the pilots couldn't fly them unless they were precognitive.   The only way to have this clairvoyance was spice.  Am I going too far?

    The pilots of space ships were did an Atreides Family become a space ship pilot?

    •  oops that last sentence is the product of an (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      The pilots of space ships were a secret society.   Did an Atreides Family member become a space ship pilot?

    •  I Don't Think So. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      To my knowledge, none of the books mention any Guild pilots in the Atreides family.  But there is mention of the Guildsmen in the chapter where Paul and his father discuss the upcoming voyage to Arrakis:

      "I'm going to watch our screens and try to see a Guildsman."

      "You won't.  No even their agents ever see a Guildsman.  The Guild's as jealous of its privacy as it is of its monopoly.  Don't do anything to endanger our shipping pirvilees, Paul."

      "Do you think they hide because the've mutated and don't look ... human anymore?"

      "Who knows?"  The Duke shrugged.  "It's a mystery we're not likely to solve."

      A Guild Steersman does appear at the beginning of Dune Messiah, the sequel to Dune, and it is indeed mutated into an amphibious creature swimming in a tank of spice.  And, of course, the David Lynch movie shows one visiting the Emperor.  In the movie it looks like an embryo about the size of an SUV.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 07:17:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I Read Dune twice - straight thru the night. (5+ / 0-)

    I've enjoyed science fiction since 8th grade (1956) when I watched Tom Corbett Space Cadet on TV.  This show was based on a 1948 Heinlein novel.  The earliest SF novel I remember reading was Heinlein's Red Planet, one of his kid's books.   (And many of these wonderful kid's science fiction books are still in print!!)

    In 1969, I started reading Dune early in the evening and didn't go to bed that night because I got so involved in the story.  When I read it again in the 1980's the same thing happened - I finished it within 24 hours.  

    I saw the Lynch film when it came out and enjoyed it, realizing that movies seldom match the depth and breadth of the novel, but really liked it for what it did illustrate.

    Over the past few years, I have watched the Lynch film and the 2000 miniseries version on DVD.  Both ar good, neither is great.  I am conflicted about which I like best, but I am beginning to lean towards the 2000 version.  

    It will be interesting to see what the new movie version ends up like.  Certainly the modern CGI graphics will be spectacular, but as others have said here, such a complex story is difficult to tell in a movie.  Plus the producer and director have to appeal to a much bigger audience than just the book fans to be profitable.

    Just for fun, here's a short YouTube film contrasting the portrayal of some of the characters and settings from the 1984 film and the 2000 mini-series versions.  (I wonder how the upcoming film will portray the settings and costumes?)

    The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them - Albert Einstein

    by DaveVH on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 09:26:48 PM PDT

    •  Space Cadet (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Space Cadet is one of my favorites of Heinlein's juveniles.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 07:18:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Didn't he base it on his own experience? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quarkstomper, RunawayRose, Gabriel D

        Heinlein went to the Naval Academy and was fully planning a career in the Navy until he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  He tried to have his commission reactivated during World War II but didn't succeed.

        I read a collection of his letters years ago and found a very interesting one to John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of Astounding Stories (now Analog).  Heinlein was taking Campbell to task for allegedly being a bad (read:  pacifistic) influence on L. Ron Hubbard either in the run-up to the war or right after Pearl Harbor, when Hubbard was about to enter the service.  I don't remember all of it, but Heinlein did tell Campbell to be careful because Hubbard, unlike Heinlein, hadn't gone through the psychological training that a ringknocker had, and thus might end up in trouble with his superior officers....

  •  Dune was excellent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper, RunawayRose

    as is this diary, but at 9:30 last night I was getting ready for sleep (well, finishing telling a story to my son, then reading for a bit, then sleep).

    So, I will follow along in the mornings.

    Founder Math and Statistics Geeks . Statistics for progressives

    by plf515 on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 03:29:52 AM PDT

  •  Fear is a soul-destroyer (3+ / 0-)

    That was the biggest thing I got out of Dune.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 06:12:25 AM PDT

  •  I read Dune about 20 yrs ago (4+ / 0-)

    and it remains one of my favorites to this day. I read most of the series but stopped at the book that had Paul's heir transforming into something.

    I loved the movie but I understood why some people didn't, especially those didn't read the book. FH was meticulous in descibing the characters and the future society, that the movie just couldn't match.

    The passage that has always stuck out, other than "fear is the mind-killer", was when FH describes Paul's observation of another character (the doctor?) during a conversation. Paul notes the man's breathing and perspiration and Paul think he is lying but the seal on his forehead indicated the man had gone through intense conditioning and training. That passage left a strong impression on me, watch the body language.

    I loved Jessica. I never saw her as weak or behind the scenes power broker. She did permit herself to have a boy.

    I look forward to the next diary. I may even purchase the book and re-read it.

  •  The Poll So Far... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Gabriel D

    So far in the poll, the Harkonnens are more popular than Dr. Yueh.

    Poor guy.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 07:54:24 PM PDT

  •  Just a quick brag! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper, Gabriel D, Ahianne

    The first time I read Dune, it was a serial in Analog.  I competed with parents and siblings to grab the magazine and read the latest installment.

    C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

    by RunawayRose on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 11:37:10 AM PDT

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