the Little Red Reviewer

If wishes were fishes we’d all cast nets

Posted on: July 9, 2011

Hi Everyone, and welcome to the Dune Read-along!  If you are posting your thoughts in your blog as well, please visit Stainless Steel Droppings and add your link so others can find you. If you aren’t posting related threads on your blog, no worries, you can post your thoughts in this thread, or anywhere else you’d like.  This past week, we read the first “book” within Dune, called “Dune” (wow, that was redundant!), and Carl from Stainless Steel has provided some excellent discussion questions.

If you haven’t read this book, or haven’t finished this section, be warned, spoiler ridden postings ahead. Behind in reading? no worries, come back and visit whenever you’re ready.

here are Carl’s questions, and I’ll provide my detailed answers after the jump.

walk without rhythym. . . .

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?

alternate Question 1 for those who’ve read the book before:

Did you see anything in this first section of the book that either you hadn’t seen before or that you had forgotten about, anything that stood out to you?

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

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

4.  Did the revelation about the Harkonnen surprise you? Why or why not? Thoughts.

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.

And my answers:

1. Did you see anything in this first section of the book that either you hadn’t seen before or that you had forgotten about, anything that stood out to you?

two things really stood out for me that I hadn’t noticed before: the quantity of  dialog, and the epic fantasy feel. So many SF books that I read are heavy on the infodumping/world building, and light on the dialog, and the first hundred pages or so of Dune is pretty dialog heavy. makes for a nice pace, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once at things people said. Herbert can write decent dialog? whoda thunk it? ;)  This is a straight up SF novel, but it sure has an epic fantasy-ish feel to parts of it! I never would have noticed it before, and maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading a ton of epic fantasy in the last few years. Dune has got castles, fief politics, political marriages, corrupt governments, assassin trainings, poison snoopers, enslaved peoples who want to be free, religious prophecies, hand-to-hand combat training, giant monsters. . .

.
And speaking of infodumping/world building,  what did you think of how Herbert explains all the tech through dialog? He simply has one character ask another: “can you explain to me how this works?” and the other character does, and they have a little conversation about it, and we learn about the world and get some nice characterization at the same time.

.

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

interesting little plot device. Since we pretty much know from the beginning, you’ve always got that voice in your head screaming “no Jessica! don’t trust him! he’s going to betray you!”.  Also, it provides some interesting foreshadowing opportunities when you think about this supposed Imperial Conditioning that can’t be broken.  Seems like Yueh was actually pretty easily broken.

.

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

my favorite part of the first section are the times that Jessica is thinking about the Bene Gesserit, specifically when she is trying to guess what “legends” and prophecies and such they planted on Arrakis.  I love the idea that this group plans so far ahead for some eventuality (they might not be sure what it is, exactly) that they send missionaries generations ahead of time to plant rumors and stories.

my favorite character this time around is Duke Leto. Sure, we don’t get to know him real well, but I appreciated the transition he had to go through – from honorable leader to a man who is willing to deal with smugglers, pay and accept bribes, and pretty much play the game the Harkonnen way, because he knows it’s a trap, he pretty much knows this is endgame.  The Duke’s advisors, and Paul, are often shocked at his behavior, and Leto has to explain to them that this is the way it has to be. kinda tragic.

.

4.  Did the revelation about the Harkonnen surprise you? Why or why not? Thoughts.

I’m assuming this refers to Jessica’s heritage? I’ve read this before, so no.  The first time I read it, it came as a total surprise, and I kinda didn’t want to believe it, you know “how can someone some beautiful and nice and perfect be related to someone so yucky!”.  Recently though, it’s made me think more about Jessica. Sure, her sisterhood tells her who to have a child with, and tell her to have a daughter. Did it never occur to her that her mother was once told the same exact thing? She’s nothing more than a tool to the Bene Gesserit, and any daughters she has will be their tool as well.  The Bene Gesserit  exist to serve?  serve who, I wonder?

.

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.

when I reread any childhood favorite, I always worry that it’s not going to have aged well, or that it really wasn’t that good to begin with. Not this time! Dune is just as good as I remember it, even better!  Having read it before, it’s kind of nice because I can really focus on all the little nitty gritty details that I know I would have skipped over in lieu of action or dialog during my first read.  for me, reading Dune is truly like spending time with an old friend,  and even through it’s been years since we saw each other, we can just pick up right where we left off.

now it’s your turn!  feel free to leave your answers or anything else you’d like to discuss in the comments, and if you’ve posted about the read along in your blog, please leave a link.

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16 Responses to "If wishes were fishes we’d all cast nets"

Very fun reading your answers since you’ve read the book before.

I am not a big fan of infodumps and I do like that more was shared by the characters interacting with each other. I don’t mind the infodumps as much when they come in dialogue format. Not sure why, other than I like the feel of one person telling a story to another.

There are some great interactions in the book. Like I said in my answers I really like Paul and I enjoyed seeing how cunning and crafty he was with his verbal sparring with other people. His habit of constantly surprising people with his wisdom and understanding was great.

I thought all the stuff about the prophecies was fantastic. So much more detail than the films and so intriguing. Gave me a lot to think about.

And I like Duke Leto much more now as well. He and his motivations are so much better fleshed out than what I knew from the film. He knows he is entering a doomed situation but he does what he believes is the right thing to do and he goes in guns blazing (in one sense). He is on the offensive and planning and plotting the whole time.

I gotta run now, but I’m sure I’ll be back to discuss more. :)

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“Not sure why, other than I like the feel of one person telling a story to another”

My thoughts exactly. granted I’ve seen the dialog driven world building done badly, but so far in Dune, it’s working for me.

Jessica and Thurfir along with the rest of the Duke’s close council have secretly been training Paul up to be formidable. Even in real life adults are taken aback by a teenager who knows exactly who they are.

the movie had to get to the good stuff so quickly that the beginning is like 10 minutes, and you don’t have any idea why Duke Leto is doing anything.

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You are right. I can see now how the movie gave Duke Leto short shrift. He is more fleshed out in the book and his character and ideals are shown enough that as the story goes on you are able to see both the Duke and Jessica in Paul.

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I also liked the amount of dialogue. Before starting this work I thought it would be too technical for me. Too much explanation and not a lot of plot and character development. I’m glad to find out that I was wrong!

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there’s plenty of tech, but it’s kind of funny that there is no computers, nothing like an internet, no cyber-tech or spaceflight stuff to have to explain. the types of tech that Herbert does talk about, stillsuits and weapons and shields and such, aren’t all that far away from things we already understand, so it doesn’t feel that tech-y.

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That is a good way of putting it. The technology that he includes is just so fanciful that it doesn’t bog the reader down with technical aspects of science.

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Giving information by having characters answer a question is precisely what did not work for me. Very interesting that you liked it. It felt forced.
I agree about the Duke. What a decent man. The Bene Gesserit fascinate me a lot and it is what keeps me reading.
Despite my not beig too enthusiastic about it, I can really understand that one would like it better the second time around because a lot of details are familiar. For someone like me with zero idea of what she was going to read apart from a vague knowledge that there would be sand…

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I said it on your site already, I think, but it is precisely because you are going into this completely fresh, not having watched the films, that I am hoping you’ll continue to read. I’ll be interested in seeing what you think as it goes on.

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hm, I should be writing up this post instead of reading blogs… I was going to read it in-depth, but I think I will answer the questions first and then read your answers. I will be back!

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I have to admit that the technology parts were the only times I found myself bored. I think that would be the case no matter how he presented it–through dialogue was probably the best way for me.
I am a also fascinated by the Bene Gesserit order, and the planting of prophesies done throughout the years. I don’t completely comprehend yet why they’ve done all of that, though.
Jessica’s heritage was a bit of a jolt for me, but looking back it sounds kind of obvious. Wasn’t the plan for her to have a girl who would mate with a Harkonnen? So it shouldn’t seem so shocking, as you said.
This is a reread for me as well, but I feel like I’m reading it for the first time. All I remember from the time before is giant worms, spice, stillsuits, and prophecies. It’s nice to fill in the details again!

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and speaking of the Bene Gesserit, some people in the read along have already noticed how unusual it was to have such a powerful female character in a book this old. Not only is Jessica a powerful character (and her daughter will be as well), but the Bene Gesserit are possibly the most powerful force in the Empire. They control much of the education of noble daughters, who has a child with who, if the child is a son or daughter. . . so much for the male Emperor running things!

did Paul, and to some extent Jessica (who is sort of in denial) ever think they would be dragged into something like this?

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I know some people didn’t enjoy the dialog, but I rather liked it. I thought that Herbert did a good job of striking a balance when he explained information about his world. I think it’s also partially because I tried reading a William Gibson short story earlier in the week, and found that he dumped so much without explanation that I was rather lost. Herbert, by contrast, provides information at a good pace for a reader to synthesize it. I didn’t go to the glossary or appendixes until I had finished reading the novel because I thought he did a good job at contextualizing everything.

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It is fascinating rereading Dune after many years. The first time I was so overwhelmed by the ecological world building and the mystery and power of the Bene Gesserit that I missed much of the political structure of the novel. For me the lack of “tech” gives it that epic fantasy feel, along with an undercurrent of “magic”, the prophesies, the mental training, the power of spice to induce visions and guide space travel. To me it is an amazing mix of genres.

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[...] answers to the questions can be found on the following blogs: Beauty is a sleeping cat – Little Red Reviewer – TBM – Shelley – Kailana – Jim Black – Shaz – Grace – [...]

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I love your choice of title; I’ve already planned to incorporate that saying into my life!

I hadn’t seen the film, so I came at it fresh and the way Herbert shares
info about the world world works great for me, too. I’m loving it so far!

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Hi Gypsi, thanks for joining us! i love your blog, btw. :)

that’s one of my favorite sayings, and i almost accidentally said it in a business meeting the other day. . . oops. no one would have any clue what I was talking about!

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