the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Frank Herbert’ Category

god emperor of duneGod Emperor of Dune, by Frank Herbert

published in 1981

where I got it:  have owned this paperback since high school.

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If you read only Dune, and never felt the interest to read further, that’s okay.  If you read the first three books in the series, and never felt the need to read further, that’s okay too.  It’s especially okay because God Emperor of Dune is completely different from the earlier books in the series.   If you’re expecting more intrigue, more adventures of Paul Atreides, more of running an empire and getting rid of the damned Harkonnens, you’re in for a surprise, that’s for sure. (by the way, click to read my reviews of Dune: Messiah, and Children of Dune)

 

At the end of Children of Dune, nine year old Leto Atreides, heir to the empire, goes into the desert and starts covering his body with sandtrout, the small flat pre-worm creatures that fold themselves around pockets of water. The sandtrout bond with his skin and his body, creating a second skin of sort. He knows he is becoming something new and different, something that will change the face of humanity forever, the only something that can save humanity from the brink of extinction.

 

God Emperor of Dune takes place thirtyfive hundred years later.

 

Thirty five hundred years. think about that for a minute – where humanity was thirtyfive hundred years ago, how our culture has changed, how everything has changed. Now, imagine that nothing has changed over thirtyfive hundred years, that things have purposely and deliberately been held in  a state of stagnation.

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I’m working to get through all the Dune books this year. Since I know the first book by heart, I started with Dune Messiah.

 

children-of-dune-frank-herbet-3Children of Dune, by Frank Herbert

published in 1976

where I got it: have owned forever. My paperback is falling apart. Heh heh, the cover art says “The Climax of the Dune Trilogy“.

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Children of Dune is the third book in Frank Herberts Dune saga. Throughout Dune and Dune Messiah, we saw a build up of court politics, religious fervor,  ythology, and genetic manipulation. All of this and more comes to a boiling point in Children of Dune. This review has taken me about a week to write. I’ve some history with this series, I came to it at a very impressionable age and it was my biggest step towards my love of science fiction. So it is very hard for me to distill fifteen years of experiencing this particular novel into a thousand words.

It’s been less than ten years since a blinded Paul Muad-Dib walked into the desert without water or stillsuit.  His sister Alia has sat as regent while the Empire waits for his nine year old twin children, Leto II and Ghanima to come of age. Arrakis has become the capitol of the Empire, and modernity has come to Arrakeen. Young Fremen no longer learn stillsuit discipline, they have no use for the desert traditions of their parents. Liet Kynes’ 50 generation plan is speedily coming to fruition – the desert is greening. Homes are built without strict water seals, grasses are planted to hold the shifting dunes in place, trees are planted anywhere and everywhere. The planet is changing an the traditional tribes are  horrified.

 

Ecological changes aside, Alia is no normal regent, and her niece and nephew are not normal children. Their dying mother opted for a spice overdose to save the lives of her children, and Leto II and Ghanima came to consciousness while still in the womb.  Steeped in the spice for their entire life, neither child is a singular being, but instead the multitude of all the memories, all the lives of their descendents who live in the background of their consciousness. Not multiple personalities per se, but if they let their guard down, they could be possessed by the powerful voices within.  Alia, Leto, and Ghanima all yearn for the prescience that Paul experienced, but to do so they would have to risk the spice trance that would only empower their other memories. Alia, already teetering on the edge of possession can’t risk allowing the voices in the head to become any louder.

 

My heart breaks for Alia her every time I read this book. Demonized as a child, seen as an abomination for something she had no control over, Alia has no one to turn to, no one she can talk to. Everywhere she turns she is judged and looked down upon. Everywhere that is, but her inner voices. And one voice is so soothing, so seductive. One voice promises to quiet all the other warring voices, if only she takes his very helpful advice from time to time.

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dune messiahDune Messiah, by Frank Herbert (Dune, book 2)

published in 1969

where I got it: have owned forever.

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Why am I starting with the 2nd novel in this series? The first book in the series,  Dune, was one of my gateway books to science fiction, and I’ve read it so many times in the last 20 years, that I practically know it by heart.  I grew up reading this series. But you may not know Dune by heart.  You may not have grown up with it. It’s okay, I forgive you.  But since I’m not a total jerk, here are some reviews of Dune to get you up to speed (The Founding Fields, Fantasy Book Review, Best Fantasy Books, Looping Wor(l)d, Josh’s Fantasy Novel Reviews ), and if those are tl:dr, here’s the wikipedia cliffsnotes.

My goal is to get through the rest of the series during this year. It’s been a good eight (yikes, ten?) years since I attempted Chapterhouse, so I’m due for a reread of the entire series.  And who knows, maybe I’ll even rewatch the movie and miniseries, and we can talk about that too.

 

Will there be spoilers in this series of blog posts? yes. sorry, ‘tis unavoidable.

Will they wreck your enjoyment of these books? Nope. read ‘em, and you’ll see what I mean.

and as usual, these will be my weird, impressionistic, paint thrown at the wall style reviews.

Dune Messiah  opens with the planning of a conspiracy to dethrone Emperor Paul Muad’Dib Atreides. Before Paul ascended the throne, there had always been an unspoken rule of checks and  balances – the Corrino Emperor ruled of course, but often bowed to the needs of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, and the Spacing Guild. Compromises were made, powers were kept relatively happy, any embarrassments could be swept under the rug of money and power.  If Paul continues his refusal to compromise, he will have to be removed,  and a more suitable (suitable = controllable) person put on the throne.  The conspirators consist of Paul’s wife Princess Irulan,  Scytale the Tleilaxu face-dancer, the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, and Edric the Guild Steersman, representing a cross section of the political parties whose future stability relies on being able to influence and control the ruling family.  The plan they come up with involves nothing more suspect than a gift befitting an emperor.

 

Dune Messiah takes place twelve years after Dune, and we really see the metamorphosis Paul and his family have been forced to go through. Paul rules as Emperor of the known universe, yet he is completely powerless to stop jihadists who kill  in his name.  By allowing his Fremen to call him Messiah, he has given up all personhood, becoming a prisoner of his own success.  Nearly overnight the known universe became a theocracy, and everything that’s happened, everything that will happen, Paul has already forseen.  The future isn’t written in stone, Paul has merely seen all the possible paths, with roads that narrow as events get closer.  He’s the most accidental Emperor ever, and he and his sister Alia sometimes joke about the tragicomedy of their whole situation. A renegade genetic success and his abomination of a sister, ruling the galaxy, what could be funnier?  it’s actually a little depressing, when you think about it.

Everyone in this saga is trapped. It is important to remember that.

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It’s Ok.  I saw the movie first too.

How many times have you said:

That movie was awesome! what? you say there’s a book? Dude, I can’t wait to read it!

So many times have I seen a movie, loved it to pieces, learned there was a book, loved *that* to pieces,  and went on to have a simply lovely time.  This has been going on my entire life. I give movies and TV all the credit for getting me into science fiction. A child of the 80s, I knew who Han Solo was before I knew who Isaac Asimov was,  I thought Carl Sagan was just that guy who did the cool outer space PBS show, I knew David Lynch had something to do with this weird epic scifi movie that made no sense but looked and sounded really neat, and I stayed up late to watch reruns of Star Trek (back then it was just Star Trek).

The best thing about seeing the movie first? Since you don’t know what you’re missing, you’re probably not going to walk out of the theater saying “that movie sucked”.  Well, maybe you will, but it won’t be because they didn’t follow the book.

Here’s just a few recent examples of movies that got me to finally pick up the book:

Howl's.Moving.Castle.full.151358

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones’s famous children’s book gets the Miyazaki treatment. I admit it, I’m shallow.  A few minutes into the movie I was madly in love with Howl’s voice. An hour and a half later I was in love with the entire movie Sure, Miyazaki played fast and loose with the characters and put his own spin on the ending and on Howl’s “secret”, but it’s such a pretty movie, and certainly one of my favorites from Studio Ghibli.  After watching the movie a few times, I read the book, and greatly enjoyed it.

john carter of mars

Disney’s John Carter of Mars/A Princess of Mars – panned by critics, I actually really liked this movie. It was well paced, the CGI martians were cool, I liked the premise, I liked the opening. Other than a plot that didn’t make much sense, it was a fun adventure movie. (also, I’m shallow. I have no idea what color his eyes were. My attention was umm, elsewhere.) I downloaded an audio version of A Princess of Mars, and it’s awesome! I don’t agree with all the changes they made when adapting the book to a screenplay, I do understand them. Had I seen this movie after experiencing the book, I probably would have panned it too.

lord of the rings movie poster

Lord of the Rings trilogy – yes, I suck, I’d never read these until about a year ago. But I liked the movies! Nice visuals, great music, excellent cinematography, great acting, what wasn’t to like? After ten years of my other half (who loves The Lord of the Rings almost as much as he loves me) nagging me to read them, and me giving him lame excuse after lame excuse, it was my enjoyment of the films that finally got me to read the books. Doing it as part of a read along with some other bloggers didn’t hurt either.

hunger games

The Hunger Games – that was one damn good movie. my family loved the book and have been bugging me to read it for a while. I will. . .  eventually. It’s going to get me addicted to this super trendy YA post apocalyptic stuff, isn’t it?

Dune 1984

Dune (1984) – yes, that one, and you had to know this was coming, and okay, this isn’t so recent.  I was ten or eleven years old the first time I saw this on T.V., and it was love at first sight. Mind you, I had absolutely no idea what was going on, or why it was important, but I was fascinated by the imagery and the epic music.  I read the book as a teenager, and took my first step in a life long love affair with science fiction. And yes, the book is a zillion times better than the movie. But I had to start somewhere, didn’t I?

now it’s your turn.  What movies or tv shows got YOU to finally pick up the book?

Vintage SF badge

You probably know Frank Herbert from his masterpiece, Dune. or perhaps you are more familiar with his son, Brian Herbert, who has been involved with continuing  the series. But Frank Herbert did so much more more than just epic space opera involving secretive sisterhoods and sandworms.  Many of his stand alone  novels took place in the present (which would have been the 1960’s and 70’s) and could be easily be considered mainstream suspense novels.  When I’m at the used bookstore, if I see a copy of a Herbert I don’t own, I grab it, and rarely have I been disappointed.   In my mind, Frank Herbert is a little like George R. R. Martin – sure, their famous series blow my mind every time, but I’m missing out on the bigger picture if I don’t read their other works too.

SantarogaThe Santaroga Barrier, by Frank Herbert

written in 1968

where I got it: bought used

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Something very strange is happening in a valley in Southern California. Or perhaps, it’s nothing strange at all, just a close knit, old fashioned community famous for its cheese production.  Doctor Gilbert Dasein of the Psychology department of the University of California has been sent to the Santaroga Valley.  It is true that he’s hoping to patch things up with his ex-girlfriend Jenny, a resident of Santaroga, but Dasein has another mission, one which killed the last two men who took it on. He’s being paid to do market research and find out what exactly is going on there. Why won’t the Santarogans allow national businesses to build in their valley? Why don’t they have a single reported case of mental illness? Why doesn’t anyone ever leave the valley for good? Are they innocent survivalists? is it a cult? is it something more?

It’s not that Santaroga doesn’t like outsiders, it’s that they don’t need them. They produce plenty of their famous cheese, and they also produce everything else their residents need, from furniture and wine, to independently sourced auto parts and canned food. Most Santarogan-made products never leave the valley, and all residents work together to make everyone has enough, newlyweds have houses, and that everyone is taken care of. And everyone sure gets excited when a wheel of Jaspers Cheese is brought out.

The good news is that Gilbert does find Jenny, and they do patch things up to the point where she’d like to get married as soon as possible. But the more time Gilbert spends in the valley, the more he wants to leave and take Jenny with him. Santaroga is an odd place, to say the least. Salespeople are brutally honest about what’s wrong with the used cars in the lot. No one ever seems frustrated or depressed or angry, words between Santarogans are never misunderstood, and the smell of the famous Jaspers cheese is everywhere. And children? There’s not a single child to be seen in the valley.

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Vintage SF wrap up coming soon. . . in the meantime, let’s learn a little more about one of my favorite science fiction authors, Frank Herbert.

I’ve been reading Frank Herbert (1920 – 1986) my entire adult life. I picked up Dune sometime when I was in high school, and never looked back.  Yes, he is famous for the Dune series, but Frank Herbert wrote a ton of stand alone science fiction as well.  Most of his works carry at least some of his trademarks: dialog and plots on many levels, commentaries on ecology and how society responds to it’s environment, and (mis)communications between disparate groups.

Although he’d been selling pulp adventure short stories starting in the mid 40’s, Herbert’s first science fiction sale wasn’t until 1952, and like many of his contemporaries, his earliest sales were to short story magazines. His first novel, published in 1955 was The Dragon in the Sea (also published as Under Pressure), about the crew of a submarine who suspect one among their number is a traitor. I read this novel a few years ago, and I remember it being incredible tense and suspenseful.

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Hellstrom’s Hive, by Frank Herbert

Published in 1973

where I got it: purchased used

 
There will be spoilers in this review, if only because they show up early in the novel, and it would be impossible to tell you anything about the plot without spoiling a few surprises. But don’t worry, there are many more surprises I didn’t tell you about.

If you’ve read Dune, you’ll be familiar with Herbert’s odd style of telling a story in third person, yet showing nearly everyone’s internal monologues and thoughts processes as if it were first person.  For people who have never read a Herbert before, it is a strange style, and you’ll get used to it fairly quickly.

Something very strange is going on in a rural valley in the Pacific Northwest. An unnamed government agency has a file on the documentary maker Nils Hellstrom. They know something subversive (probably communism or a religious cult) is happening on his rural farm slash movie studio, but they can’t seem to catch him in the act. And every agent they send in as a lost backpacker or hiker disappears without a trace.  When an agent finds a secret Hellstrom document partially outlining some kind of super weapon, the agency knows it’s time to up their game. We get to know a handful of agents, and in only a few pages (sometimes a few sentences), Herbert digs deeps into their personas to flesh them out into full developed characters with hopes and fears. If you ask me, Herbert has always been a master of subtle character development.

And then we get the story from Nils’ point of view. He’s not harboring communists or making dirty movies.  He’s desperately trying to save the human race. More a culture than a cult, he has helped created a utopian society, one free of fear, jealousy, hunger, and anger. A society where everyone is peaceful and happy, where everyone works in harmony to help the larger group. This perfect society, the only way to save the human race, is based on another on of Earth’s creatures, albeit on most humans find unsavory.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.