Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Discuss: Dune

Karen: I know I read at least the first two books, maybe three...but it was a long time ago. I was impressed with Herbert's world creation in book one, but I felt like there really wasn't a sympathetic character to root for, not even Paul. I have a few other vague memories about the books, some of which are now over-laid by the film 1984 film with Sting, which I don't really consider a good thing. Any thoughts on Dune, Frank Herbert, the series carried on by other writers, the David Lynch film, or even the SyFy Channel mini-series?


Edo Bosnar said...

Sounds like you didn't like the movie, Karen. I have to make a confession here: I actually kind of like the film; don't think it's a masterpiece or anything, but strangely watchable. I think I've watched it all the way through 3 or 4 times (when it's shown on TV - it's not like I actually took the trouble of buying the DVD or anything). And I think Sting was a good casting choice: he does the whole sneering villain bit quite well.
On the other hand, I've never read any of the books, even though I was/am quite an SF geek. Not even the movie (which came out in my junior year of HS) prompted me to pick them up. Back then, I recall the several brick-sized novels in the series (five at the time, I think) daunted me a bit and I didn't want to commit myself to yet another SF and/or fantasy series. Now, with Herbert's son writing a bunch more Dune novels, it all seems even more impenetrable to me.

Rip Jagger said...

Frank Herbert's Dune was one of the first great pieces of sci-fi I ever chanced across. It was sprawling, compelling and truly epic. Lots of stories claim that, but Dune qualifies readily. I haven't read it again in thirty years at least, and maybe it's time.

That said, I like the movie too, but like any adaptation I take it on its own merits. It's worthy, but suffers bitterly from an amazingly confusing ending which seems to just fly apart after some reasonably steady build up. In its time the special effects were really special, though I'd love to see modern special effects guys with some bucks tackle it.

But I have to say, that I have never read any of the sequels. They just never appealed to me, in fact seemed to diminish in some way the original. But I don't begrudge folks who have found them enthralling.

Rip Off

Doc Savage said...

Tried mighty hard to get thru Dune (book), but found it incredibly dull and overly worshipful of the native culture of Dune (planet). Too many preachy aphorisms and "thought balloons" for me. I only made it about 75% thru before giving up. Nothing about it seemed to merit the praise heaped upon it. The villains were more interesting to me than the heroes!

Doc Savage said...

I do find the movie (Lynch) strangely watchable for the first 1 1/2 hours! Sting was marvelous.

Karen said...

It's been a long time since I saw the Lynch film (and I never saw the SyFY series) but I recall being put off but some of the changes he made. Although it was visually entertaining.

Thinking about it some more, I'm pretty sure I only read the second book and went no further. Again, I couldn't find any character to really care about. It sort of left me cold. I never felt anything really for Paul Atreides, the main character. I had the same issue with Heinlien's Stranger in a Strange Land, which has some similar themes -just couldn't connect with the characters.

Doc Savage said...

My understanding is that Lynch made a 3-hour film
which was then chopped down to about 2 hours, losing whatever coherence it had. Not sure he is to blame.

Anonymous said...

I too have a soft spot for the film. What it failed to capture in characters and plot, it captured perfectly in tone.

The Syfy series was sucky and I couldn't get through it.

I loved the book as a teen and into my 20s and probably have read it four or five times or more - but have not read it in over 10 years. One of these days I will get around to rereading it and seeing if my opinion changes now I have a more developed method of analysis and critique.

I read the second book in the series and didn't like it much (thankfully it was short) and tried the third, but gave up. Sometimes one book/film is enough and I think Dune is an example of that (just like the Matrix).

I don't need (or sometimes WANT) sympathetic characters to enjoy a book - I just need good characters and believable motivations.

Anonymous said...

Edo, I meant to add/make clear - you don't need to read the whole series. You SHOULDN'T read the whole series. Just the first one. It is self-contained enough and is a joy, I think.

david_b said...

Never had interest. The guys who I hung out with in high school had this, LOTR, and Hobbit down to a T, but never ventured into any of these myself. I read Asimov and Bova to name a couple, but these books perhaps seem too-daunting for what exactly I'd get out of them.

Dunno, hard to explain. Typically the first book of the series is best, much like Adam's 'Hitchhiker's Guide' for example. LOVED it when it came out, bought the first edition hard cover, enjoyed the follow-on books but my interest waned when it invariably seemed like the same joke over and over again, told differently. Still love the original Hitchhikers NPR radio series the best, much more than the later television or movie adaptations.

Edo Bosnar said...

Osvaldo, thanks for the tip. I may get around to reading it some day, but it won't be soon: my 'to read' pile for SF alone is pretty big.

Karen, I had some of the same issues with Stranger in a Strange Land, and with several other of those later Heinlein books.

Karen said...

Edo, I felt like a lot of later Heinlein went places I didn't want to go. Wich is weird, because I was OK reading Philip Jose Farmer...

I did appreciate the dense world-building of Herbert. Clearly the man had thought out in great detail the culture, geography, politics, etc of his world. That had to take an enormous amount of time and thought and I respect that. I just never felt any real interest in the characters, one way or another.And to touch on Osvaldo's remarks, I don't necessarily need the characters to be totally good but I guess I at least need to feel something for them. That's also been my problem with this last season of Mad Men!

david_b said...

Karen, you watch Mad Men..? My niece got me into it last year, the wife and I played catch-up with all the DVD boxsets (borrowed..).

Geez, this last season was both excessive and bizarre.., definitely over the top on several occasions, totally ignoring some geniune growth for some characters like Joan.

Shark-jumping perhaps..?

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, your observation about the latest Mad Men is interesting; we're about one season behind on Mad Men over here, so I can't comment on that, but it reminded me of the last roughly 2 seasons of the Sopranos. At some point, it stopped being darkly humorous (for me anyway), and just became dark, and I found it increasingly difficult to feel anything for any of the characters (who are, after all, sociopathic thugs for the most part).
And sorry if this sidetracks the conversation too much: let's just say I found the last seasons of the Sopranos kind of like a show that had the Harkonnens as the main protagonists.

Karen said...

Without giving too much away (since Edo is a season behind), one of my problems with this season of Mad Men was the way Don Draper was portrayed. For me, he went from being terrible but with hope of redemption to so terrible I didn't care what happened to him. So, yeah, pretty much what Edo felt about the Sopranos.

Garett said...

I haven't read Dune, but I watch Mad Men! I loved everything up until the first couple episodes of this season. Seemed to fall flat, and my thought was shark jumping. A friend said this season did get better as it went on, so I'll still check it out.

Graham said...

I went to see Dune, the movie, with some of my friends. I knew just a little bit more than they did about the series, having read a whopping third of the first book before the movie. I knew we were in trouble when the ticket lady handed us a sheet of definitions to pore over before the movie, which I thought was sort of goofy seeing as how the theater is dark while the movie is being shown. I don't remember anything about the movie but that glossary sheet. Wish I had saved it now.

Regarding Mad Men, it's been sort of fascinating to watch Draper's decline this season. He's never been much of a redeeming character to me anyway, but it's sort of sad to see the bottom fall out like it did this season.

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I thought the movie was good. However I had to see it a couple of times to understand it. I read the first five books. However the philosophical aspects of the book and the internal dialogues of the characters turned me off. I found the pre-quells by Herbert's son and Kevin J. Anderson much easier to read. Some purists call the pre-quells Dune Lite. However I am from the Star Wars Generation. I grew up on action/adventure sci fi and very much like the direction of the new books much better. The new ones are for contemporary readers. The original are more academic and dry.

Teresa said...

Nice timing. I just finished Dune and then Dune Messiah for the first time. I am now reading Children of Dune. I will read Emperor next.

Wow is Herbert is brutal to his Protagonists. That said, I really liked Dune & Messiah. Paul overreached and everything and everyone he touched paid a price. Godhood (real or imagined) in human flesh means even the slightest flaws are magnified. There is poetry in Paul's fate. He was a part of a play that he thought he could manipulate. But he had his lines to read and marks to hit just like everyone else. Even though he thought he was improvising.

I was thinking about source material for the Dune series.

What if in real life the Western world invaded the Middle East for all their life giving oil and got the tables turned on them? That came to mind immediately. I see that Paul is a source material for Dr. Manhattan. That's not a critique against Alan Moore. It makes me appreciate Dr. M even more.

I'm glad I read this as an adult. I wouldn't have had the attention span in my youth. Too much exposition and adult drudgery for a kid.

Matthew Bradley said...

I am an unabashed champion of David Lynch's film. Saw it on its original release without having read a word of Herbert. Despite reviews that said those unfamiliar with the books wouldn't understand it, I had no trouble, nor did my now-wife nor her 14-year-old sister. (Must have been that glossary Graham mentioned!)

A few years later I read the book, and thought that given a feature film's constraints, Lynch did an admirable job of compression, especially knowing that he didn't have final cut. The televised version that restored some of his missing footage did so in such an inept way that I wasn't surprised he took his name off it, and it's one of my great regrets that he's never been able to do a director's cut.

Whatever else you want to say about Lynch's adaptation, I don't think you can argue that he did a brilliant job of depicting and, more important, differentiating the multiple worlds on which the story unfolds. In a saga that complex, it is essential that the viewer always has a good sense of where we are at any given moment, and I thought Lynch did that with consummate skill. Amazing cast.

As fond of the Lynch film as I am, I was prepared to hate the Sci-Fi (as it was then) Channel version, while welcoming the greater length to include stuff that Lynch had to omit, especially in the theatrical cut. To my surprise, I found it full of direct swipes from Lynch, which made no sense when the whole project seemed to be predicated on the presumption that Lynch's film was flawed and a corrective was needed. And although I love Hurt in many things, I thought he was profoundly miscast as Duke Leto.

In short, loved the movie, loved the book, but--like so many other commentators here--didn't get past the second one...at least not yet!

Anonymous said...

BTW, while the most recent season of Madmen was the weakest, I still think it was better than 90% of television. (It is no The Wire - but every show can't be the best show of all time).

I have been waiting for Don's slide for a long time. :)

Doc Savage said...

Mad Men seems to get a lot of hype but all I see is boring soap opera with nice period sets and costumes. I don't get what the fuss is about.

Edo Bosnar said...

What's this about glossaries being handed out in theaters back when Dune opened? I sure didn't get one, and like Matthew, I had no trouble following the story.
By the way, Matthew, I enjoyed reading your spirited defense of the movie!

Matthew Bradley said...

Thanks, Edo. One of these links may show you the glossary (I had trouble viewing them at work!):




Edo Bosnar said...

Matthew, thanks for the links. That last one provides pretty clear images. Like I said, I never saw these, and never knew about this until now - apparently they weren't distributed everywhere.

Graham said...

The one at the Mary Sue site is the one that I got in the theater. I'm not sure how much good they were, given that you probably only had a few minutes to squint at them in the dim light before it went dark.

I can remember looking and seeing one of my friends trying to read it by one of those wall globes that they had on the side walls of the theater. :)

I figured everybody got these....I'm surprised to hear that some of you didn't know about them. Then again, they might have only distributed them in the deep south, whar we needta have big pitchers and little bitty wurds. ;)

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