Why Can’t I Read Dune?

io9 Recently had a thread about sci-fi blind spots, supposed sci-fi masterworks that you have just missed. That got me thinking, and the ensuing discussion was interesting, but it left me with a question?

Why can’t I read the Dune series?

Me, a Reader

I love to read. I read all the time. Have to restrain myself from reading at red lights. It’s a habit, I know. Recently, on a flight from Virginia to Denver to Calgary, I read the omnibus edition of the The Black Jewels Trilogy; that clocks in at over a thousand pages. On the way home I read Game Change and an interesting sci-fi novel, The Disappeared. I like to read. I started young, through the auspices of my maternal step-grandfather, who loved to read sci-fi, but never read a book twice. Every visit to his house meant I got to come home with a paper grocery bag full of sci-fi. Free! Addicted me for life. Not bragging; just establishing some context.

Dune, Baby, Dune

I read Dune in high school; it was one of those books that came from my grandfather, and it came recommended. And I loved it. Read it multiple times. But Dune: Messiah and Children of Dune were not in my stacks, and never seem to be in at the library. I was a kid; I couldn’t afford to just buy them, Mom being counter-persuaded by the stacks of admittedly unread books in the house (I was forever behind). So I looked for other Herbert in my piles of unread books from Pop-pop, and found The Dosadi Experiment.

Wow. This Herbert guy can write.

Eventually I got the sequels as a gift, read them, liked them. I never loved them quite as much as the first book but I really did like them.

When it came out I read God-Emperor of Dune; it was alright-I-guess. Heretics, when it came out, lost me. I didn’t finish it.

The Old College Try

Later in college, Chapterhouse was published, and Lynch’s movie adaptation came out. I saw the movie (complete with vocabulary handouts) and realized the futility of movie adaptations. But as for the Dune series, I decided the problem was that I hadn’t reread them in a while; I needed to have the whole Dune universe in my head. So I started at the beginning and built up a head of steam. I whipped through Dune (awesome), cruised through Dune: Messiah and Children of Dune.

Ha! This time I was going to finish the whole set.

Then came God-Emperor, and things slowed down. I finished it, but I was just plodding along by the end.

By the time I was deep into Heretics, I was reading other books on the side to avert boredom. I finished it, but grumpily.

I looked at my unread copy of Chapterhouse, and said “not today”.

Years later I would try again, with the same result. I still can’t really like God-Emperor; I still kinda hate Heretics. I’ve still never cracked Chapterhouse.

Why, Oh Why?

I still have no good reason why I can’t finish this series. I loved Dune; I really loved Dosadi and Whipping Star, as well as a bunch of Herbert’s other work. So his writing style seems to work for me. But somehow the cast of billions, deus ex machina revelations piled atop themselves, and dead but never gone characters, just couldn’t hold my interest. I tried one of the prequels and found it middling average sci-fi, nothing to get excited about. I liked the SciFi Channel’s specials; they seemed a reasonable try at capturing Dune. But books are always better.

But I’m left wondering: Why can’t I read Dune?

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4 Comments on “Why Can’t I Read Dune?”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    IMHO, the reason you can’t read Heretics and Chapterhouse is that they suck. So don’t bother. I happen to love the first four, especially God Emperor, so I can’t help you with that part, but at least I reduced your assignment by 30%. :)

    • designbygravity Says:

      Ha! Thanks for the help. I could read Dune itself once a year with no trouble, and could easily reread the trilogy periodically. How did things go so awry? It bugs that I like the early ones so much and loathe the later ones. Puzzlement.


  2. Dune 1 is very cool
    Dune 2 is a sequel of Dune 1
    Dune 3 is a very odd variation on Dune 1
    Dune 4-5 is a riff on something completely different.


  3. Love the way Herbert created the Dune universe as a three-dimensional entity; the guy drew not just from his real experiences as an ecologist (is Dr. Kynes essentially a megaphone for the author?) but also from prior works as varied as Lawrence of Arabia and The Brothers Karamazov. Each character and faction functions because of credible historical motive, even while the likes of Paul Atreides and the Baron Harkonnen loom over the arena like yin and yang.

    As much as possible, the books are best savoured without references from attempts to translate the plot into visual drama; I tend to disregard the stuff written by his son and a collaborator as doorstopper-sized cash-ins


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