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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Dune

Dune - Frank Herbert Does the world need another Dune review? I very much doubt it needs mine but that never stopped me before, saturation be damned!

Dune in and of itself, in isolation from the rest of the numerous other Dune books, is by general consensus the greatest sci-fi novel of all time. You may not agree, and one book can not please everybody but statistically Dune comes closest to achieving just this. Witness how often you see it at or near the top of all-time best sf books lists.

I never read Dune with the intent to reviewing it before, it makes for a more attentive and actually more enjoyable reading experience. When I first read it in my early teens I did not really appreciate it, I thought it was good but overrated. There are just too much depth for my young mind to handle. I got the gist of the story just fine but the richness of the novel completely escaped me.

What makes Dune superior to most sf books is the quality of the world building. Frank Herbert went into painstaking details of Arrakis without ever bogging down the story. During the main body of the novel (excluding the appendices) he did not once resort to making info dumps. How many modern day sf authors can do that? Still, world building alone can not possibly account for the legendary status of the book. Herbert places equal emphasis on the characterization, plot and prose. The book is full of memorable characters from the badass Lady Jessica, to Paul Atreides who starts off as a fairly generic Luke Skywalkerish “chosen one” kid to a messianic figure always ready with a sage comment for every occasion. The villains are even more colorful, especially the super-sized Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, so fat he needs anti gravity devices to help support his girth (cue worthless yo papa so fat he needs suspensors jokes). And his psychotic nephew Feyd-Rautha who is a ruthless natural born killer and seems kind of gay for some reason.

When I read it as a young lad the book seemed very long, but by today’s gigantic epic sf/f books standard Dune’s 896 pages length does not seems like much of a challenge if you take into account almost 100 pages of appendices and glossary. It is a highly readable and accessible book that transports the reader to a very vividly realized place. If you are looking for a bit of escapism you can not beat reading Dune for the first time.

That's enough review I think, I just want to make a few random observations for people who are familiar with this book (more than half the people who read this review imagine):

- Most memorable scene for me is the “Gom Jabbar” test where Paul Atreides has his humanity tested by the Reverend Mother. What is yours?

- I love the little quotes from all those Muad'Dib books by the Princess Irulan. How many are there? Is there a “Muad'Dib’s Cookery Without Water” or perhaps a Muad'Dib popup book for the kids?

- The stillsuits are great, I want one!

- What is with all the “ah-h-h” business most (lesser) writers make do with an "ah!" or an "aha!". Are the characters having orgasms?

- Don’t skip the appendices, they are well worth reading.

- Last but not least, do check out Dune - Book Summary & Analysis by Thug Notes on Youtube, preferably after you have finished Dune; it's funny, insightful and informative. Come to think of it, if you are having any difficulty getting through Dune you may want to watch this.