I’d been itching to go back and re-read Frank Herbert’s Dune series for a while now. I’ve always held the series in high regard, both for what it is and what it’s influenced (pretty much anything you’ve seen with a galaxy-spanning empire owes this and Asimov’s Foundation series a nod of gratitude). It’s been a while since I’d read the originals though. I still haven’t read the last two books Herbert wrote himself, and although I did read the first two prequel series by his son Brian and Kevin J. Anderson, well, the less said about those the better. So I was due for a re-read, and some online discussions I came across about the books urged me further, and so a couple of weeks ago I dove back in to make my way through the whole thing again.
Having just finished Dune yesterday, I think I’m okay stopping there.
Not that I didn’t enjoy the re-read, but something felt just a little off. The main drive of the story was still compelling, as were the hints of the larger universe Herbert sprinkles throughout. And maybe it was the prospect of those hints being given solid form in the later books that I found unappealing. I enjoyed the snippets of history teased at the beginning of each chapter. I liked the idea of Paul’s jihad being this unknown specter hanging over the galaxy. I savored the mystery of the Guild, of the other planets out there in the Imperium. Mysteries I knew would be expounded upon the further along I read.
But I also found some of the philosophy a little monotonous to get through. It’s funny; much of the stilted, hokey dialogue I didn’t like in David Lynch’s film adaptation is actually stilted, hokey inner monologue in the book. Much like claims that Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings mostly to have a playground for his linguistic pursuits, it often felt like Herbert wrote Dune mostly to give air to his philosophical and ecological theories; it’s no accident there’s a lengthy appendix given over to both the religion and the ecology of Arrakis. It doesn’t detract from the overall story, but I did find myself skimming a lot of these sections so I get on to the character development and the plot. None if it’s bad, it’s just like a seasoning you don’t care for on a really good steak.
Plus I’ve just got so many books I haven’t read at all. So combine that with the other things and the prospect of going through the rest of the Dune series didn’t fire me with as much enthusiasm as it did a few weeks ago. I’ll probably still get around to it eventually, or at the very least, I’ll read the two Herbert entries I never did before. But for now, I’m content to leave Paul forever in his place, on the planet known as Dune.