I picked up Dune because this novel has been incredibly influential in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. I enjoy classic literature. Fantasy is my favorite type of book. I was mentally set to read Dune, love it, and sing its praises until my dying day.
As it turns out, I hated Dune. Some spoilers are below.
The Atreides family has been given leadership of the desert planet of Arrakis. Arrakis, while inhospitable, is valuable because it produces spice. While the Emperor and the Empire’s three main factions - the Royal Houses, the Guild, and the Bene Gesserit - maneuver for control of the spice, Paul Atreides fights for revenge with the help of the Fremen society that thrives on Arrakis.
First, I would like to point out that what I’m about to say isn’t a completely uncommon opinion. On Goodreads, Dune has 22,000 two star reviews and 13,000 one star reviews. I am not alone in this. Please don’t hate me - it took me over SIX months to force my way through this book. I gave it a fair shot to win me over.
There are a few things I fully respect about Dune. I’ll cover those first:
- The worldbuilding. The Fremen society was pretty cool. The details about their clothing, water preservation, and fighting style was what kept me turning the page.
- Dune’s influence. Listen, I know there are SO many things that we wouldn’t have now without Dune. Star Wars, for example, is one of my favorite things OF ALL TIME and I genuinely appreciate what Dune inspired there. I certainly wouldn't want this book to cease to exist. I just think other authors have used these tropes better since the 1960’s.
- Book III. This was my favorite part of the book. There were fewer dramatic thoughts from each character when Paul’s plans were finally put into action. This section was much easier to read than the first 600 or so pages. (I got through Book III in just a few days, which was nice.)
Now, onto the things I didn’t like.
I’ve read several reviews and online discussions of Dune, and one thing I’ve noticed is that (some, not all) Dune worshippers tend to tell Dune haters that “You just didn’t understand it.” Lol. Just, lol. I understood everything that was happening - I simply didn’t give a flying rat’s ass. EVERY SINGLE THING that happened was straight up told to me beforehand through a character’s thoughts, or the eyes of Princess What’s-Her-Face in the chapter introductions. I didn’t mind that Herbert jumped straight into the action without giving backstory - that’s fine. It could’ve worked really well. I like when the author trusts me to figure things out. But it didn’t work because I had to read dramatic inner dialogues that were annoying when he could've just used some exposition. (Instead - gasp! Someone looked at someone else across the table! Let's think about this for half a page!)
The characters were the most boring and bland ones I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. Duncan, Thufir, and Gurney were all the exact same person except one of them played an instrument. Jessica was the most interesting character, but she was the worst for having those dramatic thoughts. Her daughter also had the potential to be cool, but by the time she appeared the novel was almost over. Paul inspired absolutely nothing in me. What the hell was up with him demanding a marriage, and then announcing he’d treat his new wife like dirt? Is that supposed to be someone we admire and want to lead a revolution? He was emotionless and entitled. (At least Luke Skywalker could crack a smile!)
Maybe I would’ve liked Dune more had I read it when I was younger, before I was introduced other popular fantasy and sci-fi greats. I guess I’ll never know. Dune had some terrific details; I just don’t think it was executed as well as the die-hard fans claim. Some classics age with time like a fine wine, some just turn to unreadable piles of crap.
I could go on but I can't devote any more of my time to this. Needless to say, I won’t be reading the rest of the series.
I’m generously giving Dune 1.5 stars as a nod to its influence in the Science Fiction genre, but I am so glad that this review means I’m done with Dune FOREVER.