Renewed interest in reading is a recent success in my attempt to be a less horrible person. It would shock many of my friends to learn just how few books I’ve actually read. Dune is one of the several books that come up in conversation as, “how have you not read that yet?” along with 4 out of 7 Harry Potters and anything at all by Issac Asimov.
As Wil Wheaton joked on TableTop: “Do you not know how to read?”
Credit goes to my friend Ash (with an assist from Simon) for getting me to startup Dune late last year. It had been on my reading list since December 2014, 2015 was the 50th anniversary year of the book’s publication, and I needed more science fiction in my brain. Clearly the book needed reading.
Another element of ‘real life’ that made this book so wonderful was that it also coincided with my deep dive into the world of Dungeons & Dragons, 5th edition. Reading a lot about world building, storytelling, and resolving characters’ flaws, desires, and choices was a perfect pairing with a book that does all those things so well.
Herbert tells a story of espionage and intrigue in a way that let’s the reader feel like they understand everything at play, but still holds enough back that the big surprises within the plot leave little ones for the reader who thought all had been understood. Dramatic irony at its best.
The characters are all somewhat of a caricature, and I think that’s why part of me loved it along with the D&D research. There’s a guideline in D&D called ‘the rule of cool‘ — if your player wants to do something that’s a stretch of reality, still let them do it for the sense of adventure. It’s suspension of disbelief that makes the heroes of legend so great. Dune crafts a larger story arc so real it lets the people involved be larger tropes than suspension of disbelief would normally allow.
In the final moments of Dune, the Emperor accuses Paul Atreides of assuming overconfidently that he can do whatever he wants because of his Fremen-earned power on Arrakis. Paul then basically does whatever he wants, impervious to any attack or error. Sounds like the boss battle in every JRPG or D&D campaign ever, except he’s not even a scrappy underdog who’s barely leveled up enough to win. He’s an overpowered, all-time-and-space-seeing übermensch who goes berserk if you mention his dad. It’s a little weird if you think about it too much.
But all that seems normal in the epic scope you spent 600 pages reading before you get to that. You’re too excited to care if its a little inflated. Does Muad’dib kill the bad guy or what?! Will everyone break into giant space war?! Is there a elaborate ruse waiting behind the final door? What do the sand worms taste like?!
It’s a very good book and worth every minute spent on it. I took my time mostly because I spent too long trying to read the paperback copy when I wasn’t holding the baby when I should’ve been reading it on a Kindle while holding the baby. I switched to the latter method after a couple months and finished the last half of the book in a week.
Funny enough, I just so happened to come across a Dune spoiler while I was reading the book. It was in a video a guest contributor posted on Wil Wheaton’s blog. You don’t really need spoiler alerts for movies that are 20 years old based on books that are 50 years old, but I had no idea people were going to ride the damn sand worms.
Oops. Spoiler alert.
Lastly, I really want to play in an RPG based on Dune. There’s technology, but no computers or internet. There are still swords and shields but they’re used beside lazer guns and rocket launchers. The DM would have to explain psychdelic hallucinations just as much as any combat encounter. So great. So if you can recommend somewhere where this exists, please let me know.
Dune by Frank Herbert, part of my 2016 Reading