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Over at the Irving Washington BooK NooK, you'll find a lot of h2g2's most voracious readers and writers. Today, a group of those Researchers have combined forces to give us a look inside Frank Herbert's Dune Universe: the books, the movie, the television series.

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner-eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

Review of the original Dune


By Frank Herbert

In this, the first and definitive novel of the Dune sequence, we are introduced to many of the ideas and conflicts that characterize this universe. Set in the year 10,191, we are introduced to a universe without computers, because thinking machines were overturned and outlawed by the Butlerian Jihad, a Luddite holy war with the slogans that 'Man may not be replaced,' and 'Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.'

Due to the absence of computers, the long-range calculations required for space-travel are undertaken by Guild navigators, who use the 'Spice' Melange gas to see dimly into the future in order to avoid obstacles and keep on course. Because of this, and the other benefits of the Melange, i.e. longevity and the awakening of Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers, as well as its highly addictive properties, the Spice has become the most valuable substance in the universe. And there is but one source of the Spice: the planet Arrakis.

The opening of Dune sees Arrakis (or Dune) in the midst of a transition from Harkonnen rule to Atreides rule, as part of a Harkonnen plot to topple House Atreides and further their own position in the Landsraad (or assembly of great houses). It traces the early history of Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto Atreides, on Arrakis and his burgeoning awareness that the Spice, a sweet cinnamon-smelling substance that permeates almost everything on the planet, may be affecting him in ways that only his dreams hint toward. It is also the story of the Fremen, a band of ex-wanderers, water preservers and prospective ecologists with an ancient history who await one prophesied to lead them.

The attention to detail apparent in this book can be easily ascertained be the fact that a good 40 page appendix at the back contains a map, a glossary of the Terminology of the Imperium, a who's who of 'current' political figures, and three essays, written from various perspectives, containing background information. This degree of complexity places Dune up with Tolkien's Middle Earth for depth of story and richness of setting.

Complete as a stand-alone novel, and a pillar of literary strength upon which a truly classical saga has been built, Dune combines the three truly essential elements of good science fiction: a truly original and compelling setting, a realistic and cohesive vision of the future, and just a touch of magic.

Review of Latest Dune novel

Dune: House Atreides

By Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

This book offers itself as a prequel to the Dune Chronicles, which were written by Brian Herbert's father, Frank Herbert. We are taken to the Dune universe approximately 40 years before Dune. The authors are trying to flesh out the history of the characters that we encountered in the Dune universe. You will see a young Leto Atreides, father of Paul Atreides, a young Duncan Idaho, and Thurfir Hawat... along with the rest of the cast of the original Dune novels. You will be introduced to the Imperial Court, and some of the politics that are encountered there.

Unfortunately, this is where the continuity with the original novels ends.

In the original novels we are treated to a wealth of information about the economic, social, political and even religious aspects of the Dune universe. Frank Herbert took his time to build plots of such complexity that even after reading the book seven times, I am still finding subtleties that I had missed. Furthermore, in Dune, the characters are multidimensional with personalities, aspirations, and characteristics that leap out at you.

The writing of both Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson is uninspired. The characters lack any sort of dimension; they seem to be cardboard cutouts that have simple motivations and descriptions. Atreides = good, Harkonnen = bad, Tleilax = fanatical, etc. There are no overall themes, let alone the complex sociopolitical and economic themes that run through the original Dune. Each time there is a little suspense, the problem, military action, or chase is resolved within pages.

The narrative style is repetitive and written for early teen readers with short attention spans and the plot is so simplified as to be non-existent. The authors continually explain basic plot designs and will recap each plot line as you run across it. Finally the multiple spelling and grammatical errors and the use of common street slang, such as 'Uh...' are almost unbearable.

The inconsistencies between the original Dune novel and this 'prequel' are so glaring and continuous as to make the reader wonder if the authors even bothered to read the original works.

I would not recommend this book. It is actually painful to read. If you have never read a Dune novel then start with the original Dune by Frank Herbert. If you have read the Dune novels then stay away from this tripe, it offers nothing to the universe that you haven't already seen in a much better format.

Brief listing of major inconsistencies between the two novels:

  • There is a reference made to the priests of Dur, however Dur is a shortening of Guldur which was a name of the God Emperor used in the scattering.

  • The apparent general knowledge that the Bene Tleilax are religious fanatics, though it comes as a surprise to everyone when this is found out in Heretics of Dune, approximately 3500 years later.

  • The use of No Ships, even though they don't exist until the scattering at the end of The God Emperor of Dune.

  • Duncan Idaho has no sister, even though in the original Dune he recounts how his sister was killed in the Harkonnen slave pits.

Review of the Movie

Dune the Movie

David Lynch's Movie adaptation of Dune is billed as:
'A Place Beyond Your Dreams. A Movie Beyond Your Imagination.'

and Lynch's expansive vision is certainly imaginative. Beautiful and stunning, Dune (adapted for the screen and directed by Lynch, best known for his fantastical modern soap opera Twin Peaks) is an incredible movie in its own right. Staring Kyle MacLauchlan (also of Twin Peaks) as a mid-twenties Paul Atreides and an impressive cast including Oscar-winner Linda Hunt, Patrick Stewart, a young precocious Alicia Witt, and Sting, and feature genuinely moving music by Brian Eno and Toto, this movie is a stylistic triumph.

From its stirring visuals and impressive (for its time) special effects, to its unique and very appropriate use of characters' inner monologues, this movie is typical Lynch, and very effectively conveys the mood of the piece.

Where the movie falls down, however, is in its odd tendency to depart wildly from the actual Dune storyline, as developed by Frank Herbert. But perhaps 'depart' is the wrong word. Picture the original plot of Dune as a highway, starting at Point A, passing through Point B, and ending up at Point C. Now while Lynch includes Points A, B and C in his version, he includes Points W and 14 as well, and they are connected by a high speed monorail instead of a nice leisurely highway. An example that illustrates this is that in Lynch's version, the Atreides are assembling a secret army of soldiers that use Weirding Modules to wage assault with sound, an idea adapted from the Weirding Way taught to the Fremen by Paul, which consisted of fine muscle and voice control, but not 'blowing things up with sound.' It seems like an innocent change that might play better on the big screen, but the placement of it changes the entire cosmology of the universe, giving the Atreides a darker motive, the power grubbing insecure Emperor justification, and the Harkonnens a better (overall) political position than they deserve.

But all this aside, I did shudder at the final scene, and at the very, very least it is excellent eye-candy. Overall, it is worth a look, but could have stood to be about two hours longer (as some very important scenes and sequences were skimmed through to get to the next big-money shot). But read the book first.

Notes on Coming TV Series on Dune

The Science Fiction Channel is producing a mini-series based on the Dune novel by Frank Herbert. This series will air in the fourth quarter of the year 2000 and will run approximately 6 hours. Principal photography was started Nov. 22, 1999 in Prague. Some casting is still being done.

The current specifics follow:

  • Duke Leto... William Hurt

  • Emperor Shaddam... Giancarlo Giannini

  • Paul Atreides... Alec Newman

  • Princess Irulan... Muriel Baumeister

  • Stilgar... Uwe Ochsenknecht

  • Baron Harkonnen... Ian McNeice

  • Chani... Barbara Kodetova

According to the Science Fiction Channel's web site, the saga is being written and directed by John Harrison. Executive producers are Richard P. Rubinstein and Mitchell Galin. Cinematography will be done by Vittorio Storaro.

For more information, check out:
The Science Fiction Channel's page on the series or The Book Nook.

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