Calling Cote and anybody else interested. I finished, 'Dune' btw.

(67 Posts)

The final eighth or so was okay. I was really, really bored by the rest of it, mostly because I thought that Jessica was snooty and dull and Paul was dull and a prig. All of Jessica's internal dialogues just made me hate her more and more with every one. I was most interested in the, 'servants' like Duncan and Guerney and co, but they were hardly in it.

Doubt I'll bother with any more in the series.

Now, does anybody want to tell me what greatness I've failed to recognise in it?

Cote - I only finished it because I vowed I wasn't going to give you the chance to say I was unfit to comment because I'd given up! wink

CoteDAzur Thu 08-Aug-13 20:54:29

You are learning grin

It is quite possible that we notice/value different things in books. It wouldn't occur to me to hate a book because a character is not entertaining enough ('dull') or too proper (I had to look up 'prig' smile). I would hate a book that is too simple, or has glaring inconsistencies. Sci-fi fans in general are probably not as interested in character development as the ideas.

But what were the ideas?

All of the ideas I could see were that with power and money, there is likely to be treachery and vioence (nothing new there); that violence leads to more violence but sometimes it's necessary (or there), and that Paul develops as a character by becoming a great leader, but he does it mostly through being rather boring and priggish and by having some bloody good, and bloody loyal, men around him.

So what did I miss?

Btw - I would also hate books which are too simple (unless it is purposeful simplicity such as in, 'The Little Prince' for example) or inconsistent. You make good characterisation sound like a fault, when my thought is that you need the good characterisation in order to carry the ideas one wants to get across.

pointythings Thu 08-Aug-13 21:31:41

Remus I agree with everything you've said. I remember thinking that no way would Paul Atreides have amassed a following, given that he'd had a complete charisma bypass.

And I'm the sucker who read three and a half books in the series, that's a lot of hours of my life I'll never get back.

By the way, that's my measure of a bad book - when I resent the time I've spent reading it. The last one was Dean Koontz's 77 Shadow Street.


Yes, re resentment. 'Wolf Hall' was my last one. Usually I give up if something doesn't interest me enough, quickly enough, but I forced myself to finish WH and then felt cross with myself for doing so.

CoteDAzur Thu 08-Aug-13 21:46:28

No, not a fault but not that important for some of us and/or for some books. It doesn't bother me that a character is snobbish and another is too proper, for example. People are rarely perfect in RL and it doesn't surprise me for elite aristocrats to be snooty and prig.

In Dune, the details are fascinating in their complexity and consistency. Space travel is so fast that pilots need to be able to to see the future a bit. For this they need Spice - rare, addictive, and essential for space travel. Which can't be automated because thinking machines are outlawed, so people called Mentats train as computers.

Water is precious on Dune so all sorts of traditions, habits etc follow from this - offering tears to the dead etc. Bene Gesserit plans centuries ahead, even planting legends in case they are useful later on etc.

Not to mention the complicated game played between organisations & opponents with their own agendas, alliances, and plans spanning generations. It might not be your kind of book but it is mine smile

pointythings Thu 08-Aug-13 21:48:32

Cote I will concede the point on FH's world building skills. The detail was what kept me reading the books that I did - I was studying anthropology at the time and it chimed.

But the rest of it was just completely lacking, and world building alone isn't enough for me. If that makes me shallow, I'm a paddling pool.

Priggish smile

Yes, the water stuff was an interesting, especially the Freman taking the water from the dead. But surely all of that would have been more interesting/better if the writing was less clunky (in places it was even grammatically inaccurate) and the characters were more interesting, so that one can actually care about the future of such a planet for the whole people, rather than being forced to sympathise throughout with two pretty one-dimensional characters, who have (because of the faults of the writing) failed to engage one?

'an interesting IDEA' - lost a word there!

Reality Thu 08-Aug-13 21:51:56

I really loved Dune, but it took me a while. I started it years ago and didn't get it and got bored.

It was only after dh raving about it, and watching the film, that I gave it another go, and this time it took a month and I did really enjoy it. I did have to force myself not to skim the more boring bits though.

Don't know if I'll bother reading the rest. Should I?

I had to put it down for a few days and read a Wilkie Collins instead, before forcing myself to finish it!

CoteDAzur Thu 08-Aug-13 21:54:04

"paddling pool" grin

I don't think it makes you shallow. To each their own.

You also need to remember that Dune was written in 1965. Back then, writing styles were quite different.

All this talk is making me want to read all six Dune books again grin

Paddling pool. smile I'm probably a puddle then.

Cote - I just don't get it. How on earth we could both love, 'This Thing Of Darkness' so much, and then find virtually nothing else we can agree on, other than the odd SK, is beyond me!

CoteDAzur Thu 08-Aug-13 21:56:44

"characters were more interesting, so that one can actually care about the future of such a planet"

We spoke about this before grin and again, I care about its future if the story is interesting, not if the author has spent hundreds more pages on anecdotes and descriptions to render the characters "interesting".

No, you're missing my point - or I'm not explaining it properly. I don't want more time spent on character, I want BETTER time spent on character. Use the same number of words, but do it in a way that works better. I thought his characterisation was poor and that improving it would have made the story better. The internal dialogue stuff was particularly weak - and very repetitive, thus wasting words.

TheWickedBitchOfTheBest Fri 09-Aug-13 20:20:11

First read Dune when I was 14 and liked it. Have read it several times since and always enjoyed it, tried to get into the rest but they all lacked the grandeur of the first book.

Herbert's imagination was incredible. Loved the thought that regular human beings could train and train to the point where their abilities could be almost superhuman.

Okay so Paul Atredies was still just your average, sulky bit confused teenager I guess.

Thanks Wicked. Tbh, I think I'd have liked it a lot more as a 14 year old, because I suspect that I'd have admired Paul more, and been less bothered by Jessica, if that makes sense?

I took it back to the charity shop yesterday, so I won't be re-reading it!

TheWickedBitchOfTheBest Sat 10-Aug-13 13:23:01

I think the characters were intentinally quite unemotional. Don't forget Dune is set in our future approximately 8,000 years from now. Herbert's demonstrated that the elite caste of humans have now evolved and trained to the point where they have what 'we'd' think of as super human powers.

Plus they're all living on a knife edge with other elite families trying to kill each other, so not much time for cuddles and being all wooley I expect grin

smile True - but I still think that better characterisation (not more emotional characters but a better sense of character given by the writer) would have made for a stronger book. If Nabakov can make readers care about what happens to Humbert Humbert, then Herbert ought to be able to make me care about Paul Atriedes, who is (in concept but not in the skill of the writer) a far more sympathetic character.

CoteDAzur Sat 10-Aug-13 17:22:10

Please explain this a bit. How do the characters need to be portrayed for you to care what happens to them?

I'm thinking of murder mysteries, spy stories, books about psychopathic serial killers, for example. Do you really need the characters to be rendered to your satisfaction to be interested in how the story will develop & end?

minipie Sat 10-Aug-13 17:32:48

Honestly it is a weakness of a lot of science fiction that the characters don't seem like real fully rounded people.

I hate making sweeping generalisations like this but I wonder if it's because they tend to be written by nerdy men who are more interested in the science than the people?

if you still want to try science fiction you could try seeking out books by women? Ursula Le Guin jumps to mind. I think her characters are a bit more developed though again they tend to be of the enigmatic sort...

minipie Sat 10-Aug-13 17:34:24

Oh and quite a bit of Margaret Atwood falls under science fiction - Handmaids Tale for eg.

SoupDragon Sat 10-Aug-13 17:37:34

From memory, the first Dune book was good, the rest got progressively more shit as they went on. I can't remember at what point in the series I gave up - a several books in (3? 4?), I know that.

The characters need to be multi-dimensional and believable and have humanity in the sense that they have human needs/emotions (they don't have to be human for this btw - see Marvin the Paranoid Android!) and can connect with others or through the reader through the portrayal of their inner dialogue. In order to be meaningful, they must be able to learn and change and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. That is why Elizabeth and Darcy, for example, have such long-time appeal.

The main characters in, 'Dune' are one dimensional and remain exactly the same throughout imho, and are all the weaker for it.

Mini - I've read most of Atwood's but other than, 'The Handmaid's Tale, I find her a bit wearisome. I will try another Ursula le Guin.

CoteDAzur Sat 10-Aug-13 22:33:25

Remus - I think we just read different types of books. I agree that you would expect characters to make mistakes & change in a coming of age book, for example, or where the book is about the psychology of ipthe protagonist, but not all books are like that. Thankfully so, because I for one can't stand books that are all about the feeeeeelings of main characters smile

Re "characters must be believable and have humanity" - Let's consider how different we are from Egyptians who built the pyramids. Can you imagine how different people who live 8,000 years in the future on various different planets will be from us? What does it even mean to say that those characters should have "humanity". You seem to expect them to feel like us and act like us. That would be the opposite of "believable" (Like in "Wool", I thought).

Imagine a child who is taught & expected to sit rock-still for hours to practice lowering his body temperature or moving one muscle at a time to catalog his mind-body responses. Imagine a culture where this is normal. Do you really think they would talk like us and think like us? No. So what does it even mean to talk about "humanity"?

(Genuine question. I'd be interested in your answer)

minipie Sat 10-Aug-13 22:49:27

Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 might fit your bill. If you haven't already read them?

I mean, 'humanity' in the sense that they have feelings of some sort, and relationships of some sort, and connections of some sort and can develop and change in some ways.

You loved, 'This Thing of Darkness,' yes? Surely that was, at least in part, based on the FEELINGS of Fitzroy and Darwin and the 'natives' and their relationships, and the way those feelings and those relationships develop - essentially, about the humanity of those characters? Without that, and without understanding that, Fitzroy's feelings of betrayal don't make sense and therefore the whole book surely wouldn't work?

Read both and love both, Mini. smile

minipie Sat 10-Aug-13 23:06:03

hmmm. More Ray Bradbury would be my first suggestion.

Asimov I absolutely love, but he doesn't really do emotions or internal dialogue. (Personally I'm more about plot than internal dialogues, I tend to skip past any soul searching to find out what happens next smile). Brave New World I imagine you've read. Have to admit Le Guin leaves me a bit cold.

2001: A Space Odyssey contains lots of psychological stuff as well as the science fiction.

The Philip Pullman trilogy?

No I don't want internal dialogue particularly - I was objecting to how awful Jessica's internal dialogues were in Dune.

Loved Brave New World. Liked the Pullmans apart form the stupid horse things. Le Guin has done nothing for me thus far and don't imagine I'll change my mind, but willing to give her a chance.

CoteDAzur Mon 12-Aug-13 08:37:19

"'humanity' in the sense that they have feelings of some sort, and relationships of some sort, and connections of some sort"

I thought there were feelings and especially relationships in Dune. A spider's web of relationships, in fact.

Anyway, have we talked about Hyperion before? It is another great sci-fi book and I think you would find character development in it to be much better than in Dune.

greenhill Mon 12-Aug-13 08:54:27

I'm not a fan of SF but read Dune, when I was a teenager, I only really got it when I'd read the lot and talked to my DF about it. Ray Bradbury is much more approachable.

remus as you like Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel is on iPlayer at the moment, it was an afternoon play. It's 60 minutes long.

Which other Bradbury books should I look out for? Have only read Fahrenheit and (long ago and can't remember anything at all) The Illustrated Man.

Tell me more about Hyperion. Is it just one book or a series? Who's it by? What's it about?

Thanks for the WC heads up, Green. I've read The Haunted Hotel - it's great fun. Oh I do love Wilkie.

minipie Mon 12-Aug-13 13:58:39

I like his short stories, eg The Martian Chronicles and The Day it Rained Forever - very thought provoking and emotional. I don't usually like short stories much but science fiction really lends itself to the format as many sci fi ideas are only really enough to support a short story (which I think is why so many longer science fiction novels are really more like fantasy/epic dramas)

GooseyLoosey Mon 12-Aug-13 14:10:39

I love Dune (Dune and Children of Dune anyway). Also loved Lord of the Rings. I think in both the individual characters were not intended to be important, the books were about the history and culture of worlds and the great events that shaped those worlds. I enjoyed the "macro" nature of the books and was not really interested if Aragorn could be a self-obsessed or Paul was a petulant brat. I liken it to history books. I am not personally interested in the history of individuals but in the way their acts shaped their times and the future. Horses for courses though.

HarderToKidnap Mon 12-Aug-13 14:20:10

I quite enjoyed Hyperion but haven't bothered seeking out the second one yet, which is telling. I'd love to know what happens to the little Jewish baby girl, if someone wants to enlighten me via PM?

Basically Remus, Hyperion is about a group of hand picked people journeying to a distant planet called Hyperion to confront/figure out what is going on there with a giant scary time travelling thing called the shrike. On the way they each tell their tale, whats bought them there and why they want to find the shrike. It's been likened a lot in concept to Canterbury tales. They are each from a different planet as Earth has gone to shit. V good and it ends in a cliffhanger but the actual shrike but was a bit too sciencey and nerdy for me.

Oh yes - have read The Martian Chronicles. I liked it.

Goosey - love LOTR too and think the characterisation in there is much stronger than in Dune.

Thanks Harder. It sounds okay, but am not v good with sciencey/nerdy. In fact, I've realised that the kind of sci-fi I like is single short novels, with v few silly names and low nerd levels. smile

CoteDAzur Mon 12-Aug-13 15:50:00

Harder - I PM'ed you smile

Remus - Hyperion title comes from the poem by John Keats by the same name. It is about six people on a pilgrimage to Time Tombs, artifacts travelling backwards in time, presumably sent back by future generations. These pilgrims tell their stories one by one and the story of the book emerges from these different viewpoints and with different actors.

I wouldn't call it a terribly "sciencey" book. It is possibly one of the least "sciencey" sci-fi books I have read, in fact, comparable to Dune in that respect. However, its characters are carefully drawn and their thoughts & feelings elaborated. This is why I thought you would like it.

Who's it by, Cote?

CoteDAzur Mon 12-Aug-13 16:02:33

Cheers. smile

CoteDAzur Mon 19-Aug-13 10:02:53

Remus - re "feeeeelings" smile

I'm miserably plodding through Delirium these days, and thought I would come back here and give it as the perfect example of what I meant when I said "I for one can't stand books that are all about the feeeeeelings of main characters"

Delirium is about a future when people are "cured" of love. It could have been a much more interesting book if it focused on this world - what it is like, how society and technology have evolved to accommodate a world where people don't really care much for each other etc. Instead, it's all about a teenage girl's hots for a teenage boy. All about her feeeelings when he is near and they are dancing etc.


Oh gods, no - can't be doing with that sort of crap either. smile

CoteDAzur Tue 20-Aug-13 21:47:09

I finished it today. YA, written by a woman over 10 years my junior. I should have known better.

smile Jane Austen was only 41 when she died though, and wrote the first version of, 'Sense and Sensibility' aged only 19. grin

CoteDAzur Tue 20-Aug-13 21:58:44

That was a time when YA didn't exist as a genre, though grin

I didn't realise you were reading YA - I thought you detested it!

magnumicelolly Tue 20-Aug-13 22:21:45

The first Dune book is one of my favourite books. The rest, not so great, but still found them worth reading. If you found it boring you either missed something or it just isn't your type of book I suppose!

CoteDAzur Tue 20-Aug-13 22:50:57

Someone recommended it to me on here, after I said I don't read YA. So I thought it was an exceptional cross-over like Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. It wasn't.

Magnum - yes but WHAT did I miss? wink
Cote - most of the YA stuff I've enjoyed has been fantasy of some sort or another, so probably not worth me recommending any.

CoteDAzur Tue 20-Aug-13 23:07:59

YA fantasy might just do me in grin

I thought about why I can't stand YA and came to the conclusion that it is because there was no YA around when I was growing up. I read 1984 and Brave New World in my teens, so excuse me if I'm not impressed by a YA book trying to tackle the same themes in my 40s.

How old are you?

Did you not read things like Z for Zacharia or Brother in the Land?

I like some YA stuff, mainly because the writers tend not to fart around trying to 'write' in the way that adult fantasy writers do - if the writer is good it's not so bad, but poor writers trying to be 'writers' (ie in those bloody awful zombie books called 'Autumn' iirc) drive me insane - at least YA writers tend to keep it fairly short and punchy.

CoteDAzur Tue 20-Aug-13 23:40:51

I'm 42. You need to remember that I started learning English in secondary school (age ~12) and then was limited to import books I could find in specialist "foreign" stores (no Amazon, obviously).

I'll never read YA again, no exceptions. Reading stuff meant for children gets on my nerves.

Of course. That makes sense.

BUT - iirc you like, 'Death of Grass' yes? Well, Brother in the Land is better imho. smile

CoteDAzur Tue 20-Aug-13 23:50:48

I haven't read Death Of Grass. I read about its subject matter and it sounded unrealistic. If there was no grass anywhere, surely all life would die off fairly soon. And I worried that I would kill myself if I read another ancient and badly dated book like laughable book where they are all waiting for the radioactive cloud in Australia smile


Oh they start raping and murdering each other long before all the grass disappears. It was v stupid.

CoteDAzur Wed 21-Aug-13 13:36:42

And you thought I must have read and lived this book because...?

Is it because I loved On The Beach so much? grin

I must have mixed you up with somebody - somebody who had a big rant about how (ordinary) people raping and murdering each other within about two days of the crisis being announced was entirely credible.

CoteDAzur Wed 21-Aug-13 15:25:35

Ranting does sound like me grin

I may have said something about breakdown of law and order being credible but perhaps not within days. A quick look at history, even as late as Bosnia would show that people become animals when law & order breaks down, without even any existential threat like famine sad

Ha - I knew it was you ranting all along. smile

Actually, do read it - I'd be interested to know your thoughts on it. It just didn't work for me (but I like On The Beach, so what do I know?!).

CoteDAzur Wed 21-Aug-13 21:45:43

Oh yeah. You liked On The Beach which is about 45,788th best sci-fi book and are whinging here about Dune which happens to be #1 or #2 on any Best Sci-Fi list ever compiled grin

Horses for courses, my dear. grin

CoteDAzur Thu 22-Aug-13 15:21:48

Have you read On The Beach when you were very young, by any chance.

I read and really loved Stranger In A Strange Land when I was about 14. If I read it now, I'm sure I'd appreciate it much less.

I read it as a teenager, but have re-read several times since and still quite liked it - unlike Hardy, who I adored as a teen and can't stand now because it's all so adolescent.

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