Well, I’ve done it again. I didn’t finish another book. 🙁 I was really excited to read Dune as I loved the recent Denis Villeneuve film adaptation, but a few things got in the way of my finishing this 1965 Frank Herbert classic. In this post I’ll give a quick rundown of those reasons and my thoughts on the book.
The first reason I wasn’t able to finish reading Dune is that I was quite sick with hyperemesis gravidarum from last July to September. (Baby is with us now! Healthy and happy! 🙂 ) I had started reading Dune right before then and this prolonged sickness hindered my ability to keep reading (and to read anything for that matter since I was bedridden for many weeks). After that I focused on learning and reading about pregnancy, so I continued my pause on Dune, only getting back to it every once in a while.
The second reason I couldn’t finish the book was that it never compelled me to continue reading. This might sound like sacrilege to die hard fans (sorry!) but I just could never get my hooks into the story. The thing about Dune is that it is a very political book and I’ve always had a hard time getting into political and military stories. I can never understand the intrigue and strategies that are taking place and have a hard time following what’s happening. In Dune, for example, many of the characters will be in dialogue and be somehow able to infer political intentions from the other characters and I always get really confused at those points. How could he infer that? How could he know that? Is he guessing? What’s going on here? There’s always just a smidge too little exposition in those moments and so it leaves me feeling confused rather than wanting to read on.
I’ve written in other posts before about how too much exposition is a bad thing and can really hinder the pacing of a story. But too little exposition is also a problem because then the reader can’t follow what’s going on and the feeling of confusion pulls them out of the reading experience (at least it does for me). I know there are many people out there who love political and military stories and can always follow what’s happening in terms of intrigue and strategy, but for some reason my brain just can’t wrap itself around any of that without a significant amount of exposition to explain what’s going on.
All that being said, I can certainly appreciate why Dune is a classic, but unfortunately the writing style just isn’t for me.
The movie, on the other hand, was incredible. Denis Villeneuve adapted this book to film very well, cutting out all the superfluous plot points and really focusing on the main story of Paul Atreides and his family moving to the planet Arrakis and the consequences that follow from that. The book has a lot of extraneous (in my opinion) plot points and how Villeneuve was able to wade through all of that and extract the main story is incredible to me. It’s truly a testament to everyone who worked on that film. So if you haven’t seen it yet, I would highly recommend the most recent Dune film.
So there you have it. If you like classic science fiction and enjoy that particular writing style from the ’60s you probably will enjoy Dune the novel. In any case, you absolutely must watch the 2021 film adaptation if you haven’t already.
The next book on my list is This Immortal by Roger Zelazny. And I promise I will do my best to actually finish that novel!