Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)Dune by Frank Herbert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Unique among SF novels… I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord of the Rings.” ~Arthur C. Clarke

I’ll begin with what I saw when I first checked what my Goodreads friends had to say about their experience with Dune:

Thank the gods it was Kivayan, my friend Kuba from Poland, who first made it clear to me how important it was that I read Dune, and not just the first book, no, the whole original series, because only then would I be able to witness the genius of Frank Herbert’s grand image (that there was my attempt to express “big picture” in a more fittingly epic way). Thank the gods it was him and not someone else’s opinion which would have left this book under my personal radar, where it had been for many years.

Scratch that. It hadn’t been under my radar. I’d been aware of it since I was little, mainly from video games or perhaps Karina—I just didn’t know exactly what it was about. All this desert, the sandworms… It looked boring. Like something too slow, deep or intricate for me to enjoy. And let me tell you, I wasn’t wrong: if I had dipped my toes in the spicy sand before I’d reached a certain point in my life, I’m confident I wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all. If I had to say, I’d place the point in question around the time I started watching Game of Thrones, playing alt-history games and reading books like The World Without Us or The Dark Tower.

I had started being able to enjoy books like Dune, only I couldn’t make the connection in my head and notice the switch. There was nobody to suddenly come up to me and tell me that the famous, apparently super-influential old SF book I’ve always thought I wouldn’t enjoy, actually involves loads of topics I’d find very appealing: religion, feudal politics, anthropology, psychology, history, ecology and many others, creating a narrative about how narratives, and historical narratives in particular, work, which I expect to discover further in the next books. Well, there was someone: it was Kuba. But if it hadn’t been for him and a few other people like Amberclock who told me about Jodorowsky’s Dune or JMG who often mentions Dune in his Archdruid Report posts, I’d still have the impression that the book is a boring classic, that it’s to SF what perhaps Proust is to modern literature: supremely influential and important, but not enjoyable.

Of course, I was wrong. I may be wrong about Proust, too. But that’s the point: we’re talking about preconceptions here.

What surprises me is that, for it’s alleged importance, very few people I talked to about Dune while reading it even knew of it. For a book that supposedly played an important role in the popularisation of ecology as a word as well as a term and for one which is among the all-time bestsellers of the genre, it is forgotten today by most. I’ll go down a path I don’t think it’s fair to go down on, but how many people know of Tatooine and how many of Arrakis, Dune, the Desert Planet that surely inspired it?

Nevertheless, I found its ambience as a contemporary read very comfortable, even if 50 years have passed since it was written. Water as a super-valuable commodity (with all related cultural conventions) feels right and is played perfectly. Arrakis is majestic. Reading about the Fremen was very interesting and convincing, and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the book’s unknown world by looking up the juicy neologisms in the appendix (every book like this should have one!)

Not all’s perfect with Dune, don’t get me wrong. Its characters can feel one-sided or shallow, even Paul, who at times comes off superhumany… but then, hey, he’s supposed to be the one, isn’t he? The various political actors and the role of spice in all of this aren’t very clear, but you know, it’s one of these books you’ll read again and next time it’ll make more sense.

But the weak points don’t matter. Dune is a classic, period, and I’m happy for once to have truly enjoyed a classic because it’s a classic, not despite the fact. What can I say? Herbert’s foreword to the book reads:

“to the people whose labors go beyond ideas into the realm of “real materials” — to the dry-land ecologists, wherever they may be, in whatever time they work, this effort at prediction is dedicated in humility and admiration.”

Good man.

View all my reviews


Originally posted on the Sofia City Library EVS blog.

Our EVS friends Anna & Kuba live in Pernik, a city less than an hour away from Sofia, famous in Bulgaria for its tough, hard-headed people – a reputation probably rooted in its traditionally industrial and mining economy. There are lots of jokes made about people who come from this region, but our experience was completely different from the stereotype, as you will soon discover.

We are preparing a little performance in the streets of Sofia in July with Anna, Kuba, Florian, Gabi and others, and our visit to Pernik last Sunday was mainly for brainstorming, discussing the ideas and planning the event. We even did a little workshop prepared by Anna & Kuba’s supervisor on the top of a hill in a beautiful park in the centre of the city whose aim was helping us bond and work together as a single entity rather than a group of individuals.

Tai-chi-ho, tai-chi-ho!


The chain of command…


…one mistake can have the group collapse
like a house of cards.


Becoming one with the group


“Add caption”, Blogger said.
I just sat there, motionless.


The brave Florian is about to fall in our arms.


The brave Florian is falling in our arms.


NOT footballs fans.


Definitely not football fans.

There was pizza, fruit salad, cherries, beer and wine. It rained after we left the park. It was a good day.

Our performance will be on the 12th of July. Catch it in a street of central Sofia near you.

Props to Kuba and his friend whose name I don’t remember for the pictures. Especially the last ones are very good, in true Kuba fashion.

POLYGLOT DIARY – 15/6/2014

Heute waren wir für das erste Mal in Pernik. Wir haben dort unseren Freunden Kuba und Anna, bzw. aus Polen und Österreich, gesehen. Es war echt schön: Theaterspieler, Obstsalat, Kirschen, Pizza, unseren Länderfähnen ans Gesicht schminken (ich musste dieses Wort in suchen…)

Kennen sie Kasetophono? Es ist mein neuester und bester Weg online Musik zu hören. Die Auswahl von dem Stücken ist phänomenal. Hat nur eine Person alles dieses gemacht, alle diese Wiedergabeliste zusammengebracht?

Ich wollte nicht etwas besonders heute schreiben, aber meine Anforderung sagt ich muss dass doch machen! Es ist zu spät und ich bin ja müde, ich will BSG ansehen, ich kann einfach nicht konzentrieren. Ich habe sowieso viel diesem Sonntagabend gearbeitet. Trotzdem, hier ist es. Bist du denn zufrieden, Arschloch Selbst von 8. Mai?

NS: Griechenland – Kolumbien = 3-0/ Oops! Niederländer gegen Spanien war aber ein grossartiges Spiel. Die knusprige Blase hat nochmal das gut noch besser gemacht.