I first read Dune as a teenager. I could’ve sworn a lot more happened in the first book than I thought, like Duncan Idaho being cloned, a weird girl-woman running around, Paul turning into a gigantic worm; actually I’m not really sure about that last one. I think it was more of a book cover I saw than it happening in the story. But then again, I guess I read so many Dune books that they somewhat merged into one gigantic behemoth of a tale.
Rereading the book now in my 40s, I was glad to recognize most of what made Dune memorable: the Fremen culture. The worms. And lots of spice and sand, sand and spice. And now that I’m older, I was able to pick up on *why* there was so much intrigue over the spice. And I also saw that the whole plot was pretty much “Avatar”. Guy from privileged background enters lowers class world, where he is instantly deemed their prophesied Messiah, and what do you know, hey presto, he does become their Messiah. And once he does, he becomes…well…dull, because if you know everything and can do everything and can see everything, there’s really not much else you can do.
A couple of things disturbed me. The first was how we never see Paul’s son. Because his birth and death takes place offscreen, he is more of a concept. He doesn’t give any insight into Paul, and Paul doesn’t seem all that affected. The strongest time I connected to Paul was after he had learned his father was dead. We were tuned into his emotions, his shock, his fear as he and his mother ran for their lives. At that point, Paul felt real to me.
But towards the later part of the book, Paul does all this stuff, yada yada yada, and oh hey, he has a son. We don’t see Paul interacting with him. I don’t think we even learn his name. Paul has a son, and then he doesn’t. And he’s too far gone to grieve. But we never had a chance to connect with the kid, so we don’t grieve either. Maybe Herbert meant to do this to show how much of a god Paul was turning into, but to me, it made Paul less of a character, and I was disturbed at how we’re not allowed to get into Chani’s grief, because she was definitely affected.
And that’s the other thing. When Paul announces that he will marry Princess Irunlan, and Chani, who is deserving of someone far better than Paul, is reduced to a concubine. But Lady Jessica says, “No it’s okay. She has his name but you’ll have his heart.” And then, end scene. That was…surprisingly bleak.
You know…being a woman in Dune *sucks*.
Maybe that’s why I remember the other Dune books better than this one. There’s so much prophecy that there was no real tension in the book other than when Duke Leto dies. Paul is so busy fulfilling prophecy that towards the end, he’s more an idea than a person. So the character development is shifted to other characters: Lady Jessica, the Baron, Alia (who I found very, very intriguing). The other Bene Gesserits. Even Duncan Idaho stands out to me, and he’s dead for most of this book. But Paul? Sadly, he’s easily forgettable.
2 worms out of 5. And for some reason I’m thirsty. I’m going to get some water. Lots and lots of water.