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Monday, June 22, 2020

Reread: Dune

I found myself rereading Dune, and years after my first reading of it in my teenage years, it's still and astounding novel. Things jumped out at me this time that didn't in my first reading. For instance, it's astounding how for a science fiction world how medieval the institutions in the novel are. Even the position of a planetary ecologist is via inheritance, rather than merit. All the major characters are characters born into privilege with a huge amount of attention given to eugenics, and training is only available to those of a high born class.

It's also amazing to me how much various parts of the book affected my psyche through the years, even though much of it was forgotten. I remember driving home from the hospital with Bowen and Xiaoqin, suddenly aware of how every careless driver was suddenly a threat. I didn't realize it then,  but that feeling came almost directly from the book: "They have tried to take the life of my son!" Similarly, I'd forgotten that one of the most poignant quotes from the book also featured in my memory:
"One of the most terrible moments in a boy's life," Paul said, "is when he discovers his father and mother are human beings who share a love that he can never quite taste. It's a loss, an awakening to the fact that the world is there and here and we are in it alone..." 
And of course there's more. There's the subtle teaching about ecosystems and ecology, and the inspirational long term view of terraforming a hostile environment taking 300-500 years. Of course, it's taken us far less than 50 years to start turning our own planet into a hostile environment. There's the deliberate evocation of the Arabic desert nomads, the constant impingement into our consciousness all through the book about the preciousness of water, something that Californians are only starting to become aware of.

There's so much that makes this a great book. The rest of the series degenerated somewhat from this initial grand novel, and it was definitely well worth the re-read. Recommended.

1 comment:

Peter said...

An alternative view of Dune that might interest you, by a military historian: