Can the award-winning science fiction novels of the past actually still be worth reading several decades later? Do they have messages, technology, and characters that are pertinent in modern society? Have I just been reading rehashed versions of past award-winners? There's only one way to find out...
read and review the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winning novels.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Dune, by Frank Herbert, received the first-ever Nebula Award in 1966 and tied for the 1966 Hugo Award. It's one of those books that, for some inexplicable reason, I've avoided my entire life.

I'm not sure what started my anti-Dune bias, although it might have been an aborted attempt to read the National Lampoon parody before picking up the original. I avoided the 1984 film by David Lynch. I didn't even know there were two Dune-based TV miniseries, and I actually like TV miniseries (especially in the SciFi and Fantasy genres). I've read and enjoyed other books by Frank Herbert, but have actively avoided the Dune-i-verse.

In contrast to this, my husband's December 1981 (23rd printing) copy of Dune has been read so many times that chunks of pages have fallen out and only remain with the book because they're tucked carefully into their proper places. In his defense, the 80s were a terrible time for paperbacks--something about the glue; however, he's quick to admit that he revisited his copy of Dune before reading each new addition to the series.

As I read Dune, I wished it had been released as multiple smaller volumes. As I write this, I realize that if it had been published in any other form than the existing epic the world wouldn't ever have known the book at all. It's huge and rambling, but the three sections of the book build logically on each other. Had part 1 been published as a stand-alone novel, it would have vanished into the pile of 60s sci-fi and never been heard from again. The overall book, though long, is what captures the reader.

As an author, Frank Herbert rambles. Unlike some of the other rambling writers I've read for this project, he still manages to be a pretty easy read. He pulled from a vast number of cultures to create the world that his characters inhabit, and for me it never came through as a cohesive whole--each time he dropped a non-English word or cultural reference I mentally traced it back to its real-world source (or tried to), which slowed me down from time to time.

Have I become a Dune fanatic? No, but I'm planning to Netflix the film and mini-series, and will probably read more books in the Dune saga. My Dune-avoidance has officially come to an end. Hm. Guess you can teach an old dog new tricks! Rating: 4/5