Frank Herbert’s Dune Sucks: Part I – Dune

Well, as you can assume, I, Arkus have been taking my time reading something. This mysterious something with irritating italics in places that don’t make sense all of the time, is all of the original Dune novels written by Frank Herbert, throwing in the parody called Doon for my final analysis.  This was actually published about two years ago, but in creating the new site we decided to move such content over here, but it’s edited here for your pleasure.  Now then, onward into hate we go!

As a whole, the Dune novels represent the most famous sci-fi series of all time. You’ve heard the hype, and maybe taken the plunge. Do you pretend it’s all worth it, or are you aware of the truth that is Dune? See, yeah, there are good things, but let’s face it, it’s not as great as everyone thinks, but before simply using a blanket statement, one needs to analyze. I’m not even going to touch his kid’s follow-ups, because by all accounts they’re like reading Nancy Drew if your 30 sans penis touching from a female. Anyway, this is the first of a seven-part saga of my experience with all of these novels. I’m going to break it down with some brief history for each one, followed by a list of good things, and then the suck. The suck generally outweighs the good, unfortunately, as much as some may wish to not believe. You don’t have to believe. And if you don’t feel like reading all of my writing about the subject of Dune any further, do yourself a favor, don’t try the books either. Seriously.

First Analysis: Dune

If you’re not familiar with Frank Herbert, then you’re not familiar with sci-fi. But if you are familiar with sci-fi, you’ll often wonder why he’s associated with it. Frank Herbert, as a writer, sucks. Like he really sucks. I read a number of his short stories before I got to Dune, and hated almost every single one of them. The concepts were often lofty but poorly articulated, boring, and stuck on ideas without throwing in a bit of action. He’s not really known for them, though, and his Dune series is supposedly the greatest selling novels in sci-fi, though I’d debate that and like to see the numbers, but seeing as how sci-fi is notoriously never cataloged, who knows? Wait, actually, I do know, the Perry Rhodan series holds this honor, it’s sold billions and I believe is still in print. Sorry, Dune.

At any rate, Dune was the work that forever gave him an army of fanboys. Like any writer of fantasy or sci-fi, he who succeeds needs to create a believable world that features lots of people, aliens, creatures, places, and the like. Influenced by the stabilization of sand where he lived while writing, Dune involves a massive-scale universe with a huge patchwork of cultures, creatures, characters, and places. And, as usual for a book that makes it big, it wasn’t such a success when it was first released. He was turned down by a number of publishers, one who supposedly, and prophetically suggested it would someday be famous. After finding a company that apparently published auto manuals, he pulled it off, and today it’s still one of the most-printed sci-fi novels of all time and has won numerous awards. But does it deserve it? Is it a case of the ‘popularity disease’, where “fans” believe they truly love something by virtue of the fact that everyone else seems to also believe it should be so? Sadly, by my estimation, yes, though easily the best thing Herbert ever wrote that I’ve encountered, Dune is by far one of the most average works of science fiction I’ve ever read. It’s kind of like Dracula to horror; everyone knows it, everyone likes it, but no one’s really finished it and anyone who has says “what the fuck was that shit”?!! Let’s break it down in list format starting with the good things. 

Dune: The Good

1. Density. This is the kind of novel you really need to take the time to absorb. It comes with a set of awesome appendices that explain the ecology, some of the characters and their history, and also includes some fake historical documents relating to the universe. And yes, fans of the heady, it has a glossary.

2. Impressive background. It can’t be said otherwise, Herbert put a massive amount of detail into his world with different planets, different ruling families, lots of characters, and a huge ecology on which his entire story is built, all taking part on the planet Arrakis, otherwise known as Dune. The work involved in putting this together is definitely commendable.

3. Cool, inventive features. Let’s face it, the spice is a cool idea. It’s a substance tied into the existence of giant sandworms on Dune. Space travel is performed by special people called navigators who imbibe so much spice their bodies actually change and their minds are able to ‘fold space’, which basically means they think ships to their destinations. Computers have been abandoned because they were causing more harm than good to humanity, essentially, and were wiped out during the so-called ‘Butlerian Jihad’ 10,000 years prior to the novel, which takes place roughly 20,000 years in the future. I’m being really brief here, but how Herbert has pieced all of this together into a universe is highly impressive.

4. Deep conceptsDune makes you think to some degree. There’s a good mixture of various religious elements, references to old religion and how they’ve altered over the centuries, and cool features like the ‘Bene Gesserit’, women who are basically “witches” of a sort that have mental powers and whose task is to advance the human race. For example, they infiltrate societies and create myths surrounding messiahs and such so that their selected pawns can eventually cause revolutions to better the humanity. That’s just one thing, though, Dune is filled with shit like this and each chapter opens with a vignette that’s supposed to be from religious writings and things that relate to Paul Atreides, the hero, other people connected to him, and his exploits as savior of Dune.

5. Huge character set. The number of characters is also impressive. There are tons of people to learn about, subplots within the larger picture, minor characters, etc. It’s basically comparable to War and Peace but science fiction. In fact, that’s a perfect analogy, because the character connections there are similar and since it relates to various imperial families, all the better to approximate. If you’re into palace intrigues and subterfuge, Dune is fucking packed. You’ve got the Fremen, desert nomads indigenous to Dune (well, after migrating there anyway), the Spacing Guild, the Landsraad, hell, just go read online about it, there’s a shit ton of stuff to find inside the covers, let’s just leave it at that. Unfortunately, it pretty much ends there. Let’s go further…

Dune: The Suck

1. Too fucking long holy piss. Sure, I’ll admit, Dune isn’t for pussies. You have to want to sit down with this and immerse yourself in Herbert’s universe. Like really want to. I don’t care if I sound like a whiner; this book did not need to be this motherfucking longDune is a massive chunk of paper that gets caught up way too often in minor plots, pointless dialog, and boring intrigues that could have been cut or summed up in a page or two while still being artistic. He could have cut the novel in half and it still would have been enormously effective and literally enormous. Don’t think a shorter version would pull if off? Go read the parody version, Doon, and you’ll see how cutting could have worked, and that one was actually a joke.

2. Too much to remember. Hey, my memory isn’t that bad so skip it. One of Dune‘s problems is that there’s so much in here minor details get lost in the long sections you don’t feel like reading anymore and are often critical for overall understanding of passages. Herbert needed to desperately streamline. Sure, there are plenty of us who like things ‘heady’, but a good writer knows how to find the perfect medium between those types, and people who just want an escape. There’s so much shit all over the place it’s easy to miss the major plot elements or understand what’s going on because so many plots within plots get caught within other plots that have their own plots. Wait, didn’t I read something about this 348 pages ago? FUCK!!!!!

3. NOT THAT ORIGINAL. Yeah, Dune‘s got a lot of cool, but this is just another savior saves the world/universe palace intrigue bullshit story. People have been writing about shit like this since way before the fucking Dream of the Red Chamber. If I’m looking for something original of this type, minus the sandworms, I’ll go to Euripides, who knew how to write and all while keeping the length sensible. The feuding royal family bullshit is so damn cliche, even at this time. But wait, you say, there’s like these witches that help replace computers or something with their powers and it’s like fantasy sci-fi! Yeah? Go read the Witch World books, they started about three years before this! As a sci-fi novel, Dune actually doesn’t offer much that’s new. The only thing you’ll find online really is that it’s the “first planetary ecology novel on a grand scale”. Wait, that’s its claim to fame?!!! It’s not the first planetary ecology novel, but it is the first big one. So fucking what? Also, minor things, like the focus on Arabic language and thought are a little stupid. The planet Dune, for example, is technically called Arrakis. Wow, Frank, how did you ever think of that one?!!!! So at the same time that’s it’s inventive, Dune also is filled with many moments that make you sigh.

4. Constricted through its own inventions. This is the bad one, but I put it here because I was thinking of it now. One big problem that Dune has, which becomes painfully evident later in the series, is Herbert put so much detail into it that there is very little leeway. It’s been constricted as far as it can go. The ecology of the sandworms and the focus on Arrakis, for example, are so important to every character, event, city, everything, that he can’t get away from it. Each piece is woven into a fine tapestry, but any more weaving and it’s too damn big to even sleep under. Everything’s been so tightly interwoven that he ran out of rope when he finished it, and after this one he just tied extra pieces on and made a damn fucking mess of things. You’ll see as we get to the others in my future articles.

5. Damn obvious plot direction. This is also incredibly annoying. Do I like to think? Yeah, hell, Heidegger is my favorite philosopher damn it! But Dune, in spite of the deep nature to some of the ideas, has the most fucking shallow plot you’ll ever read. Will Duke Leto really die? Yes. Will the Fremen join Paul? Yep. Will he survive the Water of Life? Why did you ask? And what’s going to happen, is Paul really the messiah, or, sorry, the Kwisatz Haderach? Can it be? Truly? Yeah, and we know that from like the first fucking chapter. The rest is fluff, and it’s about 500+ pages of fluff, so get ready. Herbert gives no twists, no turns, no surprises. It’s like he said to himself, “how can I make a book about Jesus, add giant worms in the sand, Arabic, and a planet of this cinnamon worm poop that makes people fly space ships”? I GOT IT.  Obvious plot is fine, as long as the author finds a clever way to make it interesting.  Hint, doesn’t happen here.

6. Hella annoying writing style. Herbert sucked at writing. He lacked the intelligence of Asimov, the fantastical weirdness of Norton, the true depth of Aldiss, and he wouldn’t have been able to pull off the streamlined perfection of Anderson. Dune, and all of the books in the series, is a great showcase of why Herbert should have let his wife make all their money. First off, you have the vignettes that introduce every chapter. Some are too esoteric to figure out and not worth the effort in the first place, while others ruin what could have been mystery. Yeah, kind of hard to wonder if Paul will be the messiah when you start the chapter with a historical writing sample that references how he was the messiah. Thanks, dick. Herbert also gets caught in these annoying inner-monologues. They can be effectual, but he uses them way too much. They typically extend the dialog and action much further than necessary. Here’s a sentence: “He wondered if he should buy her an orange”. Here’s now one of Herbert’s inner monologues would translate: “He wondered if the orange he should buy should have rough skin, or should the skin be light orange, dark orange, a mix? What should the tree look like? Was the tree located in Florida or Mexico? She never liked Mexico, Mexico was where the Aztecs hailed, and they removed hearts. The orange is like a heart, does she want one, does she want one, does she want one“? That’s seriously what most of them are like. The majority are not used properly because by the time you get through what could have been simple, artful prose, you have no fucking clue what in the hell’s going on. In addition, Herbert gets so caught in detail that he takes a million 10-mile paths to get to a destination that was only a foot away. Characters get stuck in endless, self-absorbed thoughts that could often have been avoided entirely, which then sucks away the life of those that are actually important. If you live off of icing, the cake’s just no good.

7. Boringly wooden characters. What in the hell sapling did Herbert carve these idiots from? Whereas something like Les Miserables, most of the time, has characters you can actually feel, who seem like real people, Dune‘s pastische is largely played by 11-year-olds doing a school production of Hamlet with a budget of $25. Yes, it is that stupid. You can absolutely not connect with anyone in Dune. Their lines are stale, their plot drive is canned, they never evolve, their emotional projections are meek and unbelievable, and they talk like a starving director stuck in bitchdick USA at a 10-cent theater who’s trying to get noticed. Think banal, and you’ve got the characters of Dune down pat without a single inner monologue. Completely, utterly lifeless. Hell, even the messiah scenes sucked, how do you fuck that up? Just paraphrase and alter the Bible and you’re good to go. Guess he didn’t want to be too obvious. Some people seem to think there’s something unique about all of it, but what, so he took basically every stock scene from epic tales and added giant worms and some ships? People, that’s not a mark of genius!

8. Incredible lack of action. One of the things that makes truly great sci-fi is a good mix of stuff that makes you think and stuff that kicks ass. So, something like Chronocules, for example, is all of the former. Seeds of Change, the latter. Neither is particularly interesting because they’re both heavily weighed on one side. Dune is a huge mixture of the former type, with very, very little of the latter! What the fuck man!? You have giant fucking sandworms that can eat large vehicles, a Navy SEALS-like killer army of death, warring feudal houses, and all of that! But, in all, for all of the millions of words you read, Dune‘s action is frequently restricted to only a few pages in spite of this! It really only gets truly interesting for about the last 50 or so, the rest is all intrigues, will he kill her him them bullshit, riding a worm for like two seconds, and then more intrigues until you fall asleep. Like The Left Hand of Darkness, though not nearly as bad, this one was so full of action-packed potential with a nice bite of thinking! Herbert simply put too much thinking into it, he never found a good balance. Combine that with a poor writing style, and phew boy!

9. Plot holes. Aw man, this makes it even worse. I could have at least said, yeah, but in spite of the above, Herbert’s done a massively impressive thing here. But, sigh, it was not to be. I can’t go on about all of them, but let’s consider a few problems with Dune and end our analysis with these:

  • First um, okay, so the Butlerian Jihad has eliminated all computers and robots? Did he actually think about this? Let’s consider. If you did that, well, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish much of anything, I don’t fucking care how much fucking spice you chaw. First off, why isn’t there a separate people, race, planet, or something that went against this movement? You mean to tell me all people in the whole fucking universe really aligned with this idea? Really? Consider this, over 50 years after Hitler was rightfully eliminated, there are still people who think his ideas were good. Yeah. The planet Ix kind of fills this void, but Herbert doesn’t take it anywhere until it’s too late, which is pretty much the final novel, Chapterhouse: Dune. Whoops. Think about it more. Before traffic lights, people used to have to direct in the middle of an intersection. There are computers in those lights. Without them, well, people will be doing everything just like that and trust me, mentats do not eliminate the problem. He had the ability to get around this by creating some sort of rogue nation or something that liked robots, but, of course, he blew it. Yeah, sure, there are these special people that drink this shit that makes them think faster! That will replace computers! No, it doesn’t, he never successfully integrates them into the plot enough to make it believable, they all just serve the position of average-importance characters gumming up the works with more inner monologue.
  • Nuclear devices are supposed to be illegal, but they still exist, because Paul uses them on the shield wall at the end. Umm, you mean to tell me that an emperor aligned with a sadistic family who destroys the Atreides’ stronghold on Arrakis at the beginning, wouldn’t, umm, say fuck it and just nuke the shit out of Paul and his Fremen bitches? It would be about as annoying as the Soviets in Afghanistan, but with way more nukes and power, and well, he’s the emperor, and since we’re going along with the feudal palace intrigue thing, that would kind of fit in there. No? Idiot. And trying to get around this obvious hole with a “but it’s illegal” thing is so lame. Trust me, people in power really don’t give a shit when it comes down to it. They really don’t. And when everyone really only cares about the spice, which if you don’t get it yet is a symbol of oil reliance by the way, probably wouldn’t care that much if they nuked a few annoying nomads who are screwing up their harvesting of it.
  • One more to save space, there are more but let’s not make this another Dune. This might not annoy some people, but it annoys the hell out of me. Little things can create big holes, and they should for you too, if you’re actually thinking instead of masturbating with spice. So the worms, cool and all, giant and shit. So apparently they live on ‘sand plankton’ and little worms, the little worms create the spice, all in the circle of life. Cool. Really, though, the little creatures seem to only take up a meager amount of space, and like, the worms are fucking giant, so ummm, is that enough for them to live on? Let’s let that go, fine, like whales or something. One problem, the Fremen ride worms to get around the desert. Awesome. But worms are territorial, and we never find out what happens if one worm is ridden into the path of another? But, you say, they’re being controlled by the hooks so they don’t care about anything but keeping their sensitive underflesh from the sand so they can be steered clear of each other! But, oh ho, what about riding on a worm into the territory of another worm, which is not being ridden?!!! OH SHITsays Herbert from beyond the grave.

So, I hope you enjoyed my detailed, yet brief analysis. These are the main points of issue I had with Dune. In the end, to sum up, it’s got a lot going for it, the Avalon Hill board game, the excellent Sci-Fi Channel series, the lovable bomb that was the David Lynch film that’s better in the television version though no one will admit it, the stillsuits, original editions that will nabe you around $800, and especially those awesome sandworms, but the majority is blown on poorly thought-out character development, boring diaglog, extensive descriptions way past the necessary limit, and a lack of action. The ending battle is very cool, but it’s not really worth the amout of reading to get there, plus it only lasts a few pages while a conversation between Paul and his mother is like twenty chapters. Dune will get you excited at first with its density and superficially wonderful universe, but this grows stale in about 150 pages, and the rest is minimum wage work until the end. If you’re looking for good sci-fi, there’s better out there, don’t listen to the fan boys. Anytime they appear, there’s usually a reason to stay the hell away. Dune proves this on several levels. So, next, we’ll move on to Dune Messiah! Is it any better? Hell no, but at least it’s shorter!

Written by Arkus the Evil Dictator

Frank Herbert: Dune
Score: 2.5 / 5

Idiot Comment War Zone

44 Responses to Frank Herbert’s Dune Sucks: Part I – Dune

  1. I really like wɦat you ghys aгe up too. This sot of clever worк and coѵerage!
    Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve inсluded you guys to our blogroll.

  2. As Norman O. Brown said – literalism is the enemy. Your criticism of Dune is absolutely irrelevant and lack any thorough argumentation, which isn’t surprising seeing that your reasoning involves an abundance utilization of the word ‘cool’. The need to resort to a deconstruction of a story through the probing of its so called plot-holes reflects resplendently your lack of imagination which prevents you from properly grasping the abstract implications of a creative science fiction novel. This is only aggravated by the fact that you laud mediocre science fiction writers who relied heavily on scientific theories to develop futuristic stories without even possessing the genuine abilities to build immersive and distinguished universes (Asimov, Aldiss and Anderson were second-rate writers). Dune is the epitome of the art of abstraction – it’s impossible to properly understand Herbert’s insinuations and allegorical style without having thoroughly read the works of Henry Corbin and without having a general knowledge of Islamic history and philosophy (isn’t the most tremendous thing about the novel the fact that Herbert predicted everything that would happen in the Middle-East from 1973 onward .. Khomeini saying that there is no difference between the Malakut and the physical world 17 years after the release of the novel echoes the God-Emperor theocracy depicted in Dune and its intimate connection with the imaginal kingdom – did you know that the Fremen people is a direct reference to the Shi’a ? – apparently not).
    Herbert is seeking to shatter the concept of ego-consciousness through an extensive elaboration of a modified Buddhist spirituality and Isma’ilism on the one hand (which is corroborated by the myriad of references to the cyclical nature of time within the Dune universe) while eradicating the hero archetype (and its underlying monotheistic rudiments, hence the messiah metaphors and Paul’s ego-death) on the other hand, in order to develop the importance of the anima mundi/the mundus imaginalis (‘alam al-mithal) as the only path to ultimate spiritual development – which is accompanied by its appropriate political, ecological, sociological and anthropological evolution.
    Your understanding of the story in such linear and superficial terms is astoundingly risible and it’s rather pathetic that you believe that the novel is about a messianic figure coming to save the world – whereas it is the absolute opposite : it belongs to the tradition of polytheistic psychology and the promulgation of soul everywhere – or in other terms, the obliteration of a Cartesian consciousness which stems from the world’s preponderant monotheistic religions; a theme which would be progressively developed throughout the saga exhaustively.

    A poor criticism from your part that mirrors your lack of understanding of Herbert’s intentions and the story’s depth should not be publicly published as it might scare off potential readers. There is nothing wrong with not liking the novel, but it is incredibly moronic to declare something like : “Dune sucks” without grasping anything about it.

    A spurious and shameful article.

    • Stanley Stepanic

      Hmm, in defense of Arkus, did you read it? He’s pretty thorough hahaha. I’m sure he’ll look forward to your respones to the other books (he has to go through 4-6 yet), and I’m sure he’ll equally not care when you comment, as he usually doesn’t with anyone. Having read Dune myself, as well as tons of sci-fi, it’s definitely not what it’s claimed to be. Maybe he’s crude, sure, but he explains himself well, the usage of ‘sucks’ or ‘cool’ is just how he writes, but the criticism is quite apparent. And hey, what’s wrong with deconstruction?! Clearly hit a nerve with you hahaa. Thanks for reading!

  3. Pingback: Frank Herbert’s Dune Sucks: Part II – Dune Messiah | Deaf Sparrow

  4. On the whole, I agree with Arkus. I got on the web with the burning conviction that I-can’t-possibly-be-the-only-one-to-see-the-dried-up-crap-in-this-book. *Commiseration* After about a month from reading it however, I was inclined to let Herbert exist as sort of a sci-fi James Fenimore Cooper. But seriously, Dune is a pain. I wouldn’t even bother berating (or reading) the sequel prequel mess. The first book’s enough.

    • Stanley Stepanic

      Hahaha, good one. The prequels, you’re on your own, the sequels, well Arkus is going through those slowly. Actually migrating those from the soon-to-be-deleted blog, and then he’ll finish the rest off.

      • The problem with his language is that it is designed to denigrate anyone – that is, the person as well as the argument – who disagrees with him, the way the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world do it.

  5. I don´t know why I even bother commenting on this piece of shit which you call analysis, but the sheer amount of stupidity in this article is so big that I cannot but explain why you are a huge moron (even my writing style suffered because of you, normally I write calm and objective).

    The first two of your criticisms come around as just “Meh I don´t want to read anything more complex than Treasure Island because I have ADHD and cannot remember anything from the last page.” Have you ever heard of a book called Ulysses? That novel is quiet a big deal in literature . It would kill you.

    OF COURSE novels about feudal intrigues existed before Dune, as did books about Messiahs (the Bible etc) and sci-fi novels. All these were established genres. Oh, and there were also books starring witches before Dune. But which novel had aristocrats in a used future setting while exploring the dangers of messianic archetypes with concepts of different religions, cultures, philosophies and politics interwoven in a puzzle where all parts affect each other (the setting influences the direction of the intrigues etc). There were also novels about heroic journeys before homer. You even recognize that all the woven structure, but criticize it for SOMETHING without even giving examples.

    The obviousness of the plot is part of the point that the novel tries to make. Our “hero” knows what will happen but fruitlessly tries to avoid it because of the price humanity would have to pay. If the main story would have unexpected turns, it would defeat the message that prescience is dangerous because it traps the universe in the seen future.

    Since English is not my first language and I have read the German translation I cannot really comment on the style, except that I had no criticisms although bad style usually annoys the hell out of me.

    Pauls personality changes several times over the course of the book and while most other characters remain rather static (exceptions zb feyd-rautha, pauls mother, stilgar and others), every important character is diverse.

    Your next criticism is so utterly idiotic that everyone with more than one braincell should see it.

    Concerning your “plotholes”:

    1. Where did herbert say that the jihad eliminated all machines? It was only about robots and complex computers. Also the setting is fairly medieval for everyday humans so there won´t be much problems concerning traffic. Why has no planet or society opposed the ban on machines? Do you know what jihat means (at least in this context)? And afterwards everyone who would oppose the ban simply got killed.

    2. Have you even read the book? Nuclear weapons weren´t illegal, only the use of them against humans. And the houses would not use them not because it was illegal, but because if they had used them, every other house would have nuked all their planets, just like in real life. By the way, if you think you are intelligent because you see the analogy between spice and oil you are even stupider than I thought. Unlike the real interesting stuff in dune thats plain obvious.

    3. Ok, I have to give that to you, that could be a plothole. Although, didn´t herbert write somewhere that they change worms when they enter another territory or something like that? I´m not sure, because I haven´t read Dune in a long time (AND I CAN STILL REMEMBER MOST STUFF!!!) but I think there was something like that.

    All in all your analysis is incredibly shallow and I wonder how and if you ever got through high school. But i guess thats to expect from somebody whose favorite philosopher is heidegger.

    • Arkus the Evil Dictator Arkus the Evil Dictator

      I guess I should take the time to respond to so well-written a response.

      1. Yes, I’ve read big literature. So what? Dune is big for the wrong reasons. There’s big and good, and there’s big and shitty. This is the latter.

      2. No examples? Practically the entire article is filled with them. Read it again.

      3. The “hero” is just as wooden as anyone else. The problem is that the messiah complex is too obvious and lacks refinement in this case as well as creativity. He simply lifted the classic idea and did nothing new. What’s the point of avoiding something you know is going to happen anyway? Fruitless waste of time and his “humanness” isn’t made believable enough to assume he’s simply doing what anyone else would. Hmm, how does that make him a messiah figure then if he acts like everyone else? Hell, even Christ knew he was going to die, but he certainly didn’t try to stop it. And it’s somehow better than this.

      4. No need to comment on the diversity of characterizations, you clearly haven’t read enough better literature to make a comparison. You’re the typical fanboy who finds more in this piece of shit than there really is.

      5. Problem with eliminating machines except for lesser, complex types, is for a futuristic society to exist they require higher-level machines that can essentially think. It’s not sufficiently explained to make it possible, but it is a decent idea. It’s been done much better, though, in other short stories. “Call Me Joe,” for example, provides perfect substance to make the idea work on a more realistic level. He is instead operating in the realm of science-fantasy, not science-fiction proper because it.

      6. Why would all of the planets concerned with the ONE power source for space travel give a crap about a planet of barbarians? Hint, they wouldn’t.

      7. No, he never commented on worms entering other territories, why do you think I made an issue of it. If you can’t remember THAT, then how can you remember anything else of value?

      8. As for your one comment, there were, in fact, several short stories, novellas, and works that included the very themes you think are so inventive for Dune. The only real thing is added was the focus on ecology tied into the mix. Norton had several shorter works with the themes you describe, including Witch World, which had plenty of sexually active power witches. If you’re looking for other works with similar themes try perhaps City, The High Crusade, Star Guard, or if you want to get really crazy check out all of de Camp’s works in the Viagens series. It’s so funny, you act like Dune is so original and you make it VERY clear you haven’t read sci-fi, because anyone who has knows he simply assimilated many old ideas into one book. Pathetic rebuke on your part. Go read some more real sci-fi to get the hang of it, pal.

      9. Just like anyone else who’s annoyed by my assessment you clearly didn’t read it thoroughly, just superficially, got pissed, and then went off without considering what I had to say carefully. Do I swear for flavor? Sure, but within that swearing is a point to be made, read it again, and again, and then write more so I can make you look silly.

  6. Pingback: Frank Herbert’s Dune Sucks: Part III – Children of Dune | Deaf Sparrow

  7. I agree with the author of this piece. Hearing all the hype and hoopla about Dune I picked it up found it to be a yawn. I am a fan of the sci-fi genre have read the whole of the Foundation Series..found the Dune series to be unbelievably shallow and boring.

  8. I must say, I agree most emphatically with the author about Dune as a whole. I read the first three books and decided it was a good point to get off the bus. It’s not that the books were horrible, exactly, but there was just something off about them, something that made me unable to bring myself to check God Emperor of Dune out of the library. The author has (mostly) expressed that feeling quite eloquently.
    That being said, I am a believer in giving credit where credit’s due, and dismissing Herbert’s contribution to melding fantasy and sci-fi by stating Witch World came out three years earlier is a bit unfair. I am a huge fan of the Witch World books, and sure, there’s a little sci-fi in there, but not much, especially after the first book. Norton goes whole-hog fantasy pretty quick in that series, and it works, and they’re great reads, but certainly not comparable to Dune when it comes to a well-wrought balance of the genres.
    To be honest, blending the genres has been around since Edgar Rice Burroughs if not before, but Herbert managed to not only bring this blend out of a niche readership, he put a spin on it that I certainly haven’t run into in earlier titles, or many since that have done it as well. I look at it like this: In most instances, a blend of fantasy and sci-fi thrives on the juxtaposition of the two, “swords in space” if you will. Herbert, with his generations of breeding programs, finely-honed mental abilities, and the effects of spice on humans, managed to take things that usually fell under the realm of “magic” and make them viable enough to exist as a natural part of a science fiction setting. Essentially, he “scienced the magic”, and he did it so well that it’s hard to really call it either sci-fi or fantasy, as it has pretty equal servings of both. I guess the space setting is the tipping point for most people (and publishers).
    So give the man his due. The contribution of Dune to countless works of both fantasy and sci-fi should’ve really garnered a mention in your “the good” section, because as much as I might not like the book, some of my (and probably your) favorite authors have been inspired by and borrowed from it, both subtly and gregariously.

    • I can’t speak for Arkus, he rarely speaks for himself anyway, but I have to say this is the best comment I’ve read on this site in awhile. Though I agree with his review as a whole, you make some great points here.

  9. I’m reading Dune at the moment. I’m about 140 pages in and I hate it. My biggest gripe (aside from the flat characterisation, the wooden dialogue, the laborious over-emphasis on the minutiae of every aspect of Arrakis, the lack of action, the predictability, the incessant overuse of mostly unnecessary inner monologues, and the ham fisted exposition) is the relentlessly portentous, po-faced tone of the whole thing. I don’t remember the last time I read such a humourless book. It really is a chore. I was hoping it gets better but, judging by this review, I shouldn’t be optimistic.

  10. i enjoyed reading your article
    i disagree and i think youre being silly about it but youre a good enough writer that it kept me interested and imo thats what matters.
    thanks for sharing your work.

  11. To understand the first novel, you must read the next 5. I wasn’t that impressed either until I got to god emporer, heretics and chapterhouse.

    • Stanley Stepanic Stanley Stepanic

      Oh haahaha, don’t egg him on, he did read all of them, the originals that is.

    • If it takes 6 brick-like books to get to the interesting part, I think I’ll pass. Read Dune ages ago, and agree with OP. Might be fantastic for fanatics, but not everyone has the time or interest.

      • “Brick-sized books”

        What the hell are you all reading that you think Dune is so long? It’s 500 pages; an average length. If an elementary student can handle a 600-800 page Harry Potter book, you should be able to get through an average adult novel.

        Arkus’ problem is that, by his own admission, he’s intellectually incapable of taking on Dune. It’s too long for him. It’s too much for him to remember. Based on his preposterous “plot-holes,” he was incapable of comprehending what he was reading.

        That’s fine, but Arkus shouldn’t pretend like his subjective experience of the novel — that it’s shit — is objective fact. It’s his opinion. His empty criticism of Dune “fan-boys” is just an easy, intellectually lazy way for him to get around the fact that most people who have read the book strongly disagree with him.

        • Hi, Brian, Arkus rarely responds to comments, but I decided to respond to this one because it doesn’t sound like you read through his complaints. Like most commenters you clearly skimmed and in rage typed away without thinking or letting it sink in. Did you stop at the length argument? His problem with it, if you read carefully, is he found it needlessly long, not something he couldn’t handle because of the length. Keep reading, because he says way more than that. He told me he’s not going to respond anymore unless the person in question actually has a substantial counter-argument to make. Try again?

  12. I agree that Dune is flawed. I agree that Dune is overhyped. I’ll freely admit that I haven’t read much classic sci-fi outside of Heinlein and C. Clarke, and therefore Arkus may be right and I don’t know what I’m missing.
    But despite its flaws, I enjoyed Dune. I enjoyed it when I first read it at 10 years old, without grasping the bulk of the metaphysical stuff. I enjoyed it when I reread it in highschool, and I enjoyed it when I reread it in the last week at age 23, critically observing many of the flaws (ESPECIALLY the poor characterization) that Arkus observes.
    The heart of this book- to me- is the sense of epic inevitability, of terrible purpose, and the momentum that Herbert gathers leading up to the climax. The ideas of the Bene-Gesserit discipline (close observation, fine muscle control) and all of Herbert’s ecological and philosophical thoughts are interesting to me now. But the momentum of Paul’s quest for revenge and fear of his own destiny always appealed to me.

    • Arkus the Evil Dictator Arkus the Evil Dictator

      Thank you for actually taking the time to read and generate a considerate comment, instead of the usual idiots we get around here. One thing I’d say is that the momentum you mention takes way too long to really develop. I enjoy a heady read, but it would have been nice to have smaller climaxes towards the greater one, because of how large it is. That much plot building towards a rather dull climax was pretty disappointing to me. As for the epic inevitability, that was one of my biggest problems, he just lifted classic messiah mythology, when it comes down to it, and didn’t really do much that was creative with it. Philosophy, sure, in fact God Emperor has a lot of it and I enjoyed those aspects, but again, since you clearly know yourself, nothing Herbert did was really original for sci-fi, but derivative. Either way, thanks again for the thoughtful comment. Keep reading.

  13. You sound like a person without any maturity or life experience, which probably explains why you didn’t like Dune, and why you write like a 12 year old. None of what you highlighted as “pros” are any of the things that make the novel interesting.

    Pros for me:

    1) Grand scale of politics and human systems, which is enjoyable if you have any experience in the adult world with politics, and if you enjoy thinking about how social systems operate
    2) Psychedelic mysticism, which is enjoyable if you’ve done any psychedelic drugs (and will probably fly over your head if you haven’t)
    3) Exploring illusions about leadership, beliefs, power, and not just the power of individuals over others, but individuals over themselves

    And more. It sounds like you completely missed everything good about this book. Granted it’s not an artistic masterpiece, but it’s way more interesting than you’re giving it credit for. Maybe you just need to grow up a little more to get it.

    • Stanley Stepanic Stanley Stepanic

      I’m sure you childishly calling him a child since you’re so adult is going to make him want to respond adultly. Arkus barely pays attention to comments like this. I’ve read them so many times I can see why, because it’s clear you didn’t read what he said thoroughly.

  14. Just finished Dune over the weekend. It was tough to get through, just doesn’t grab you and compel you to turn the next page the way other stories do. I enjoyed it, but I will not read it again nor continue to other novels after it. But one thing you mention that is not quite right is the illegalization of nukes/atomics. They were not illegal entirely, they were illegal to use against people. Paul specifically defends his use of them in the final battle scene in this way.

  15. I searched for ‘Dune cliched’ and landed here. What a laborious read this one was. All for what? As Arkus has summed up excellently the plot was predictable from the first page. On top of that the characters were so fucking black and white that I turned color blind for a few weeks. Not to mention all the indigestion I got from the cheesy dialogue…

    • Yeah having read it myself that dialog…those inner monologues. It’s just awful. The only people I’ve personally found who like it are people who have almost no experience reading science fiction.

  16. I’ve read Dune many times. I’ve always thought there are no wrong answers to questions like “Did you like this book?” or “What is your favourite movie?”

    It is difficult to summarise a ‘reason’ why I’ve enjoyed the book so much. If I had to say, I would mention that, in a precursor to the Song of Ice and Fire series, no-one in the book is a straw character or moron. Sure, some characters behave in more ‘honourable’ ways than others, but almost all the protagonists have justifications for their actions, and their motivations are clear and easily understood.

    In some ways it really is (for better or worse) a collection of memorable set pieces, such as the initial Gom Jabbar test, the hunter-seeker assassination attempt, the gladiatorial battle in Giedi Prime, the duel with Jamis etc etc. The series IMO falls down a serious hole around Book 3, but the other books certainly have their devotees..

  17. I just finished reading Dune and I’m pretty pissed off. Thank you for writing this article, it certainly helped easy the pain of wasting so many hours of my life.

    A few additional low points I’d like to mention:

    The brief sojourn with King James Bible prose “You told me once the words of Kitab al-Ibar,” he said. “You told me: ‘Woman is thy field; go then to thy field and till it.'” They talk like this for a bit then Frank Herbert gets bored and it doesn’t show up again. Fuck off.

    Baron Harkonnen; the big, fat, gay, cartoonishly evil, paedophile man.

    How is this not fucking groan worthy to every person reading?

    Also, the fight scenes read like transcriptions of Yu-Gi-Oh battles.

  18. Thank you so much for this. My friend is forcing me to listen to the audiobook of DUNE and it’s destroying my soul. I’ve been reading Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ for the past year and DUNE is about as far removed from Discworld’s brilliant snappy dialogue, amazingly lifelike characters, and great action scenes as it is possible to be. It’s like spending a year eating cake and then .. . .being forced to eat sand. haha.

    Just glad someone out there agrees with me. Finally.

    This review would make my friend soooooo mad. THANK YOU

    • Stanley Stepanic Stanley Stepanic

      Good, show it to him. We’re still waiting on the sequels to be fully reviewed for more tears, but the first one gets people going enough.

  19. I read the first book and thought maybe I missed something. It was soooo boring. And I read. I like Walden by Thoreau, and most people would call that an English class assignment. The point is, even things like wheel of time are massive and not perfect, but I enjoy most of what I read a good deal. I kept waiting and waiting and forgetting little details because they were never really memorable and stuck with so many other unnecessary details.

    Worst book ever? Probably not. Some cool ideas? Sure. But how it is supposedly one of the best sci-fi books ever? Absolutely no idea. For those who like it, that’s cool. But I just don’t feel like reading more of a series that started with an entire large book that gave me no enjoyment. :-/

  20. I started reading Dune very enthusiastically and that enthusiasm plunged in the first few “chapters”.. if you could call them that. Scratch that, you can’t. Say.. in the first 30 pages, and then I forced myself to like it till I hit 100-something and it.just.did.not.get.any.freaking.better. So I pulled the plug. If it would have been about the slow action I would have been able to carry on (for reference: I read Atlas Shrugged), but JFC, Frank Herbert really sucks as a writer – horrible, cheap, fragmented, clichee-ridden dialogue, a bad mix of styles, settings, ideas – like going through a house that has victorian bedrooms, ranch-style living rooms, glass walls, and it’s in the middle of a lavender field.. with a helipad! And the characters really are wooden, completely inconsistent, and impossible to connect with, so to your 6 and 7 I say hear hear!! Shame about all the original stuff. Herbert should have just hired a ghost writer.

  21. The easiest answer is that art is a subjective experience, and not everybody is going to like the same book/band/movie/etc. Just because you don’t like a book doesn’t make you the smartest geek on the internet.

    • Stanley Stepanic Stanley Stepanic

      You read it and commented tho.

      • I enjoyed your essay and even agreed with a couple of points, but for more than 20 years I’ve read numerous opinions on the internet about everything. There are people who don’t like Hemingway, Melville, Shakespeare, the Stones, the Beatles or Dylan, who think Rod Serling was boring or Hitchcock is overrated, who think Bradbury or Tolkien are dull or predictable. It’s hip and fashionable to tear things down and pick them apart, rather than accept something on its own merits and recognize that everyone has different tastes.

        • Stanley Stepanic Stanley Stepanic

          Here’s the problem with that opinion. It essentially states there can be no objectivity in criticism, which is false. For example, a painting by Raphael is far better than something puked out by a starving artist at a flea market. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t like it, but that in itself doesn’t mean it’s somehow good. It just means someone likes it. Thus, what is being said here is that Dune is objectively bad, not subjectively, and that’s quite an important difference. Without objectivity, how can we truly judge a work of art, regardless of what it is? Objectivity does exist, even if you don’t agree with it.

  22. I read it, and I’m commenting. I liked it, the article, and dune. Thanks for the funny article. I thought dune was boring too, yet I still liked it. 🙂 That’s right, taste my emoticon.

  23. thanks for that write-up. I juts wanted to add, as someone mentioned the German version above: I was very much looking forward to reading Dune, and was very disappointed when I finally read it a couple of years ago.

    There was too much “telling” instead of “showing” concerning the brilliance of Paul, and I found the language, the prose, to be quite bad. I went online to see if it was a job badly done by the translator, and found similar comments in reviews regarding the language (though it was not too easy to find critical reviews). It seems, then, that the translator actually has done a good job, in even recreating mediocre prose in the translated version.

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