Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dune (audiobook) by Frank Herbert, read by Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance, and others

Dune is science fiction.

I've opted not to include a read-alikes list.


I started listening to this audiobook for several reasons. One, it was long (22 hours), which meant I wouldn't have to pick another book for a while. Two, it looked like a full-cast audiobook, and I was in the mood for one of those. And three, I had read it when I was a teen but couldn't remember much about it, so I figured a re-read (or re-listen) was in order. I think most of my memories of the series actually came from the 2000 miniseries.

Less happened in this book than I originally remembered. It begins when Paul Atreides is 15 and he and his family move to Arrakis, the harsh desert planet that is the center of spice production (spice being the most important and valuable substance in the universe). Paul and his mother, the Bene Gesserit Lady Jessica, barely survive one of their own people's treachery. They join a band of Fremen, waiting until the day they can drive House Harkonnen off Arrakis and Paul can assume his rightful place as Duke Atreides.

I'll get the thing that most aggravated me out of the way first: this is only partially a full-cast audiobook. For some bizarre reason, the book would occasionally switch from full-cast to single-reader. I have never listened to something like this before, and I hope to never do so again. It was as though two otherwise decent audiobook versions had had their tracks shuffled together, sometimes changing from one to another in the middle of a scene/conversation.

Dune has a huge cast, and this made remembering who everyone was even more difficult than it would usually have been. For example, Simon Vance's Count Fenring had a very unique speech pattern. When the full-cast tracks kicked in, that speech pattern was gone. Vance's Leto Atreides had an English accent, while Leto's full-cast actor did not. The person who played Leto in the full-cast parts also, I think, played Stilgar, which made any full-cast scenes involving Stilgar and either Jessica or Paul somewhat odd.

As far as the story went, it had all the wonderful political intrigue and interesting world-building that I remembered. It was also slower-paced than I remembered, and I had completely forgotten how young Paul was during most of the book. This is probably in part due to the 2000 miniseries, and in part due to Paul's behavior. He rarely came across as a 15-year-old boy.

I found Jessica to be a far more interesting character than Paul. Both of them were cunning, but she managed to feel human throughout the entire book, while Paul became less and less so. Although they were both master manipulators, weaving themselves into preexisting Fremen religious beliefs (which were in turn established by one of the Bene Gesserit long ago), Jessica seemed less bound up by what she was doing than her son. By the end of the book, I found myself actively disliking Paul.

I've never read beyond Dune. Part of me is tempted to do so, because I love the intricate politics and world. However, I'm less-than-thrilled at the idea of subjecting myself to more Paul the messiah, who I became very, very tired of in this book. I wanted to shout at him every time he became irritated with his mother for not being as prescient as him – seriously, Paul, don't give your mother lip, she was one of the ones who trained you. Also, I have decided that a God Mode Gary Stu is worse than a Mary Sue. I have mixed feelings about the Bene Gesserit, but one thing I know for sure is that it annoyed the heck out of me when Paul decided that he should be able to do anything that they, a group composed entirely of women, could do.

All in all, I'm glad I re-listened to this, and I'm also glad I'm finally done. Whether I decide to continue on or not, it's at least nice to get a break from Paul the messiah and the various horrible things that characters in this series do while scrabbling to stay alive.

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