Frank Herbert: Dune (1965) Book II Muad’Dib

It’s time for the second Dune readalong post. The readalong is hosted by Carl V from Stainless Steel Droppings,  The Little Red Reviewer and (slight change of the initial three) Grace from Books without any Pictures. This weeks questions have been sent by Redhead (The Little Red Reviewer). Check out the other links here.

I’m happy to report that I liked part II much better. There is far less dialogue and if there is, it is an exchange between two people and not purely an instruction of the reader.

Was Liet’s identity a surprise?  Who do you think he really works for?

I’m not totally sure about this question. I thought he died? I thought since he was a Fremen he also secretly worked for them.

What do you think of the Fremen culture?  Is this a culture you think you’d enjoy spending some time with?

They sound like a very proud and interesting people and reminded me a bit of the Tuareg or any other desert dwelling nomads. A lot of Dune is inspired by North African culture. But since I like rain and plants more than anything else in the world and as appealing as I think some of it sounds, thanks but no thanks, I wouldn’t want to live with them. Furthermore I’m not into duelling. A fierce fighting people isn’t the kind I would want to spend time with. One aspect that I liked is their patient attempt to re-green the desert. Their elaborate plans sounded very convincing.

What do you think of Count Fenring’s unusual verbal mannerisms?  

I found it quite annoying and was trying to imagine how it would sound. I’m not sure what Herbert wants to tell us with this?

This is a far future empire with very little in the way of computerization. Information is often passed down orally, and schools (such as the Mentats and the Bene Gesserit) have formed to train young people in memorization and information processing.  What are you thoughts on a scifi story that is very “low-tech”?  Does that sound like a feasible future? A ridiculous one?

This is precisely the reason why I thought from the beginning that it really is a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy blend. Considering the fact that resources are limited on earth, and very likely on other planets as well, low-tech seems a more viable way to go. These people are advanced in other ways. The mental faculties are far more developed and this would be something to wish for. Unfortunately, humans stay humans, and will, even with low-tech support only , try to exploit others. At least that’s how it is on Dune.

If you found the beginning of the book tough to get into, do you find that you’re having an easier time with the middle portion, now that all the “set-up” is complete?

Yes, it is far easier, as I said in the intro, there is much less dialogue in this part and finally people seem to talk to each other. At least to a certain extent. In part I the dialogue was meant for the reader to understand life on Dune, which is a highly artificial way of getting information across. Since a lot is “set-up” now, he did let go of this. The reading was more fluent and there was quite a bit of action. I liked the part when Paul and his mother are on their own. That part was quite gripping.

The center portion of the book is still pretty dialog heavy, but what I’ve noticed is the subtlety of the dialog. Things left unsaid are often more important than things that are said.  What do you think of that as a stylistic choice? does it make the dialog more interesting? less interesting? 

Any change in the dialogue form was a welcome change for me. I appreciate it much more the way it is handled here but it is still far from realistic. And whenever the parts are centered on the Baron, the dialogue is still heavy (meaning too much and artificial).

Dune was written in the 60’s. Does it feel dated to you? How does it compare, writing style-wise, to more contemporary science fiction you’ve read?

I don’t know any new science fiction. It doesn’t feel dated, no. Maybe the strong Arabic element is dated. I have a feeling a contemporary writer wouldn’t use a word like jihad and would try to be more inventive in terms of cultural elements and not just pick from existing cultures.

If you’ve never read this book before, where do you think the storyline is headed?

I’m really not sure. I start to have a feeling that we will be left with a lot of open questions at the end of Part III. It’s epic, so that seems logical. I wonder if we will even get introduced to the Princess Irulan. I would like to read something about her. But – should anyone wonder – I will not go on reading this series. The moment I close part III, that’s it for me.

61 thoughts on “Frank Herbert: Dune (1965) Book II Muad’Dib

  1. I’m not sure I’ll ever read any of the other Dune books either, but that is not really a reflection on my feelings of this book, which I love, but more on the idea that this book is often looked at as a stand alone story that was then built upon and I am more than okay (at this point, never say never) with cherishing this one for the gem I am finding it to be.

    We’ll always have to agree to disagree on the dialogue parts which don’t feel artificial to me.

    You mention exploitation and it is interesting how human nature plays out very realistically in this novel. Even Paul’s mother is constantly thinking about how to use the religious fervor of the Fremen to exploit their great numbers to somehow help Paul reclaim his dukedom. I found the parts with Paul and his mother very hard to put down and they kept me turning the pages wanting to see what would happen with them next. Interesting how Paul comes to think of his mother as an enemy of sorts as well, especially given the fact that his visions all seem to end up with results that he desperately wants to avoid.

    I think the Arabic elements help add to this not feeling dated but instead give it a sense of history. There are some contemporary science fiction authors who are writing near-future science fiction set in places like India that are really interesting, and here I am primarily thinking of Ian McDonald, though there are others. These are actually an interesting contrast to Dune where they are far more hi-tech stories (because they are theoretically set in a future not too terribly far ahead of today) but also incorporate a great deal of authentic culture. The short story collection Cyberabad Days is one really good example.

    I was pleased that the odd language of the Count and his wife was a very short-lived part of the book. For all my love of the story thus far I am afraid much more of that might have had me flinging the book away in disgust. Had it seemed to serve more of a purpose it would have been more palatable, but as it stands it was jarring and annoying and seemed sort of pointless. They could have very well had those same conversations with each other in whispered voices or in private and the intrigue would have been as well served.

    Each section of this book has held surprises thus far and I’m looking forward to section three, not the least of which to see how Herbert ties things up in just a few hundred pages.

  2. If he ties things up, I guess, I will end up liking it as a stand alone as well but since I’m so not familiar with it, I’m afraid we will be left hanging there with too many open questions.
    I’m very gald you added some recommendations, I will have a look.
    I just think that nowadays an author would tiptoe around words like Jihad. But maybe this is my European perception. We live in a culture that is – and I’m writing this free of any emotion – getting more and more Islamic. Depending on the country you live in, whole cities are transformed into Islamic cities, so for this point of view, the use of the words would be used with much more reluctance.
    I think you are very right, as you pointed out in your post, that Dune has a timeless quality.
    I think the way he handles the speech mannerism of the count shows the problems he has with handling indirect speech. This would have been better rendered indirectly. It is either Herbert’s choice to render everything, including thoughts, directly or it is a lack of skill. This remains my main problem with the book. I don’t know if the way he uses dialogue is cunning or a failure.

    • I suspect you are right and the word ‘jihad’ would be something authors would be very sensitive about using today unless they were writing specifically about a time period in which that word was historically accurate.

      The counts speech, or the way it is handled, reminds me of the problems I had with Robert A. Heinlein’s, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Only with Heinlein he had a better explanation of why the speech patterns were the way that they were.

      The only other example I can think of is Gully Foyle in Alfred Bester’s excellent classic, The Stars My Destination. He too has a strange affected speech pattern but it quickly passes and there is a more well established basis for it in the story.

      • This is exactly the problem I had with the use of the word jihad. Out of context, if you use the word for every religiously motivated war, it vilifies a people and their religion. I wouldn’t want to count how many times Christianism was the culprit when a war was started.
        I’m sure he would think twice before using the word today (out of historical context).
        I aslo belive that used differently I wouldn’t mind a speech problem but the way he handles it, seemed akward. I haven’t read Heinlein.

        • The use of the word ‘jihad’ was interesting. I think that when Dune was written, it didn’t necessarily have the connotation that it has in the post-9/11 world. Since there aren’t many different religions in the world of Dune, I can see it making sense.

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one who missed the Liet question. Carl has a good answer to the question on his posting. I laughed when I read it and was like ooops.

    I’m with you, it would be hard to live with a group that fights others and themselves. If someone challenged me I would just want to talk it out or give them a hug. I wouldn’t last too long I don’t think. They didn’t seem like the hugging type.

    I also question his use of the word jihad. Many people don’t understand the real meaning of jihad. However, it is hard to fault the author on this since the term is abused in today’s world as well.

    • Yeah, it is an oops moment when you read his answer. I was tempted at first to wait for someone else’s post because I didn’t want to look silly but then I thought I might not be alone…
      They really are fierce and although I like loyalty I don’t think you have to prove it by stabbing others. I found it not justified that Jamis challenged Paul like this and was thinking of Wellington (Next to a battle lost there is nothing as sad as a battle won) after Paul won.
      I realize that in the 60s jihad wasn’t so problematic. Nowadays it is. And abused, I agree.

      • I didn’t understand why they had to fight to the death. That seemed over the top for me.

        Funny I was also tempted to wait and see how others answered the Liet question!

        • Totally over the top but it was one of those scenes in which an author can show a lot about his characters and the world they live in. I found the moment when Paul cries and shed’s tears, preciuos water, quite powerful.
          The book can also be read as a lesson on how to handle natural resources. When I think how careless we often are with all we take for granted, the air, water, animals, plants and what not. Insofar it is a great book.

          • So was the whole fight scene scripted just so the writer could have Paul shed a tear?

            It saddens me to think what we as a people have done to this beautiful planet. And the earth, land, animals, seas, oceans, lakes, rivers, and everything have to suffer because of us.

            • I think it is quite possible he did add it for that reason and t does work very well I think. I also liked the way Jessica made him feel bad about killing the man. She didn’t want him to rejoice and start to enjoy killing people. I had a feeling that even Stilgar found it over the top and wonder why he did not intervene. He was superior.
              It does sadden me a great deal as well. We are not giving anything back of all we receive, we only take and take and take.

        • The fight to the death thing, along with the Baron’s nephew fighting gladiator style in an arena, is what reminded me of Rome. I often see this in books almost as an unconscious idea of history repeating itself and the governmental system in Dune seems at least partially based on Roman ideas, with an Emperor, etc.

          Rome during the period of Emperors seems to be the perfect stand in for the idea of what humanity will naturally revert to if allowed to wallow in its excesses, with a certain sect of wealthy and politically savvy people rising to the top, slavery as a workforce, and excesses like ‘to the death’ battles.

          Just my thoughts, of course.

          • This makes a lot of sense, Carl. It seems that the parallel to Rome was something I did register in the back of my mind but didn’t become fully aware of it. I didn’t think of it wanting to illustrate how history repeats itself but it seems very possible.
            Interesting, thanks for adding it.
            After all it is quite a complex book.
            If he had Rome in mind then I would say someone or something is doomed in the book. I wonder now if House Harkonnen will still exist at the end of Part III.

            • I am very interested in seeing a lot of things at the end of Part Three, because there seems to be a lot to be settled and not a lot of pages left to do it in. 🙂

              I hadn’t really thought much about the Roman influences before reading this either, but once it popped into my head I started thinking about other stories I’ve read or films I’ve seen where the future being portrayed mirrors parts of that time period.

  4. sorry about the confusion on the Liet question, he’s one of my favorite charaters, and i love his dual nature of a nearly god-like leader of the Fremen, while at the same time he’s a paid scientist of the Emperor and has to make everyone think he’s a beaurocrat. I should have worded that question better.

    looks like I’m the only one who wasn’t totally put off by Fenring being all hummmy and weird. my interpretation of what was going on may have been wrong, but it worked for me.

    gotta run, I’ll comment more on everyone’s discussions later tonight!

    • I was confused yes. He was a fascinating character and I was surprised he died so early. I was convinced we would read much more of him.
      I’ll have to read your interpretation. I didn’t not get this humm thing and just thought it would be hard to listen to if that would be what it sounded like.

  5. I love seeing all the different covers of Dune, The more worn, the better! I found Count Fenring quite annoying too. The fight to the death actually reminded me of ancient Greece, mostly because of recent readings of the Iliad and Odyssey. In the Odyssey the reader questions why Odysseus had to kill all of the suitors who were trying to get his wife and land. I can’t explain it well enough, but it had to do with how their survival depended a lot on a very strong leader. Or something like that.
    The duel of Paul and the Fremen was quite a contrast to the Feyd-Rautha fight. That one does make me think of Rome.
    I keep wondering why Princess Irulan is the only one with all these writings about Paul. Doesn’t anyone else write history? I also want to learn more about her.

    • Part of the fun when writing these posts is to find a new cover every time. I think I like the one of the book I’m reading best, it’s the one I included in the introdcutory post. I’ve seen others use it too. It’s a very classy cover.
      I liked this one here as well because it is so used.
      I hadn’t compared it to ancient Greece either. Forgot about the part of Odysseus return, I guess.
      The way the Princess writes these accounts made it feel as if she was writing them in a very distant future, when all the parties involved are already dead, but I think, when I watched the trailer of Dune, I saw her.

  6. Pingback: Dune (round 2) – Susan Hated Literature

  7. I agree with most people that the speech mannerisms of Count Fenring were irritating. I suppose they were the “secret language” between him & his wife? I just wish they could have been written differently, and if it had gone on much longer then I think i would have been very tempted to start skimming ahead.

    Lots of interesting discussion about the fight scenes. I thought they worked really well to contract Paul & the Harkonnen dude (I’m terrible with names) and their different outlooks on life and death. Interesting as well the comment that Lady Fenring made regarding upbringing being so detrimental to Feyd-Rautha’s personality. (I looked up his name).

    • I really think he could have chosen another way for this secret language thing.
      The fight scenes show us a lot about all the characters involved and the contrast between Paul and Feyd-Rautha couldn’t be bigger than in those scenes. There are a lot of names in this book. I would have wished for a list in the back, right after or before the glossary…

      • Its seems pretty simple, looking from the outside it, that he could have mentioned they had a secret language, given us one example of it, and then had every private conversation between the two of them after that appear normal to the reader. He could have dropped in some comment or thought from the Baron or another character later on to reinforce and remind the reader that no one else was understanding the conversation they were having about Feyd-Rautha.

        • Yes, he could. He may have had his reasons why he did it like this. I’ll see if I find something somewhere. I also wonder if this will be used again. Hope not.

    • I doubt it a little bit, given that there are really not a lot of pages left. I like the bits that she quotes a lot and would like to know what character she is.

  8. I cheated and didn’t answer the questions about Liet and Count Fenring. 🙂

    I never thought about the imilarities between Dune and ancient Rome, but duh! Very obvious and very apt comparision.

    • No cheating at all, Andrea said everyone could pick and choose questions. You may have been the only one who followed directions! 🙂 If anything the fact that most of us answered them all points to the fact that we all love to talk about books and if given an opening, we’ll take it. LOL!

      • Once you think about it, there is no denying that it has a lot in common with ancient Rome. I didn’t anwer the first question either, sort of, as I didn’t get it. 🙂
        I love to answer the questions, it makes me think about the book once more, discover things I didn’t pay attention to.

    • I enjoy it a lot and although I’m still not totally liking the book, it was worth it just for the discussions.
      Carl is organizing another one with a fantasy book. That would be more in my line but it’s a huge book, over 1000 pages. This one at over 600 is already considerable…

      • Just to give credit where credit is due, Deanna (Ibeeeg) is actually organizing the Way of Kings group read. I am just participating and taking one week of the questions. It is an ENORMOUS book, which is why quite honestly I would not be reading it if it weren’t for this group read developing on Twitter and everyone getting excited about it. The good thing about it is that it is divided up over 6 weeks, averaging 250ish pages per week, which isn’t too bad.

        Would love to have you (and anyone else who would like to) join us. Here are the details:

        Also, so loving that you stuck with us even though you aren’t liking the book like most of the rest of us are. Your input into the discussion has been fantastic. For me personally it has helped me frame my thoughts about what I like about the book and made me think more deeply about things I would have just glossed over.

        • Thanks, Carl, I’m happy to be useful. 🙂 I actually also like reading books I’m not a 100% keen on because they still make for great discussion.
          Thanks for the clarification about the readalong, I read it but forgot that she was organizing it.
          I agree another group read would be fun but I cannot squeeze it in. I have my own readalong book in August that has 800pages (an unwise choice page wise). At this point in time another huge book will not be an option.
          Maybe you could do one during R.I.P. with a shorter book. I think even people who didn’t participate enjoyed reading the posts. I must admit, the format with the questions is a great idea. It saves writing a summary and gets people to discuss.
          I really enjoyed partcipating, despite being the odd one…

  9. I second Carl. I give you credit for sticking with the book and I’ve enjoyed your comments and points. I’m hoping if I join the Way of the Kings that you will consider reading it as well. I’m a little cautious since it is such a long book. But it would be fun to do another group read. I need to make a decision soon!

    • Thanks, TBM… And it is an additional temptation, knowing you and Carl will be part of it but I cannot. It would not be wise… Although I’m going to have a closer look at the book. But I guess that to 90%, despite the temptation, I will not be able to do it.

  10. Caroline I totally understand! It is quite a committment and I will be in a middle of a move the last few weeks. So I am in the same boat, I want to, but don’t know if I can since I fear my discusssions at the end would be limited.

    • I am not good at doing something half, either I am in or out that’s why, with a sigh, I have to stay out… But there is goin to be another one during R.I.P. mena sI’m only half sad but still a bit.

  11. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed being part of this group read. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this and, after three decades of solitary reading, it’s opened up a whole new world for me.

    I’m also debating if I should join the Way of the Kings read-along. I love all the discussion and like the idea of reading something I wouldn’t normally pick up. But 1200 pages is a big commitment, especially as fantasy isn’t really my thing.

    I’d really appreciate it if you would post links to any other upcoming group reads you know about. I’m not on twitter or facebook so I’m completely out of the loop. TIA.

    • I enjoy it a lot as well. I host a monthly readalong on Literature and War… Admittedly it is less fun but I have some other ideas now. There are group reads on Caravana de Recuerdos blog, on Cornflower books but they are mostly parallel reviews, the discussions aren’t as lively as that. I’ll pass and leave links whenever I know something.
      What is your thing?

  12. I enjoy this readalong post of yours…the questions are really interesting. However, I am still not interested in reading this…or in other word, your answers still not making me interested 😉 even thought I love sci-fi.

    That second question…I am 100% with you. I much prefer Rain and Plants…no thanks for deserts.

    Looking forward to reading your 3rd series review.

    • I’m not exactly the best person to convert anyone to read Dune. But I’m the only one with some problems… The only thing I can say, it is one of a kind and was certainly hugely influential.
      And the readalong is great.

  13. Just so everyone knows, I plan to keep this group email list and I will send out an email for any group reads I host or participate in in the future and if any of this group hosts one of their own will be happy to get the word out. This has been a great group for spurring on discussions and would love to keep you all informed in case a future read sparks your interest.

  14. To address the early comments on this post, this book does stand alone. Later, I went on the read “Dune Messiah”, etc. If my memory is correct, “Dune Messiah” was originally the epilogue that was going to be included in the original story. I remember the excitement when, after many years, Herbert returned to this setting. Receiving the January 1976 issue of Analog Science Fiction Magazine featuring section 1 of “Children of Dune” was one of the high points of my science fiction reading experience.

    • Thanks for sharing this. I can imagine how exciting this must have been. It sounds as if initially he hadn’t even meant to go on writing sequels.
      I have heard of quite a few people who never read anything but Dune, not because they didn’t like it but because they thought it was perfect the way it was.

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