It always strikes me when I sit down to take on a great work of science fiction, how little science fiction I’ve actually absorbed in my life. Which means, most of what I’ve actually taken in, be it through reading or watching or listening is the good stuff. Bradbury, Vonnegut, Star Trek, 2001, the Ender & Shadow series.
Every warning I’ve heard about Dune had me on my guard as I dove into the book. It suffers from “inventor syndrome,” (it’s been so imitated and strip mined that it’s revolutions seem cliche now.) it’s impenetrably weird, (it is!) and most of all, it’s long.
The length didn’t bother me. For all the jargon and Herbert’s refusal to provide easy world building, the prose itself is easy, and the story moves along at an irresistible clip. Hell, I read the thing in a week right? The weirdness delighted rather than alienated me. I’ve got other plans at the moment, but like The Dark Tower last year, I think the Dune series is going to dominate my thoughts and TBR pile, because I want to know every inch of this universe. And as a recovering lit student, seeing the building blocks of things that I love in older fiction is one of the true joys of reading older work. Seeing the seeds of Luke Skywalker and Buffy Summers in Paul Astreides gave the book deeper power over me.
It’s not perfect. One of the reasons I have difficulty with sci-fi as a genre is that the men who write it (it’s nearly always men) have a sort of antiseptic detachment to their characters and settings that doesn’t suit the way I invest in fiction, unless I’m reading academically. (And even then, I got way too emotional about the books I was reading. Multiple professors told me I needed to detach more.) So, that leaves me reading in a more academic way, which keeps me from falling fully into a story.
But I more than appreciated the richness of the world in Dune, and I want more of it. I want to know everything about the society and the religions and the noble houses and the politics and all of it. Like I said, it’s similar to how I felt reading The Dark Tower last year.
Here’s the difference though, with The Dark Tower, I wanted to know what happened to Roland and Jake, and Susannah and Eddie (especially Eddie). I don’t really care much about what happens to Paul Astreides, the man who is now Muad’dib, or his family, but I’m curious, in an academic way, about his world.
Anyway, rather than dive right into Dune Messiah, I’m going to reset my brain by reading the latest Dan Brown (NO JUDGING! My Dad said this one was is actually kind of fun again!) (Also he read Twilight for me like 10 years ago, so I owe him one…) and maybe something fluffy and girly after that.
March’s epic will be David Copperfield. 2 down, 10 to go. (Also 5 down and 25 to go!)