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Friday, September 17, 2010
The job we were on was building a cabin way out on the woods. Fall was coming quick and there was no way a four man crew (one of the brothers had smartly quit the business by then) could close in this cabin by first snowfall. The commute was two to three hours on a dirt road so the most efficient way to get work done was to drive out and work two or three days and then come back to town for a day. On these camping trips we read a lot once it got dark, there was no electricity yet and we were too poor to run a generator all night so reading by firelight was a good way to pass the time.
My friend had a copy of one of the Dune series and I tried to read it but just could not get into it. Bene Gesserit this, Muad'Dib that, spice and desert. It was the driest sci-fi I'd read to that point. When I picked up a copy of Dune at the local grocery store book bin it was mostly for nostalgia. I never thought I'd read it let alone finish it. In fact because the first hundred pages are so dry it took me months to get through the first paragraph. The first hundred pages is one of the slowest setups in literature but after that the book starts to pay dividends like no other.
This is one of the most complex and rewarding stories I've read in a long time. All the characters matter and every line of dialogue and exposition is well thought out. You can see that Frank Herbert really though out how the world would work, how the characters would interact and how all the court intrigue would play out. It's really like good complex Mexican food. You start out with a homey flavor, it starts to sear a little and just when you think you can't stand any more heat it subsides and leaves you wanting the next bite.
The book is broken up into small sections with a bit of verse or a quotation from some made up bible from the future of this fictional land. I was in the habit of skipping them, they reminded me of the songs of Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings. They were miserable breaks in the story and made no sense at all. Once I got to the climax of the book and found out who Maud'Dib was I had to go back and read them all. Even the little things like those little verses are well thought out.
Now that I've finished the book I know why the Dune series is such a science fiction hallmark. I won't have to be three hours from civilization to read the next book.