Dune series: worth reading?

Brunhildax

HumanWoman
Joined
Jun 13, 2018
Messages
15
Location
Black Hawk, CO
I really love Frank Herbert's Dune, but for some reason I've never really felt tempted to read the rest of the series.

Dune felt like a complete novel in its own way, so I guess I have a stubborn resistance to continuing, in case it upsets my view of the first book.

Now I wonder if I'm just being narrow-minded.

Anybody who's read the rest of Frank Herbert's series - is it worth reading?

I ask, but although I once had a full collection, I think it ended up at a charity shop at one point. I know I had to buy the first book again. :(

I loved all of the Frank Herbert Dune books. They span a very broad stretch of time and I think the first Dune is the most positive. In other words, the characters both new and old go through a lot of struggle, so be prepared for that.

The world is just so well written and the characters so well developed, that I feel they are worth anyone's time. I couldn't put them down. My only regret is that Frank Herbert died before he could get to and through book 7.

I will not recommend anything by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Imo, they make a mockery of Frank Herbert's work.
 

Bick

Luddite Curmudgeon
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
3,818
Location
Auckland, NZ
I recently read Heretics of Dune, my brief review from my website:

Heretics of Dune (re-read June 2022) is much better than my memory of it from thirty year's ago. The book is set 1500 years after God Emperor. The death of Leto II at the end of that volume led to the 'scattering' - a wild explosion of exploration and expansion of the human race to distant stars. Now, many are returning to the core worlds, and bringing new ideas and power threats with them. The Bene Gesserit must contend with these 'Honored Matres', and negotiate cleverly with the Bene Tleilax, the human sub-race who produce face dancers and gholas. The result is quite an action packed novel, with less philosophical and obscure dialogue than in the prior few novels. This makes the book relatively easy to follow, and very readable. Herbert still offers plenty of intriguing ideas here, and I enjoyed it good deal. I have some reservations over the central role sex plays in the power games between the Honored Matres and the Bene Gesserit, as it seemed somewhat voyeuristic, but otherwise, this is a decent entry in the series.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
25,561
Location
UK
Lol! Bit different from mine!

- - - - - - - - -

Finished Heretics of Dune, where whores from outer space threaten humanity with orgasmic amplification - but, luckily for the Bene Gessirit they have created a man irresistible to women who can turn the ecstasy of vaginal pulsation against the user.

Seriously. It's all there in the book - though luckily it's mostly just talked about rather than described.

Actually, there's a lot of talking in this book. A lot of talking.

And there's hundreds of pages about a couple of people trying to meet up to escape a planet, with lots of wandering, conversations, and descriptions - only for the last chapter to suddenly announce that, yes indeed they had met up and escaped, the end.

Children and God Emperor had their moments, but I suspect Chapter House Dune will continue to be a car crash in very slow motion.
 

Rodders

|-O-| (-O-) |-O-|
Supporter
Joined
Nov 6, 2008
Messages
6,182
I tried to read Children on Dune as a teenager but struggled with it. I might give it and Heretics another go as they may read better for me as an adult. I'd like to finish the Trilogy.

Did I read somewhere that Denis Villeneuve was going to spearhead a TV series of Children of Dune once he'd finished with the filming of Dune part 2?
 

Christine Wheelwright

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2022
Messages
388
Location
Oh Canada!
Lol! Bit different from mine!

- - - - - - - - -

Finished Heretics of Dune, where whores from outer space threaten humanity with orgasmic amplification - but, luckily for the Bene Gessirit they have created a man irresistible to women who can turn the ecstasy of vaginal pulsation against the user.

Seriously. It's all there in the book - though luckily it's mostly just talked about rather than described.

Actually, there's a lot of talking in this book. A lot of talking.

And there's hundreds of pages about a couple of people trying to meet up to escape a planet, with lots of wandering, conversations, and descriptions - only for the last chapter to suddenly announce that, yes indeed they had met up and escaped, the end.

Children and God Emperor had their moments, but I suspect Chapter House Dune will continue to be a car crash in very slow motion.
Sounds dreadful tbh. I wasn't impressed with the original Dune novel, so I never felt the urge to pick up the sequels (which are considered inferior, even by Dune fans). The orgasmic stuff sounds like something I would come up with in my erotic SFF writings. Although in my case the scenes are purely for titillation, and the plot only exists as a means of transporting the reader from one erotic scenario to the next. The writer of Heretics of Dune doesn't have that excuse.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
25,561
Location
UK
To be fair, Heretics at least makes the effort to have a basic plot - a group of people trying to escape a planet under all that - it just doesn;t really go anywhere. With the following Chapterhouse, it is literally just people standing around talking about whores vs witches and witches vs whores.

It's like Herbert was just writing a stream of conscious while living a sex and drugs lifestyle (or fantasy) in the late sixties, which he frames in a vague futuristic setting.
 

Rodders

|-O-| (-O-) |-O-|
Supporter
Joined
Nov 6, 2008
Messages
6,182
Is there an element of misogyny to Frank Herbert's writing? Although i think the women are strong characters in Dune, they all seem to be "used" for something or by someone. The Bene Gesserit are feared and respected, but not a liked or likeable faction. Or is this all a by product of Herbert's almost Feudal politics?

I did consider this for a while when i was told the synopsis of White Plague.
 
Last edited:

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,136
Location
Edinburgh
Is there an element of misogyny to Frank Herbert's writing? Although i think the women are strong characters in Dune, they all seem to be "used" for something or by someone. The Bene Gesserit are feared and respected, but not a liked or likeable faction.

I did consider this for a while when i was told the synopsis of White Plague.
erm, no faction in Dune are liked or likeable. That's the whole point.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
6,664
Although i think the women are strong characters in Dune, they all seem to be "used" for something or by someone.

Yes, they are. They seem to be more restricted than men (although this might just be an instinctive 1950s/60s idea that they wouldn't be outside the home rather than carefully considered SF). But everyone is very restricted, and apart from renegade groups like the smugglers almost everything is feudal. It seems that Duke Leto is better than the Baron Harkonnen because he's a nicer man, not because he comes from a better system. The Dune world is a pretty bleak place to live in.

I got the feeling that, as the Dune books went on, a certain pseudoscientific crankiness crept in, some of it vaguely New Age, which put me off. I don't want to get into one of those pointless "is it SF" arguments, but I found it increasingly difficult to take it seriously as SF. And in the ones I read, the stories did indeed get worse: more waffle, less plot.

And the sex stuff started to all feel a bit like Barbarella, but less entertaining.
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,136
Location
Edinburgh
Yes, they are. They seem to be more restricted than men (although this might just be an instinctive 1950s/60s idea that they wouldn't be outside the home rather than carefully considered SF). But everyone is very restricted, and apart from renegade groups like the smugglers almost everything is feudal. It seems that Duke Leto is better than the Baron Harkonnen because he's a nicer man, not because he comes from a better system. The Dune world is a pretty bleak place to live in.

It is subtle, but it is stated in Dune that House Atreides are expert in propaganda and push the idea that the Duke is 'good' - in response and contrast to the previous Harkonnens. This is politics, you are the opposite of your enemy, Atreides is trying to capture anti-Harkonnen sentiment.

But is Duke Leto really a good man? To a certain extent he certainly seems so - but some of it is certainly calculated. He's playing for power for his house. The Emperor knows this. Everyone knows this. That's why he decides to walk into a trap. He takes a gamble that he's got enough time to organise his new 'desert power'. He does not know that he never did have any time.

Yes, the starting society is essentially feudal, so fighting men are in charge, and their women are largely sidetracked (See Princess Irulan, for example). Yet, the Bene Gesserit are extremely successful at what they do and they seem able to manipulate the houses and the Emperor with relative ease in order to attain their own goals. Later when God Emperor Leto II is in charge he destroys this whole structure and uses his fish guards rather than men to maintain absolute control.


I got the feeling that, as the Dune books went on, a certain pseudoscientific crankiness crept in, some of it vaguely New Age, which put me off. I don't want to get into one of those pointless "is it SF" arguments, but I found it increasingly difficult to take it seriously as SF. And in the ones I read, the stories did indeed get worse: more waffle, less plot.

And the sex stuff started to all feel a bit like Barbarella, but less entertaining.

My take on the 'sex stuff' in Dune. Firstly it's been a while since I last re-read all the six main books, but I've read them all a few times, and I didn't really notice these elements.

However, there are some cringe and clunky lines in the book, and I see them in three ways.

- Some lines are cringe because Golden Age SF and erotica never got on. Possibly because SF evolved from ripping yarns for juveniles. Hence putting more adult themes in mainstream SF at the time meant putting in clunky indirect cringe. By the 80s and 90s when mainstream SF new authors started putting in actual 'direct' sex scenes, authors like Peter F. Hamilton, were still getting some degree of resistance from SF readers. Herbert came just as things were changing a little bit, but probably felt more pressure to conform to earlier standards.

- He's having fun. The longer the series goes on, I do feel there is a degree of playfulness - not just with sex, but with some lines that are clearly jokes. Perhaps Herbert did indeed feel that his discourses on power and the future of humanity needed a bit of lightening up. The appearance of the old couple at the end of Chapterhouse Dune, for example, which on one level are likely face dancers who broke control of their masters, are, on another level, Frank Herbert and his wife and also the most egregious bit of meta-playfulness.

- The various boasts that the women of the Honoured Matres and Bene Gesserit make about their sexual powers. By the end of the series, these two factions are the main groups left. Superwomen battling for control of humanity. I see their colourful boasts of their control of men via sex

1) a logical extension of their actual abilities - they could control the biochemistry of their bodies via thought, trained their bodies to superhuman levels for fighting - the weirding way, control people just using the voice, and a host of other physical and mental abilities.

2) a hyper-realisation of current trends. Herbert, I think, was looking backwards at people like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini - and no doubt Nixon in the later 70s. But just look at the autocratic men and leaders in todays world, who are usually portrayed as virile and very masculine, who have beautiful trophy wives and have power over the opposite sex, having numerous mistresses/lovers etc. I shall refrain from talking about current Politics, but I'm sure we can all name, easily, a leaders and ex-leaders all over the world that fall into this camp.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
6,664
Yes, I think Kynes points out that Arakeen is full of propaganda and Gurney Halleck becomes angry. The Harkonnens seem objectively worse - gladiators, slavery, etc - but Duke Leto seems like a stern and unchallengable ruler, if a just one. I doubt the Caladan pro-democracy movement fared very well. I think you can get away with the idea that a just king is the ideal ruler much more easily in fantasy, especially the Tolkien sort.

Herbert probably deserves some credit for trying to talk about sex without either turning the books into soft porn or blatantly inserting a load of sexual fantasies. But one generation's idea of "men think like this, women think like that" often ages very badly.
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,136
Location
Edinburgh
Herbert probably deserves some credit for trying to talk about sex without either turning the books into soft porn or blatantly inserting a load of sexual fantasies. But one generation's idea of "men think like this, women think like that" often ages very badly.

Indeed, - although I don't think Herbert is too bad. He has lots of strong female characters, especially as the Dune books progress. Compare that with Raymond E. Feist's Magician Trilogy from 1982. All the 'good' women are homemakers who stay in their palaces/wizard towers, look after the kids and await their men patiently to come back. All the other women that appear in the story are priestesses, harlots or witches who are virtually all killed.

I suppose you could argue that Feist's world is a Feudal DnD world, so men are in charge, but compare that with something like the much more brutal ASoIaF, really demonstrates, IMO, a vast generational gap in how to treat women in SF&F.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
6,664
Herbert seems to me to be far better at characters than most SFF writers of the time - and up, perhaps, to the 1980s. Part of it is that he actually tries: his more important characters have personalities that go beyond their functions. He seems to realise that strange circumstances would produce strange people, which might not be as obvious as it sounds.
 

Swank

and debonair
Joined
Feb 25, 2022
Messages
566
By the 80s and 90s when mainstream SF new authors started putting in actual 'direct' sex scenes, authors like Peter F. Hamilton, were still getting some degree of resistance from SF readers. Herbert came just as things were changing a little bit, but probably felt more pressure to conform to earlier standards.
This is not what I remember as a reader in the early '80s. Starburst, Jem and Man Plus by Pohl had strong sexual elements, as did Integral Trees by Niven and virtually everything Heinlein wrote after Podkayne of Mars. The comments about sex in SF in this thread seem a little prudish given what was already being published starting at least by the mid-70s if not much earlier.

In contrast, Herbert put his cards on the table from the first Dune book that human beings had managed to weaponize all aspects of themselves, and from the beginning we are made aware that a Bene Gesserit was able to seduce the very pedophilic Baron into his only heterosexual act. Herbert explores weaponizing speech, body chemistry, addiction, disguise - why wouldn't he depict an extreme version of sexual manipulation? It fits into his themes of adaptation, addicted populations and environmental pressures causing change. And then what he depicts isn't titillating - it's matter of fact. And Idaho is not a one man sex weapon, but the first of an army of men that have the ability to dull the Honored Matres' methods.


Herbert gets accused a lot (I think) of being patriarchal, and I really think that is unfair. He depicts sexual dimorphism - which should be an element in a society like the Imperium - but his default real power figures are women. And his theme, at the start of Dune, is that the only people worthy of the name "human" are a small cadre of women - who are trying to change that by breeding a male that can do what they do, and more. The Bene Gesserit appear to be a group who aren't just sidelined because of their gender, but a group that has realized that the formalized mating rules of a feudal system perfectly fit with their breeding project - so they have no interest in overturning it. After Leto II destroys that feudal system, the Bene Gesserit changes itself into a more classic nation state with standing armies and direct action into galactic affairs.

I greatly enjoyed Heretics and Chapterhouse for setting themselves in the world of Dune while throwing virtually everything that made those societies function out the window. Arrakis, spice, the Guild, prescience, worms, shields, house atomics, Fremen, Harkonnens, Atreides, feudism all become historical and unimportant footnotes while entirely different types of power and adaptation are explored in detail. Heretics did not strike me as 'all talk' - there are several really exciting action scenes on two planets. For the first time the Bene Gesserit and Bene Tleilax are shown from the inside, including internal conflicts. I can't think of another SF author who has put their creation through so much internal world re-building.

The last two books are also the first time that there are "good" characters in the broadest context. The Sisterhood has reformed itself into an actual benevolent force, rather than a manipulative breeding program. The protagonists aren't just fighting for their lives and power, but want to create stable, peaceful conditions in the galaxy.
 

Top