It took months for me to get through this book. Which probably means you can already see where I’m going with this.
Did not like. Not impressed.
I can see why it’s an important book. It’s ambitious, it has an incredibly rich world, and it has very clearly left a lasting impact on science fiction. I just couldn’t get into it because I disliked all of the characters so much.
There were moments where they were not that bad, but for the most part, they just felt… flat. I just never connected with any of them. I felt too much like an outsider, and I couldn’t break into this vast, rich world no matter how hard I tried.
(The fanart that has been inspired by this novel is truly breathtaking, though. Go Google it, give the fanartists some love. They’ve really brought the world to life.)
I noted the last time I talked about Dune that the characters felt too archetypal and I wasn’t a fan of the perspective jumping. That remained true all the way to the bitter end. And at the risk of angering someone lurking somewhere in the darker parts of the Internet, I absolutely hated Paul. That probably makes it glaringly obvious why I didn’t like the book as a whole. I found him irritating and arrogant, was bored by his tortured angst, and wished pretty much any other character would take over the narrative focus whenever he got the spotlight. Which was often, considering Dune is his story.
I also don’t think the action scenes were handled particularly well. Paul’s duel with the Freman is probably the best one, and I actually liked this middle-ish part of the book the best. I found Dune to be at its most engaging when Jessica and Paul were being introduced to Freman culture, though their ability to navigate it almost flawlessly from the start rang hollow. Yeah, yeah, I know, Bene Gesserit training and all that jazz, but it fell flat for me. I could never really accept that as an explanation for anything, especially changing poison into something benign with nothing more than… stomach acid, I suppose.
What ended up working and catching my interest at this point of the book were Stilgar and Chani. When they were first introduced, they were both refreshingly interesting, and they made it very clear that Paul and Jessica each had a long journey ahead of them before they could fulfill their destinies.
Problem was, the book jumped past those journeys and picked back up with Paul being the all-powerful Chosen One and Jessica firmly instated as a Reverend Mother. It was frustrating to slog through almost 150 pages of everybody in the world knowing that Duke Leto was going to die and Paul would have to fight to rise up to take his place, only to have that fight glossed over. I got to see plenty of Paul being angry about having to fulfill his manifest destiny and Jessica being anxious about it, but I never actually got to see them work towards their goal and through the emotional turmoil that went along with it. It was pretty much just Paul and Jessica meet the Fremen, Paul and Jessica begin to scratch the surface of Fremen culture, Paul is angry and scared, Jessica is anxious and scared, BAM! 2 YEARS LATER! Paul is leading the Fremen! They love him! Everybody reveres Jessica! Alia is a creepy baby but eventually everyone is going to accept her too!
And then the Emperor shows up with his entire entourage for reasons that don’t really make sense, gets defeated almost immediately, Paul has a duel with Feyd-Rautha, and then political relations matter. That was all crammed into the last 25 pages of the book. Somehow.
Dune has such a lovingly crafted world, and extended universe around and beyond that world. That all gets overshadowed by a pretty generic plot and a lot of disappointingly flat characters.
If you liked this book, that’s great. Maybe you were able to connect with the characters in ways that I couldn’t, or you saw something that I didn’t, I don’t know. I’m not really trying to knock it off a pedestal or anything. Again, I can see why it’s an important book, and I think it’s worth a read if science fiction is your thing, especially space opera sci-fi. But for me, it was so difficult to get into. Too difficult, frankly. I just could not like this book.