First Group Read of Dune

Earlier this week I mentioned that I had joined Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings for a read-along of Dune.  This book is divided up into three books.  Each week we will read one of the sections and then discuss the novel.  On Thursday I received the following questions.  For those of you who have not read Dune there are spoilers in the conversation below so if you plan on reading the novel beware.  Also, for those of you who have read the work, I would love to hear your thoughts about the work.

Here is week one’s discussion.

1.  What, if any, preconceived ideas did you have before you started reading Dune and how has the first section measured up to those preconceptions?

I had a couple of preconceived notions about this novel during my younger days.  First and foremost, I thought that since it was science fiction, a genre I really didn’t read unless for school back then, it would be boring and too complicated for me.  I had this opinion about most science fiction novels.  Also I thought it would be way over my head.  Many claim that this work is the best science fiction novel and since I didn’t read science fiction much I didn’t think I would be able to follow the story or find myself engrossed in the story.

Lately, my view of science fiction has change greatly.  To be blunt, I stopped being close-minded and stubborn and starting delving into the genre.  And to my surprise I found that I really like it.  This is great news since now I have a whole genre of books that I haven’t read and can look forward to reading!

After reading the first book, I am so embarrassed about my opinions back then.  This book is fun, entertaining, exciting, and extremely clever.  I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen next.  The character development is great.  The writing is excellent.  I now understand why so many people love this novel.

2.  What did you think about the plot device of the early revelation that Yueh was to be the traitor?  

Actually I thought this device was ingenious.  Because you know it is coming, but you don’t know when and how.  And then you find out the real reason why he agreed to be a traitor, to save his wife from torture, and you feel for him.  Then he tries to do the right thing at the end.  The whole situation must have been agonizing for him and if I was put in this situation, well to be honest I don’t even want to think about that.

Also, this device was entertaining because everyone is trying to figure out who the traitor is and is accusing innocent people and there I was sitting in my chair wanting to shout, “You’ve got it all wrong!  Can’t you see you fool!”   It heightened the suspense for me.

3.  What was your favorite part of this first section?  Which character(s) do you find most interesting and why?

I am really enjoying how the spice trade and the environment are playing such big roles in the book.  I’ve studied history all my life and I’ve learned that greed is one of the drivers of human nature.  Look at the exploration of the New World.  One of the reasons explorers set out was to find a different route to get spices, among other things, and to break the monopoly of certain countries and trade routes. Once people in Europe discovered spices that could mask the taste of bad food, either from being old or spoiled since they did not have the appliances and techniques that we have now, they were hooked.  Spice became precious and once it became precious, it became worth a lot of money.  So much blood was spilled in this pursuit.  And the intrusion into the New World wreaked havoc on the indigenous populations and the environment.  I am enjoying how Herbert is incorporating this into his work.

At first, the character of Paul kind of annoyed me.  But the revelation at the end, while it didn’t make me like him more, I am finding that I want to learn more about him.  How will he deal with this new knowledge that he is a Harkonnen and that the Baron is his grandfather?  The same Baron who killed his father.  This twist at the end of book one worked for me.  I am a sucker for cliffhangers!

4.  Did the revelation about the Harkonnen surprise you? Why or why not? Thoughts. 

This is a difficult question to answer.  All along I felt that something big was going to happen.  I felt that the author was leading up to Paul’s role.  Was he the Kwisatz Haderach? But that seemed too simple.  Also Herbert already gave away who the traitor was, so would he also lead us down the same type of path about Paul.  Would he be completely obvious again?  However, even though I knew something unexpected about Paul would be revealed, I didn’t realize what it would be.  Thinking back on it now, it makes sense.  Maybe there were clues.  And I am excited to find out if others picked up on things that I missed.

5.  Finally, please share some overall thoughts on this first section of the book.  Are you finding it difficult to follow? Easy to understand? Engaging? Boring?  Just share what you are thinking thus far.

So far I am loving the novel.  I’m enjoying the ease that Herbert shows at creating complex storylines and characters that are enjoyable and easy to follow.  I’m curious to find out about more twists to the plot and how will the characters react.  Now, it is time to start Book Two!

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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10 Responses to First Group Read of Dune

  1. Redhead says:

    I’m so happy you’re enjoying Dune! it is space opera, so there is plenty of weird acronyms and strange tech and such, but I felt the majority of the sf elements were explained just fine in the narrative.

    As a history lover, you are going to enjoy the rest of this book, I’m quite sure of it. there are some cultural, umm, things, that happen that i think you will get a kick out of!

    I felt the same way you did about the Yueh thing, knowing that something very bad is going to happen, and soon, almost adds to the suspense, because just like you said, you don’t know when or exactly how. poor Yueh, so naive. 😦

  2. TBM says:

    The weird acronyms and strange tech terms aren’t getting to me. He seems to fit them into the story with some explanation but not overwhelming explanation. That would annoy me.

    There’s more history to come. Yipppeeee! I can’t wait.

    Poor Yueh. To have to be a traitor and then really know that it is really for nothing. I liked his tooth idea though.

    Thanks for stopping by! I’m looking forward to getting to know new people through this.

  3. Caroline says:

    I like a lot what you say about the spice trade. I felt similar about water. I wonder which is really more important but i think the answer is that on Arrakis water might be more important but in the empire as a whole it is spice.
    Yes, greed is motivating a lot of the people in this novel but some have entirely other motives.
    I think that through these discussions I start to enjoy it a bit more.

    • TBM says:

      I’ll have to start paying attention to see which is more important: spice or water. This empire, like many from the past, only seems to care about money and power. So I can’t imagine that water is all that important unless it is needed for the spice.

      I agree that some have other motives besides greed, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet for some. I wonder how much will be revealed in part two.

  4. Shelley says:

    I’m happy for you that you’re enjoying the book. I keep looking at my copy which says on the cover “Science Fiction’s Supreme Masterpiece.” That’s a lot to live up to, lol!
    I completely agree with all of your thoughts about Yueh. He had to make some very tough choices that no one would want to have to make. It stressed me out so much whenever Yueh gave anyone drugs!!
    I love your thoughts on the spice. What an apt parallel. The story says so much about human nature and how it plays into politics and economics of valuable resources. As for me, I just keep wanting to make cinnamon rolls!

    • TBM says:

      “Supreme Masterpiece” that is a lot to live up to. So far, do you agree? Any scenes with Yueh was so stressful. I kept waiting for the betrayal. And yes, I could go for a cinnamon roll.

  5. Carl V. says:

    You certainly shouldn’t be embarrassed about your previous attitude towards SF. After all, you took a leap of faith and have ended up enjoying it, so that is ultimately what matters. I do wish people would never take the “I don’t read that kind of book” stance, but I’ve done it in the past too and had many times where I was shown the error of my ways by a book that found its way into my hands and showed me that “Genre X” is really good.

    I’m glad you brought up “real” history and how spice played a part in that. I hadn’t even recalled that but it does add an interesting dimension to this fictional story to have had something similar happen in our own past. That will be fun to keep in mind, as well as Caroline’s thoughts about the water, as I read the next two sections.

    It is always interesting to me to see what people will think of classic science fiction. Contemporary science fiction rarely feels the same as the classic stuff (and both can be really good), but not everyone can deal with classics, regardless of the genre, and science fiction classics can sometimes feel much more dated because of the assumptions about tech. But I’ve found that even the dated ones are still great reads if they had that key element all along: a good story. That can overcome a lot of wrong predictions and dated tech descriptions.

    I’m loving all the conversation going on and cannot wait until we get the next set of questions and can talk about them.

    • TBM says:

      Well when you are a teenager (that is when I formed these opinions) you think you know everything. Actually my challenge to read the 1001 books has helped me overcome this attitude since there are science fiction novels on the list. And I found out, that I like them.

      I will have to pay attention to the water. Thanks Caroline for bringing that to our attention.

      The discussion has been really good so far. I’m looking forward to more posts and next Saturday. I may have to join more of these group reads. I’m having fun.

  6. Grace says:

    I think Arrakis itself is as important as any individual character to the story, and the planet shapes any character who decides to live on it. I think that the emphasis on the spice makes the story more believable, as the trade of various substances has been an influence on world history for ages (think everything from the Opium Wars to the War on Drugs).

    I didn’t really mind Paul. I thought Herbert did a good job at making him grow up and come of age, but at the same time he didn’t start out like a complete wimp. He gets better as the book progresses too. 😛

    • TBM says:

      I agree that Arrakis is vital to the story. History is influenced by geograhy as much as people influence it. People have to adapt to their surroundings to the best of their abiltity.

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