Saturday, 28 April 2012

Brief Comments on Dune

Dune seems to exist in five forms:

the original six novels (a trilogy, a sequel and an unfinished second trilogy);
an Encyclopaedia by Willis McNelly;
a series of prequels and interstitial novels by the original author's son and a collaborator, both successful independent sf writers;
a film;
a TV series.

There seem to be four continuities here. There is an unwritten rule that any screen adaptation of a prose or graphic fiction is set in a continuity different from that of the original and there are two independent screen adaptations in this case. Further, the Encyclopaedia and the later novels are consistent with the original novels but not with each other.

Like Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry series, Dune presents a more colourful and imaginative account of an interstellar empire than Isaac Asimov's Foundation. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson write better than Frank Herbert who often switched between points of view in the course of a single dialogue. For story purposes, the series imaginatively projects past social relationships into a technological future although that is not serious futuristic speculation.

Herbert's series lost focus, I think. In the later novels particularly, each brief chapter recounted a dialogue between two or three leading characters with the main action apparently occurring elsewhere. The central characters could foresee possible futures and apparently steered mankind towards a preferable future but it was not clear to the reader, or at least to this reader, what that future was. Curiously, the writing, often rather dense, became strangely vivid towards the end of either Heretics of Dune or Chapterhouse: Dune (the last two novels by Frank Herbert). The purpose of the later series seems to be to prolong the series for as long as possible. I could not see the point of the trilogy set in earlier generations, The Butlerian Jihad etc, and stopped reading somewhere in the first or second novel. Paul of Dune, which I am currently reading (May 2010), is an easy read like any new novel set in a familiar fictitious setting, like Star Trek.   

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