When I was six or seven years old I started reading my father’s books, all of which were paperback novels, and almost all of those Westerns and science fiction. I read every novel Louis L’Amour had written before I was ten, and nearly everything by Robert A. Heinlein (I’m not sure I made it through Stranger in a Strange Land). And then one day I started on Frank Herbert’s Dune.I was wandering through the house with the book tucked under my arm and saw on the kitchen counter a big bowl of strawberries macerating in sugar. Since strawberries were my favorite food, I decided those were for me. I took them back to my room and spooned sweet fruit into my mouth as I simultaneously devoured the first hundred pages or so of Dune.But I ate too many of those strawberries. I became miserably sick and threw everything up. And then I discovered that the nausea returned if I so much as thought about . . . Dune. Yes, oddly, my mind linked profound queasiness not with the strawberries, which were at fault, but with Frank Herbert’s novel. I guess I loved strawberries too much to be revolted by them, so Dune took the hit instead. Every time I picked it up my stomach lurched. I set it aside and never got back to it.Until now. My son Wes read it not long ago, so his copy has been lying around the house. I looked at it — picked it up — experienced no nausea — and thought, what the hell, maybe it’s time. Maybe I should make it up to old Frank for my inappropriately negative reaction to his book. So I started in, and . . .It’s terrible. The writing is unbearably stilted, every scene (so far) contrived and clichéd. I know it must get better, and in any case you don’t read a book like this for its style but rather for its world-making — but good heavens, Herbert writes like a fifteen-year-old. I bet I would have adored it at age ten, but forty years later I don’t know whether I’m going to be able to persist. Maybe I’ll watch the movie instead.


  1. When I tried to get through DUNE, my feelings were exactly the same as yours. Maybe I'm just too much of a curmudgeon to appreciate DUNE's merits, but I found the book so off-puttingly terrible that I couldn't continue with it. My brother, on the other hand, received the book as a Christmas gift and subsequently devoured it (he's now tearing through DUNE MESSIAH, and will then move on to CHILDREN OF DUNE).

    My loathing for DUNE aside, I would give my right arm to see the never-made film adaptation of DUNE by Alejandro Jodorowsky, with production design by H. R. Giger and Salvador Dali–yes, Salvador Dali–in the role of the Emperor. Sadly, that project was never made, and instead David Lynch got ahold of it and gave us . . . something.

  2. DO NOT watch the movie. If you MUST watch something, watch the Sci-fi (SyFy… sigh) miniseries from 2000.

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