Thursday, April 5, 2012

book six

Whenever someone mentions Dune, the image that comes to my mind is the pre-Blue Velvet and pre-Desperate Housewives Kyle MacLachlan as Paul-Muad'Dib, wearing a Fremen stillsuit, riding a giant sandworm. The 1984 movie directed by David Lynch was my first encounter with the world of Arrakis, and I was captivated.

I would like to say that I have read the book before, and I probably have-- the first chapter or two. But I'm a little embarrassed to say that this is the first time that I've bought my own copy and the first time that I've completed the entire novel. Every home library should have a copy of this book. It is as important as the dictionary and the Bible, and I'm not being flippant. It is, without a doubt, as it says on the cover, "Science Fiction's Supreme Masterpiece". Why? Just buy the book and read the afterword by Brian Herbert, the author Frank Herbert's son.

Going back to the movie... We all know that science fiction is particularly suited to film adaptation. Films of this genre are usually all about the special effects, and Dune the movie did not disappoint in that area. But there should always be an honest-to-goodness story to back it up, and that's where Dune the novel is unrivaled to this day, even though the movie is no longer as high-tech as it was in the 1980s.

Frank Herbert liked to say that Dune consists of several layers that are nested in a seemingly simple adventure story, and that the reader could follow one layer and read the whole book through to the end, and then start again with an entirely different layer.

Unwittingly, that's what I did. I found myself focusing on the Man versus Nature layer.

There's the obvious environmental aspect of the story: "The historical system of mutual pillage and extortion stops here on Arrakis... You cannot go on forever stealing what you need without regard to those who come after. The physical qualities of a planet are written into its economic and political record..."

But Nature is more than the environment. It also encompasses Man's own Nature. In Dune, Man's responsibility to preserve, as well as his ability to shape the environment was highlighted: "The Fremen were supreme in that quality the ancients called 'spannungsbogen'-- which is the self-imposed delay between desire for a thing and the act of reaching out to grasp that thing."

Indeed, to me Frank Herbert was first and foremost a philosopher who had a solid and very relevant understanding of the inner workings of Man's psyche: "A leader, you see, is one of the things that distinguishes a mob from a people. He maintains the level of individuals. Too few individuals, and the people reverts to a mob."

I was especially impressed by what he wrote about the duality of Man: "There is in each of us an ancient force that takes and an ancient force that gives. A man finds little difficulty facing that place within himself where the taking force dwells, but it's almost impossible for him to see the giving force without changing into something other than man. For a woman, the situation is reversed... The greatest peril to the Giver is the force that takes. The greatest peril to the Taker is the force that gives. It's as easy to be overwhelmed by giving as by taking."

Now I am torn between rereading Dune and getting my hands on the rest of The Dune Chronicles. What to do?

No comments:

Post a Comment