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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-05 11:06
Weirding It Out without Weird Enough: Dune Re-Read Update #2

 

 

 

 

 

Brief Recap

 

  1. Paul is tested by the Reverend Mother, the leader of the Bene Gesserits.
  2. We meet the Atreides and their enemies, Harkonnens. 10, 000s of years ago, Harkonnens were stripped of their titles for showing cowardice in a war. That is just one of the reasons they hate the Atreides who took over and won the war.
  3. Atreides are being sent to the brutal desert planet, Arrakis, where the precious spice is mined.
  4. That the Emperor wants to see the house fall and Duke Leto has plans of his own to counter that.
  5. The Harkonnens have plotted the downfall of Atreides and they will be betrayed by Paul’s doctor, Yueh.
  6. The blame is to fall on Lady Jessica (Paul’s mother) who is a Bene Gesserit (BG).
  7. The BGs perform myth-seeding to keep their operatives safe and they have created a legend about Paul in Arrakis.

You can read the rest of the post here. Onward with the next installment:

 

 

This time, we started with:

My father, the Padishah Emperor, took me by the hand one day and I sensed in the ways my mother had taught me that he was disturbed. He led me down the Hall of Portraits to the ego-likeness of the Duke Leto Atreides. I marked the strong resemblance between them—my father and this man in the portraitbothwith thin, elegant faces and sharp features dominated by cold eyes. “Princess daughter,” my father said, “I would that you’d been older when it came time for this man to choose a woman.” My father was 71 at the time and looking no older than the man in the portrait, and I was but 14, yet I remember deducing in that instant that my father secretly wished the Duke had been his son, and disliked the political necessities that made them enemies.
—“In my Father’s House” by Princess Irulan

 

and read all the way until the end of the first book, which was:

O Seas of Caladan,
O people of Duke Leto
Citadel of Leto fallen,
Fallen forever…
—from“Songs of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

 

A summary of what has happened until now:

  1. We meet Kynes, the Emperor appointed ecologist on Arrakis who is also a whole lot more but not letting on. People are scared of him and by people, I mean Harkonnen spies! He plans on hating the Atreides but they are just too cute and cuddly for him to loathe. Oh, and he is beginning to link Paul with the Messiah myth in his head, even when he doesn’t want to.
  2. The Duke saves some men harvesting spice from a worm attack, even though they have to abandon the harvested product. Who can guess the party behind the almost-accident? That’s right; the Harkonnens! Two Fremen are spotted riding the worm by Paul, which Kynes denies vehemently.
  3. It is hinted that the Emperor doesn’t really hate the Atreides but is scared about how popular and loved the Duke is, making the latter a threat that must be dealt with.
  4. Jessica and Hawat have a psychic showdown, which Jessica wins (duh) but causes Hawat to be more attentive towards her (not that it did any good)
  5. Harkonnens’ plan comes to fruition and the Duke dies while Yueh is not a complete bastard and gives Jessica and Paul a fighting (and since they succeed, escaping) chance.
  6. It is revealed by Paul who turns into a computer-ish freak that Atreides and Harkonnens are genetically related.
  7. Oh, and the evil Duke is a pedophile who has the hots for Paul!

 

 

My Thoughts

The scene at the dinner table was a good one but it seems mild when compared to the complicated political games that Robert Jordan had his characters play with the Dragon Reborn in the series, WoT. I also liked how Paul handled himself in that scene due to his mother’s BG lessons and I loved how he slipped at the end because after all, he is just a boy!
 
His inexperience is put into stark contrast a few scenes later when his mentat (and god knows what else) abilities kick in, making him into a human supercomputer hybrid.
 
I want to take a moment and be sad for Mape who was killed just like so much cannon fodder and Yueh, who knew that henceforth history would remember him simply as the Traitor and that his wife was probably already dead hence the evil Duke had no plans of fulfilling his end of the bargain, yet he did what he had to!
 
I also want to casually remember the Atreides allies:

atreides_allies_by_kristele-d2nd0ll












On a lighter note, I came across National Lampoon’s Doon . On Wikipedia,the plot of the parody is described in the following words:

Dune is set on the dangerous, sandworm-ridden desert planet Arrakis, sole source of the spice melange, the most valuable substance in the universe. The parody follows a similar storyline, wherein rival restaurant-owning families battle for control of Arruckus, which is overrun by giant pretzels and the source of valuable beer.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I might give it a read, if Weird Enough shows some interest in it too!
Remember the Orange Catholic Bible that Yueh gifted Paul (and then remorselessly betrayed him afterwards but nobody mentions that, do they?). Well, it and the religion based on it show up in this blog, Top 10 Made-Up Religions for Nerds and Geeks. Check it out, if you want to see what else is on that list.
 
I will leave you with this postcard that you can send to your friends while vacationing on Arrakis
 
postcard_4x6_front

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-01-21 08:50
Weirding It Out with Weird Enough: Dune Re-Read Update #1

 

 
I started re-reading Dune with a friend of mine, who is reading it for the first time. Thinking that I would compare what I thought of it before with how I feel about the book now was no good. I have completely forgotten the story! In a way, that is a good thing since I am unable to re-read books, if I remember the story too well.
 
One thought hit me as I started reading Dune -- there is a confidence and certainty in the way Herbert writes. It lends the story and the universe that it is set in more credibility. As I read, I didn't doubt whether such a place could exist. I knew it did!
 
Since we divided the book into several parts, this is an update about the parts that we have covered until now. The easiest way to point out which parts we read is through the "excerpts" that are given at the beginning of every chapter -- if we can call them chapters.
 
As devices, these quotes are so clever! The reader knows the exact frame of the events that take place and yet do not have to sit through info dumps.
 

We started with:

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad’Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad’Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.
–from “Manual of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

and read till here:

Over the exit of the Arrakeen landing field, crudely carved as though with a poor instrument, there was an inscription that Muad’Dib was to repeat many times. He saw it that first night on Arrakis, having been brought to the ducal command post to participate in his father’s first full stage conference. The words of the inscription were a plea to those leaving Arrakis, but they fell with dark import on the eyes of a boy who had just escaped a close brush with death. They said: “O you who know what we suffer here, do not forget us in your prayers.”
—from “Manual of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

 

A summary of what has happened until now:

 

  1. Paul is tested by the Reverend Mother, the leader of the Bene Gesserits.
  2. We meet the Atreides and their enemies, Harkonnens. 10, 000s of years ago, Harkonnens were stripped of their titles for showing cowardice in a war. That is just one of the reasons they hate the Atreides who took over and won the war.
  3. Atreides are being sent to the brutal desert planet, Arrakis, where the precious spice is mined.
  4. That the Emperor wants to see the house fall and Duke Leto has plans of his own to counter that.
  5. The Harkonnens have plotted the downfall of Atreides and they will be betrayed by Paul's doctor, Yueh.
  6. The blame is to fall on Lady Jessica (Paul's mother) who is a Bene Gesserit (BG).
  7. The BGs perform myth-seeding to keep their operatives safe and they have created a legend about Paul in Arrakis.

 

My Thoughts

 

 

Here I found yet another book where the author jumps from POV to POV within a single scene! Herbert does this in a way that does not feel unnatural plus there's the advantage of knowing what motivates multiple characters to behave in a certain way.

It is amazing that the author has the villains well defined right from the start. There is no dithering about who the bad guys are and yet it does not make the reading any less fun.

I found out that there was a re-read going on at Tor and in this second installment, the origins of the names and the various terms used in the book are discussed. You can read the whole thing over there, so I won't be repeating it.

Reading the comments for the third installment on Tor led me to a comment where someone compared the Aes Sedai from the WoT series to the BGs in Dune. I think the fact that the BGs are constantly trying to make people think they are less smarter than they actually are makes them the exact opposite of the Aes Sedai!


The 4th installment brought this, which made me laugh:

The Harry Potter connection invites a mashup… with a villain referred to as “he who cannot be weighed”…

Some fun remarks about how Brian has ruined the Dune universe also made it into the comments, along with this comic:

1.jpg


If you are having trouble pronouncing any of the Arabic -- and other -- terms in the book, this guide can help. It includes sound bites in Herbert's voice!


Weird Enough’s Musings

So, my book dealer and my office partner-in-crime, Midu, announced that we were going to do a buddy read. She wanted to re-read Dune, while I would be reading it for the first time. This is also my very first blog about a book review. It is going to be all over the place. You have been warned.
So let’s begin!
 
The first part of the book that we divided was from the beginning to just before the “chapter” starting with this quote:
 
“There is probably no more terrible instant of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man—with human flesh.”
—from “Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib” by Princess Irulan
Intriguing, no? There are no chapters in the book. Instead, each part starts with a “quote” retelling the tale from a historical aspect about Muad’Dib. The first part that struck me was the Arabic-esque setting and the language which included many words rooted in Arabic. (btw, Muad’Dib, in Arabic, means teacher).
 
The story starts by dumping you face-down into the mysterious grim setting. There is no forewarning. This, I admit, was a little unsettling at first, but I got used to it. Paul, the prince of the Atreides family, is our 15-year old protagonist. The Atreides family is packing up from their home in Caladan to move to Arrakis, the desert planet which harvests spice, the most valuable commodity. Paul’s mother, we find, is from the Bene Gesserit (at this point, all I could assume was that this is a sisterhood or a tribe with great power, plus they have Sherlock-like observation skills). The “Reverend Mother” is a mysterious old hag who comes over and “tests” Paul with a torture device. Paul passes the test (yaaaay!) and we have the old hag thinking about the possibility of Paul being the “Kwisatz Haderach” (I just assumed this is a prophetic being that the Bene Gesserit has been waiting for).
 
The next part reveals the people we are supposed to hate—the Harkonnens. And oh, the plotting! Nice! We also get to know about what a Mentat is—a cool-ass mercenary.
 
Later, the Atreides family reaches the Arrakis, and we learn about Paul’s teachers: Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat (a Mentat). Also about Dr. Yueh, who is being forced by the Harkonnens to betray the family. The first night at Arrakis, Paul is attacked. He only survives because he didn’t sleep as he was supposed to, and uses common sense to stay live. Smart kid.
 
Okay, so I really like Lady Jessica, Paul’s mother. In an interaction with a Freman woman (Arrakis native), I loved how she used the nuances of the conversation to take control of the conversation. Total badass!
 
The Duke Leto Atreides is a man stuck in the politics of the Houses, facing the evil Harkonnens on his own. He’s tired by all the shit. He’s also a leader who cares about the lives of his people—he actually sacrifices a whole stock of spices to save the workers who got stuck in the desert with the notorious desert worm. He’s going to die soon, poor sod.
 
So, that’s all for now. Overall, I’m really liking this book. I haven’t read something like this before, so it’s a refreshing read. The author really goes into detail about the politics, the geology and all other details that make this book seem so close to reality!

 

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text 2016-11-20 16:54
Reading progress update: I've read 340 out of 928 pages.
Merlin Trilogy - Mary Stewart
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart
The Hollow Hills - Mary Stewart

 

(Page numbers are for the omnibus edition.)

 

Well, I finished The Crystal Cave (a while ago in fact) and have now moved on to The Hollow Hills, which picks up right where the first book of the trilogy ends.  Merlin is still rather unlike the wise old wizard as whom I'd so far seen him and is becoming ever closer to what I'd so far imagined young Arthur to have been ... but I'm still enjoying the read as such.

 

For those who care, I thought I'd share a couple of photos from the location of the final chapters of The Crystal Cave and the first chapters of The Hollow Hills, Tintagel, where legend has it that King Arthur was conceived ... or, well, photos of what's left of the Tintagel castle ruins (which incidentally date from the 12th, not from the 6th century), as well as the paths that Merlin and Uther would have had to climb, first down to the beach and then back up along the face of the cliff, to get to the castle high up on the promontory:

 




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review 2016-11-20 15:11
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under
Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates - Kerry Greenwood

- Read a book set in Australia or by an Australian author,  or read a book you would consider a "beach read".

 

Well, I can see how a screen version of this might work rather nicely, but alas, as written, it wasn't really for me.  I liked Bert and Cec, and Dr. MacMillan, and Dot (once transformed, though her transformation was perhaps a bit of a rapid one) ... but I couldn't much bring myself to care for either Phryne herself, or the narrative voice, or the story as such.  And I'm afraid the author already lost me right at the beginning, where there is an IMHO not-very-successfully-executed attempt at an Agatha Christie / Arthur Conan Doyle supersleuth-style "instant solution" of a crime committed in Phryne's presence (which then, even more implausibly, serves as instant motivation for one of those present at the scene, who doesn't until then have seemed to know much about Phryne, to entrust her with the both expensive and rather delicate task of travelling all the way to Australia to look after his daughter's wellbeing).  Moreover, both the author and Phryne seemed to share a sneering tone, talking down to the reader and half the other characters alike, which I found rather grating, particularly in a book billed as a "cozy" mystery.  Fundamentally, though, what I found fairly preposterous was the notion that a young woman, who hasn't been to Australia since her childhood days (when she moved in quite different circles from those in which she is moving upon her return, and who therefore can't possibly know or anticipate all the pitfalls of her commission), only needs to show up in Melbourne and, in the space of a mere couple of days, manages to solve not one but several crimes that have had the Melbourne police all up in arms for months ... and all this by pushing buttons that, in the case of both of the chief criminals, should have stared any halfway competent policeman and / or the criminals' own associates in the face within about the same amount of time it ended up taking Phryne to discover them.  (But then, Phryne has virtually no faults at all to begin with -- she is Superwoman incarnate, which is one of my major pet peeves anyway.)  Add to all that the super-clumsy drop of a clue as to the final reveal fairly early on in the story -- the sort of clue that, if used by Christie or Conan Doyle at all, is bound to be a means of the most skillful misdirection, not the sort of dead giveaway it is here -- and I was seriously underwhelmend all the way through.

 

Still, as I said, there were characters I enjoyed, and the writing, narrative voice and major plot implausibilities aside, flowed nicely -- and judging by the popularity of  both the book and the TV series, I decidedly seem to be in the minority here as far as my overall opinion is concerned ...

 

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review 2016-11-19 15:13
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express
Murder on the Orient Express: Complete & Unabridged (Audiocd) - Agatha Christie

 

- Read a book that involves train travel (such as Murder on the Orient Express).

 

Well, as it happened I did pick Murder on the Orient Express for this square.  Not that I'm not intimately familiar with the story as such already -- it was actually one of the first books by Agatha Christie that I ever read, not to mention watching (and owning) the screen adaptation starring Albert Finney and half of classic Hollywood's A list.  But I'd never listened to the audio version read by David Suchet, and I am very glad to finally have remedied that now.  Not only is Suchet the obvious choice to read any of Christie's Poirot novels because his name has practically become synonymous with that of the little Belgian himself -- great character actor that he is, he was obviously also having the time of his life with all of the story's other roles, including those of the women; and particularly so, Mrs. Hubbard, whose interpretation by Suchet also gives the listener more than a minor glance at the fun that recent London audiences must have been having watching him appear as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest (drag and all). 

 

A superb reading of one of Agatha Christie's very best mysteries and one of my all-time favorite books.  Bravo, Mr. Suchet!

 

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