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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:


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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review 2016-12-29 14:39
The Woman Who Killed Donald Trump
The Woman Who Killed Donald Trump - Sam Bower

by Sam Bower


There's so much wrong with the idea of writing this, but it was going for free and morbid curiosity made me look.


It's a short story involving government agencies who people already believe perform assassinations for 'the good of the country' and is surprisingly well written. If the names were fictional, it would actually be a very good political intrigue story. The twist at the end was excellent.


As real names were used, it does fit public perceptions of the characters. Who can tell how accurate those might or might not be? I'm sure that writing it served as catharsis for the author, though I think it might have been wiser to at least change the names to fictional ones. Anyone who reads it would recognize who it's meant to be anyway.


I'm going to ignore that aspect and give it a high rating for good writing. If the secret service hauls this person away, well, that's nothing to do with me. All I did was read it and enjoy it, perhaps a little too much.

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review 2016-09-13 21:11
Fun Read
The Rook - Daniel O'Malley,Susan Duerden

I had no idea what to expect when I started this book. A friend read it, didn't tell me anything about it, and I didn't read the blurb before I dove in. I didn't even look very closely at the cover, which would have given me some clues. I did later see that someone had compared it to X-Men meets X-Files and that seems about right.


I was hooked from beginning to end and am a little sad to say goodbye to some of the characters. I've heard the second book in the series isn't like the first - still good, but pretty different - and I don't think I'm ready to tackle that one just yet. 


One thing I didn't expect was to laugh as much as I did. What a great story and a great main character. I certainly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys political intrigue and science fiction.


Oh, and the narrator did a great job on the many different voices. Her inflections during narration, though, kept pulling me out of the story. Not too badly but enough to think repeatedly, "please change that!" I understand that she doesn't do the second book so I'll be interested to know how I like the new narrator once I get around to it.

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review 2016-05-08 11:25
A History or a Tragedy
Richard II - Sylvan Barnet,William Shakespeare

It is difficult to determine whether Richard II is a tragedy or not. It appears that when Shakespeare first drafted the play he drafted it as a tragedy (and it is one of his earlier plays) however as his folio of plays increased, it fall among his history plays. It should be considered that not all of Shakespeare's plays fall neatly into the categories of tragedy or comedy, and this is particularly the case with his history plays (in particular Henry V).


Richard II is the first play in Shakespeare's history cycle (which begins with Richard II and ends with Richard III, with the King Henry plays coming in the middle). In a sense this history cycle chronicles the fall of the Plantagenat dynasty and the rise of the Tudor dynasty. It should also be noted that the history plays all occur during the period known as the Hundred Years War (which was between England and France), though by the time of Richard III, England had been pretty much kicked out of France, and thus it is interesting to note that upon losing the Hundred Years War, civil war breaks out in England (a war known as the War of the Roses, between the House of Lancaster and the House of York). The losing side in war seems to, in many cases, either collapse into civil war, or undergo a revolution (actually, that is not really the case, but it was in this particular instance).


However, enough of history and on with the play, or the character of Richard II. Richard was the grand son of Edward III (the one who is considered to be the instigator of the Hundred Years War), and was the son of the Black Prince. The Black Prince, being heir to the throne, never actually took the throne as he died before his father (of the black plague, which was ravaging Europe at the time). So, when Edward died, Richard took the throne. However, Richard did not last long as he continued his father's and grand father's wars, but to fight wars, one needs money, so he raised money by confiscating lands and raising taxes. However, his wars never went all that well, and as is the case in such situations, was deposed by the man who would become Henry IV.


The question is whether this play falls into a tragedy. As argued elsewhere I do not see any concept of a tragic flaw in Shakespeare's tragedies, and once again I do not see any tragic flaw in Richard. Yes, he raised taxes, and upset the wrong people, but that is going to happen when one is king. I guess if there was a fatal flaw in Richard it was that he wasn't a particularly strong king. I say that because not only did he get deposed, but because his rival, Henry Bolingbroke, was able to rally support against him. I guess he also wasn't a particularly bright king either as he went to Ireland to fight a war there and pretty much left the kingdom open to Bolingbroke to take it from him. However, I guess that may be the purpose of the history plays, as here we see the end of the Plantagenat dynasty, however the mess that begins with Bolingbroke's usurption will end with the mess that becomes the War of the Roses.


A few other points I wish to raise, and that is that Bolingbroke, when he captures Richard, locks him up. However this isn't in a dungeon or such, but rather in a castle. This is a very luxurious prison, but a prison nonetheless. Further, Richard's death is strangely reminiscent of the death of Thomas Becket. Henry II is said to have cried out 'who will rid me of this troublesome priest' at which point some knights took it upon themselves to kill him, against Henry's wishes. The similar thing occurs here (and it is interesting to note that both incidents involve a Henry). Henry, exacerbated, makes a statement that he does not mean, and assassins that go to Pomfret Castle and slay Richard (though Richard does actually put up a fight - never accuse Shakespeare of being light on the action). However, it appears that this event occurred according to his source, Holingshed. It is also interesting that Richard's assassin is exiled and that Henry mourns over his death. It seems that even though he took his throne, he could not bring himself to kill Richard, for even though he may no longer king in actuality, he is still the king, and to kill him is regicide. Whatever happens to Henry I guess we will see unfold in Henry IV.


By the way I recently watched a Royal Shakespeare Company production of this place, which happens to have David Tennant as the lead role. I have written a post on it (and a more detailed analysis of the play) on my blog.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/206428040
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review 2016-05-02 14:32
A Story of a Man Who Just Wants to Be Loved
King Lear - William Shakespeare

This is by far and away my favourite Shakespeare play. It is a very dark and brooding play that is not only incredibly violent, but also ends very badly for most of the main characters. King Lear is one of Shakespeare's great tragedies (along with the Scottish Play and Hamlet) though I find that Hamlet is a lot tighter and the plots are a lot more intertwined than King Lear.


What I mean by this is that there are, I'll say two, plots running side by side and then merge at the end of the play. It is noticeable that both of these plots deal with the same theme, and that is of love. This first plot involves King Lear and the second involves Edgar, his bastard half-brother Edmund, and their father the duke of Gloucester. Lear believes that he has become too old to be a king and decides to divide his kingdom between his daughters, and the biggest portion will go to the one who loves him the most. Two of the daughters put on a song and dance about how much they love him, while the third, who truly loves him, can only be honest. Lear is angered at what he considers a pathetic response, and banishes her from the Kingdom, and divides it between his remaining two daughters. Lord Kent rebukes Lear for this, and Lear banishes him as well.


The Edgar/Edmund plot involves the villain Edmund, who is bitter at being a bastard and schemes to destroy his legitimate brother and take his place. He deceives his father, and Edgar flees to the moors where he disguises himself as Mad Tom, and then brands his father as a traitor (he is aware that the King of France is landing an army in England to restore Lear's third daughter, Cordielia, to the throne, particularly since her sisters have stripped Lear of his kingdom), and then strips him of his dignity by blinding him, and then banishes him to the moors.


As mentioned, the theme of this play is about love. King Lear simply wants to be loved, but does not understand that love is defined by actions not words. This is very clear with Lord Kent who, despite being banished, disguises himself and returns to serve Lear, and despite Lear being stripped of his authority, still recognises him as the true King of England. It is interesting to note that at the close of the play, once Lear has died and Kent is offered the crown, he refuses it, and instead hands it to Edgar, who has been vindicated (and was also the one to defeat Edmund in an epic sword fight). We see a similar theme with Edgar and Gloucester who he finds wondering the moors as a blind man, and assists him to return to his glory (before he dies).


While there is a lot more to this play, another interesting aspect is the division of the kingdom. It is quite anachronistic for the period in which the play was written (or when it was set, in a mythological pre-Roman era – the sources for the play would be Monmouth's Kings of Britain), however during the era of Charlegmaine, this was something that would happen. One's kingdom, and property, were not handed down to the first born, but divided between the male heirs to the throne. This is probably the main reason why Charlegmaine's empire did not last much beyond his lifetime.


I have written a much more detailed analysis, for those who are interested, on my Blog (though this was after watching the Ian McKellan version of the play).

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/187711584
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