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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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review 2015-10-02 15:34
Awesome!
The Martian - Andy Weir

How good was this book? Well, I started reading it on Thursday night and finished on Friday.  That's right, I finished all 369 pages in 24 hours.  Total reading time was about 5 hours, since I had to do annoying things like sleep & work.  There are mild spoilers in this review, so if you don't want to know anything about the details of the book, go no further - just take my a word for it that this is excellent and run out to buy a copy right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still with me? Ok, let's get into specifics.

 

What makes this book so good? The main character, Mark Watney, is sarcastic, funny and doesn't take anything too seriously while moving the story along, which keeps the story from becoming either a dry, boring, technical science-y, snooze-fest for us non-scientists or an overly serious downer given the long odds he faces.

 

The pacing is excellent and I felt like the things that happened were realistic. Even though Mark encountered a lot of problems during his 18 months on Mars, it never felt like the author was just throwing another disaster at him for the sake of a cheap thrill.  He was allowed triumphs 

like the successful potato crop and creation of water from rocket fuel

(spoiler show)

and the boredom and monotony of being stranded on Mars alone.  The problems were never too devastating, thanks to his gallows humor and ability to recover from mistakes and/or events outside his control, which requires a SERIOUS balancing act to keep his recoveries believable.  He's resilient.

 

I also liked that the science was explained in a way that was easy to understand.  A lot of books fall into the trap of being too technical for non-science people, which, while correctly analyzing scientific problems & solutions, leads to boredom or skimming.  The author, through Mark, broke the science down in a way that makes it easier to understand why he's doing what he's doing without making it patronizing.  That's tough and I commend him for it.

 

The supporting characters are also great, especially considering the fact that they don't get a ton of page time individually for their development.  We learn a lot about the other members of the Ares 3 crew from Mark rummaging through the items they left behind.  Later in the book you get their perspectives to fill in the gaps in Mark's perceptions.  The NASA staff feel like real people you'd expect to work for NASA - crazy-smart, a little nerdy, and full of individual quirks.

 

Overall, I can't say enough good things about The Martian.  I hope Andy Weir keeps writing for a long time, since I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

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text 2015-01-12 22:27
Reading progress update: I've read 10%.
Dealing with Dragons - Patricia C. Wrede

The audio on this was a bust. It sounds like it was once a cassette tape that was poorly translated to MP3. That, and I think this will be more fun as a physical book. So this is on hold until my copy comes to the library! 

 

Back to zombie thrillers. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-12-31 16:18
Saga #22
Saga #22 - Brian K. Vaughan,Fiona Staples

5 Stars, Buy it




So Marko still has no idea that his wife is on drugs. This is so not going to end well is it? Alana makes Marko leave. I think my soul might just have been crushed. NOOOOO!!!!  Not quite sure how the Prince robot is connected in all of this but at least I have one or two more issues before i’m caught up and have to wait endlessley for the new issues to be released.  Not only is the story amazing and original, the writing rocks and the art is out of this world. And In any case, read this series, even if you think you don’t like graphic novels, seriously this series is awesome!

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text 2014-12-06 20:06
Reading progress update: I've read 56%.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling

I am loving doing this re-read with E.! It's been a long time since I read these books. I used to do a read through of all the previous ones before a new one came out. Then 2007 came, the series ended, and I was left bereft. Well, at least until I discovered other series to fill the Harry Potter shaped hole in my life :). Throne of Glass, anyone?

 

Reading this again has reminded me of why I fell in love the first time. Everything is so richly described. I love hearing the little quirks of characters, and I've been delighted each time more back story than I remember is provided. Hearing about Professor Quirell's turban (and the rumors behind it) had me rapt.

 

What can I say? I'm a Harry Potter fan girl. 

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