Science Fiction

Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

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Title: Dune

Author: Frank Herbert

Publication Date: 1965

Genre: Science Fiction

Overview: Duke Leto Atreides is moved to Arrakis to oversee the production of spice and the maintenance of the local desert people, the Fremen, much to the chagrin of the Baron Harkonnen. The Baron sets out to assassinate Leto and succeeds. Paul, the Duke’s heir, and Paul’s mother escape to the desert, a treacherous place filled with sinking sandpits and carnivorous worms the size of spaceships. Renamed Muad’Dib, Paul becomes a leader of the Fremen and seeks revenge on the Baron who assassinated his father and the Emperor who gave his tacit approval.

For Fans Of: Dune (the Movie), Herbert, Orson Scott Card

World-Building: Herbert relies heavily on desert imagery. He constructs the Fremen people around existing ideas about nomadic desert clans and Middle Eastern historical events (i.e. Byzantines). In this regard, his base is strong.

The ecological theory that riddles the novel is interesting. It creates the underlying motivation for the current Fremen state. Their utter belief in their ability to change Arrakis is not only necessary to help build a sense of religious fervor, but also lends credence to Arrakis as an empire’s colony (The netted dew-catchers is an old concept that has been drawn on both in Herbert’s science fiction and in today’s scientific developments.).

Current netted dew catching prototype

My only real problem with Dune’s world is Herbert’s quite obvious struggle with the concepts of genetic determinism and free will. Paul is consistently reminded that he is destined; Herbert often refers to this as Paul’s race consciousness (Note: this is not meant by Herbert in the more nuanced social scientific sense). Paul is genetically foretold and has powers that were granted to him. He has very little choice but to become the fabled Muad’Dib that the Fremen have waited so long for; every move he makes simply takes him closer to this fate. However, Paul is supposed to have choice, free will. We see this from the very beginning with Paul’s struggles with the oncoming potential for religious revolt. These two concepts are difficult to resolve and make parts of Paul’s journey frustrating because Herbert is unclear which he believes to be driving Paul. It’s a type of idealism that’s distracting in Herbert’s tale.

Character Development: Paul’s character becomes very flat the moment his full powers are unlocked. Though the Bene Gesserit parts of Paul should be allowing him insight into his own emotions and those of others, Paul seems to lock them out completely. He relies far more heavily on the Mentat (purely logical, analytical) ability to think and block out emotion. I think this is to the detriment of his development. For instance, it makes his romantic relationship and its intimacy seem very unbelievable.

Plot: The plot was interesting. The calculating nature of the world’s leaders is made very clear as well as the intricacies of their strategic decisions. This makes the plot easier to follow and gives it a sense of intrigue.

Rating: 3.0

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Dune-Frank-Herbert/dp/0441172717

Book Depository Link: http://www.bookdepository.com/Dune-Frank-Herbert/9788497596824

Review: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

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Title: Dark Eden

Author: Chris Beckett

Publication Date: April 2014

Genre: Science Fiction

 

Overview: John’s family lives in Eden, a dark, wild planet once visited by people from Earth. They’ve spent the last 150 years in the Circle Valley waiting for Earth to rescue them, living as hunter and gatherers in the same spot that their forefathers were abandoned in generations ago. But the valley is dying. There isn’t enough food and no one has left to find more. In a fit of frustration, John destroys the center of their home and departs for the Dark Place beyond the valley bringing with him a group of ragtag youths.

 

For Fans Of: William Golding, Orson Scott Card (circa 1985?)

 

World-Building: Eden is pretty interesting as far as settings. It’s a land where there is no external light source and where the animals are mostly six legged and have mandibles (feelers on a mammal would be called _______?) It’s human inhabitants are almost cult-like and it’s surprising that they have absolutely no modern knowledge–presumably their forefathers were stranded astronauts– and live primitively. I found the more interesting parts to be in the time spent outside of the Valley. The developments that John Redlantern and his friends come up with are relatively simplistic, but enable them to encounter some fun and scary creatures.

 

The culture I found a little unsettling at times if only for the sexual practices. Beckett is not graphic in any of this, but some of it gave me the creeps (i.e. John and the group leader)

 

Character Development: John is consistently self-centered. That wasn’t so bad except that he’s indulged through to the very end without any real consequences despite a number of instances that seemed to be foreshadowing otherwise. I liked Tina; she was probably the best character. I liked that she had to become responsible and didn’t shirk from it and I liked that she was realistic about the people around her. Beckett sets her up initially as someone who’s a bit vapid, but she doesn’t stay that way.

 

Plot: There’s no real plot or end to it. John’s screwed it all up royally and it kind of just ends with him running from his screw ups like he did the whole book long. That’s not to say it’s bad. It felt like the way to end it for him, but there wasn’t some overarching plot or purpose to his adventures. Don’t expect a real conclusion to them.

 

Rating: 3.5

 

Notes: I received this copy from netgalley.com as an eARC. Dark Eden is an Arthur C. Clark award winner.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0804138680?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0804138680&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Book Depository Link:  http://www.bookdepository.com/Dark-Eden-Chris-Beckett/9781848874640