We begin our next novel with an overload of information for some of you. Dune is complex; both the novel and the planet have multiple layers, and things are not always as they seem at first glance. The world of the novel blends action with mysticism, technology with environmentalism, and great political houses with lonely desert sietches. Dune has been called the greatest science fiction novel ever written. While I might not go that far, I would agree that it is definitely in the top ten! At 489 pages without the appendices, this is a long novel, so you will need to read at a faster pace than you did with Ender's Game.
The number of characters introduced in Book I, "Dune," is mind-boggling, and it is hard to remember who is who, at first, but once you get into the novel, you will discover that the main plot involves a core cast of characters who are memorable individuals.
House Atreides includes: Duke Leto of Caladan; his concubine, Jessica; their son, Paul [also known as Maud'Dib]; their daughter, Alia; the physician, Wellington Yueh; the mentat, Thufir Hawat; the "troubadour-warrior, Gurney Hallack; and the swordmaster, Duncan Idaho.
House Harkonnen, enemies of the Atreides, includes: The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen; his nephews Feyd-Rautha and Rabban; and the mentat Piter.
Other characters who are introduced in this section of the novel include: the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother, the planetary ecologist Pardot Kynes, and the Fremen Mapes and Stilgar.
We are scheduled to finish this book by October 27th [the postcards are due October 28th], so you need to read steadily, completing Book I: "Dune" by Saturday night. My questions for you this week include the following:
- How would you compare the planets Caladan [the homeworld of the House of Atreides] and Arrakis [their new residence]? What are the environmental issues facing House Atreides on Arrakis?
- How would you compare the members of House Atreides to the members of House Harkonnen? Are these characters believable? Why or why not?
- Who benefits from the change of "governors" [from the Harkonnen to the Atreides] over the planet known as Dune? How are the Bene Gesserit involved in this change? How are the Fremen affected by the change?
- How much of this novel's setting and characterization might be a product of its time? The 1960s saw the rise of the environmental movement [the lack of water, the dream of terraforming the planet?], the anti-colonialist movement in third world countries [the Fremen and their subversive activities?], the use of mind-altering substances by college professors [mentats?] and other "professional" people, an interest in non Judeo-Christian religions such as Buddhism and Islam in the west [the use of the word jihad?], and genetic studies [again, the Bene Gesserit?].
- Is this novel still timely today? If so, how? If not, why not?
Try to stay within Book I: "Dune" in your responses. We will move on to Book II: "Muad'Dib" next week, so you need to keep reading!
Teacher Barb :)