Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tobias on Dune: (5) Here’s a surprise: the thrilling parts are static.

New Zealand has apparently passed a law that outlaws software patents. The legislators believe that blocking software patents will encourage innovation. I agree with them, even though I was part of a team that tried, in 1969 and 1970, to acquire a number of software patents. Hoorray!

So, back to Dune. In this novel, the planet Arrakis is, all by itself, a mystery. Herbert drops hints that it’s important to understand all about the Melange spice, and we have to wait and wait while he gradually fills in the roles of the Maker and the little Makers. It’s exciting, and Herbert makes the excitement work, but note: he this creates excitement by revealing the details slowly.

Herbert does much the same with the political intrigues that delight us in this novel. He lays out much of the push and pull between the major players, and then he gradually reveals more stresses and strains among them. There may be plots-within-plots, but these plots remain static.

There are some exciting action sequences, but they do little to change the balance of the intrigues. We know that Doctor Yueh will commit treason. We know that the Fremens will fight better than the Harkonnen troops.

There are intrigues that are full of action. Almost all of these deal with Baron Harkonnnen: his handling of the Sardaukar; Instructions to Feyd Rautha, Rautha’s treachery, etc.

When I first read the novel, all of these scenes were exciting. But during the re-read, I knew how trivial and unimportant to the main plot they were. The baron’s machinations generally annoyed me. He got away with his lies too easily, and a lot of what he did just didn’t matter.

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