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Dec 22, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

One of the things I find fascinating about the book is that Paul dreams of Chani while he is on Caladan before he goes to Arrakis and is introduced to the spice. I believe in the power of dreams to predict the future.

More than 50 years ago, I kept a dream journal. In December of 1972, I dreamed of marrying a short woman who spoke a foreign language. In January of 1973, I met that woman at my sister's wedding in a city over 1000 miles from where I lived at the time. Nine months later we were married and this past October we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

Questions for the group: Do you believe in the power of your dreams to predict the your future? Have you ever had something that you dreamed come true? Have you ever kept a dream journal? What do you make of the dreams in Dune?

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You know,I hadn't thought about the fact he was having the dreams pre-spice exposure.

I love your story. I love things like that when I hear them.

I dream a huge amount and I also have been intermittent at keeping journals of what I dream of. I find it quite fascinating. Even though I'm fairly sceptical (I don't *think* I've ever dreamed something that's come true; my dreams are usually more abstract), I love the notion that there could be some prescience to be gleaned and I actually really like the use of dreams in Dune and how what Paul experiences in that regard is viewed.

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Dec 22, 2023·edited Dec 22, 2023Author

Yep Paul could have been great, pre-spice. Moral? Don’t do spice.

Re: Dreams. There are various myths around dreams, powerful stuff. Ever had the same dream several times? Tried to have the same dream? Sometimes in the early mornings when you’re half awake, try and think of something specific, most of the time when I fall asleep again, the dreams that come (if they do) are very vivid. Maybe I should keep a notepad close, cause I can't remember any of them minutes later.

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Nathan, have you heard of Lucid dreaming? It is when you realize that you are dreaming and you control and change what you do in the dream. I have attempted it and have only achieved it on a few occasions.

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Yes, it's happened to me only a handful of times in my life, but it's always been amazing. My first instinct is to immediately start flying around 😂

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Dec 21, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Now, this maybe me having too much of the Christmas spirit but so far Book II has been fantastic. It’s like an entirely different novel. Glad I chose to continue!

On a random note, it does remind me of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant with the Bloodguard clearly based on the Fremen and the main character being arrogant and not the most likeable. Stephen Donaldson clearly didn’t just borrow from Tolkien

Anyway, here’s to the New Year and giving books second chances! 😁

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That's great, Dan. Glad to hear it.

I'm not aware of Thomas Covenant, but now I'm intrigued to see to what extent he's drawn from other novels based on your thoughts and the comments from Alexander!

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In defence of the Covenant books, I would say they would merit a serious discussion about what the author was trying to achieve and whether the world building and supporting characters make up for having such an anti hero for the lead. Also, going back to read them nearly 40 years later would probably be an eye-opener!

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Yeah that's a fair span of time. I've just been reading the Wiki page about the critical response:

"...in 1986, David Langford published an essay by Nick Lowe, in which Lowe suggested "a way to derive pleasure from Stephen Donaldson books. (Needless to say, it doesn't involve reading them.)"[3] This proposal involved a game he called "Clench Racing", wherein players each open a volume of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant to a random page; the winner is the first to find the word "clench". Lowe describes it as a "fast" game – "sixty seconds is unusually drawn out".

😆

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Ha ha. Yeah, that’s about right 😁

“Hellfire” and “Mouth full of ashes” are other ones that pop up frequently. I took my copy out there and had a quick flick through. Deary me. Don’t think I’ll be doing a re-read of them any time soon 😆

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Dec 21, 2023·edited Dec 21, 2023Author

Yeah, but Nick Lowe is you know... one guy with an opinion, presently we can play the dry throat racing game as well. Not to say anything about Donaldson's prose, I loved the books in the 80s and have read them (again) in German only.

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Haha, yeah. I can't cast any judgement. I have no knowledge of these.

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just searched for "clench" in Lord Foul (Book 1). 53 occurrences. Presently, not that much? 😅

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Oh, no you didn't! Not Thomas, Dan! Not him. I wonder... did Donaldson read Dune? Fair assumption. But Thomas der Zweifler is no Paul. Great to have you with us all the way, Dan! I never doubted you ;)

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This is great! Once they enter worm territory, the story is more compact with less characters and a focus on the Fremen and Arrakis.

I don’t know The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Is it good?

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Hmm, I would have to say it has not aged well. And, as Alexander says, the main character is really unlikable (a lot worse than Paul) so it’s probably not worth going back to. Plus, he does copy a whole lot from other books as I’m now discovering. I think, because I read them at such a young age, they cast a shadow over any subsequent reading and this just made me remember them with the Fremen and clearly his version of them

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Dec 21, 2023·edited Dec 21, 2023Author

Thomas Covenant, a leper, is the ultimate anti-hero, the most unlikable protagonist in history and Stephen R. Donaldson's novels are canonical SF/F reading, albeit now I wonder how well his writing holds up; "clench race" anyone?

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 21, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Dune: after reading it for the first time many years ago, I've returned to it time and again because I'm inspired by Herbert's storytelling. I've even tried to emulate his style but the closest I've gotten to it is a short story I wrote many years ago.

To be intrigued and the wish to see the moments, even years, and the story kept alive - a speculative endeavour and enjoyable - the in-between years that Frank didn't reveal have been written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, and it's been wonderful.

🤠📚

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Thanks Robert. Haven't read any either author! Glad to hear they've kept the series alive.

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Dec 19, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

When I was in college, I read the Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex, for class. I laughed through the entire play. I didn’t think that people spoke that way. I usually don’t read literature written before 1900. My daughter, on the other hand, loves Shakespeare and reads literature written before 1900.

I first read Dune in the late sixties while in college and I loved it. I am now reading it for the third time and at seventy-four still love it. Herbert may not write as poetically as Bradbury but he tells a powerful story that deeply touches people. The second book, Dune Messiah, is the worst.

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Lovely, Harley! Thanks for dropping by with your thoughts. Part of the joy of literature is the diversity of tastes and styles and how everyone has their own preferences and how these may change (or stay fixed) over time. I've not heard great things about Dune Messiah, so I've never gone there...!

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Dec 19, 2023·edited Dec 19, 2023Author

You raise an important point that ties into what's referred to as suspension of disbelief. People reading Dune may at times also have the reaction that "no one talks like that" reading the dialogue, which is but one element, and either they suspend or ignore their disbelief and they read on for the ideas rather than the prose, or they love both prose and ideas. As with any work, it's a product of its time, Shakespeare's plays have been modernised and some people love the modern versions, some love both, and others prefer the original, oh but why dost thou irk me so with thine tongue of new? Take Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996)

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I’m also on my third read and still loving it, prose style and all. Like you say, it’s a powerful story and it stood the test of time. It’s amazing that with the new Dune film it might see its Golden Age only now, over 60 years later. Frank Herbert was ahead of his time. I agree with the critiques who go as far as considering the Dune story at a mythical level because of its rich worldbuilding and the complex topics that it approaches.

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Dec 18, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

This is so fascinating. As someone who has seen the film and was a bit meh ( sooooo much sand...) but also interested by it, I wondered about the book. 'Boring prose' is not really selling it 🤣 but it also sounds like there are a ton of interesting concepts. I might just keep learning about it without reading! These conversations are interesting even without having read it. Sometimes I think a book becomes bigger than itself. It stands for ideas or moments in time instead of the actual thing itself. MAybe that's what's happened. It's like the concept of Chelsea Martin's book : Tell Me I'm an Artist. Her big project is to remake the film of Rushmore without ever having seen it.

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I’m reading the book for the third time and I love it. It’s one of my all time favorite books and even after so many years it hasn’t lost its appeal. Quite the contrary, I think that it’s more relevant than ever especially when it comes to its environmental themes. I definitely recommend reading it. The worldbuilding is unrivaled. I like the prose, the characters, the plot, the social and philosophical aspects of the Dune world. Many people say it’s not hard sci-fi. I don’t think the future is technological.

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I wish I could overlook the prose, but I just can't this time. It makes me 😴, which is a shame because the world is indeed really good, especially when considered as an ecological message.

I don't think it's my favourite worldbuilding though. It's great, but there are worlds in SciFi and fantasy that for me feel more interesting.

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Thanks so much for reading, Kate. Open to any feedback on what might improve anything from the reader's perspective, but hope you enjoyed the style here.

I'd say stick with hearing/learning about the film but to turn your reading towards Solenoid ;)

I agree with the notion of a book becoming bigger than itself. I don't fully know how the release of Dune played out (I bet Alexander knows ...) and when it became so popular. I'm sure there's been a huge resurgence of readers and influx of new readers from Denis' film.

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Dec 19, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Also I think a short video clip of you all chatting would be 👌🏽

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If you want to see me incapable of expressing coherent words verbally, then sure 😉😂

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Dec 19, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Yes please hahaha

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Hear hear ;) I keep suggesting a full podcast 🎙️🙃

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Dec 19, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Yeah!!

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"First serialized in Analog, Dune was widely rejected (23 times) by publishing houses until finally accepted by Chilton Books, a company known mostly for their automotive manuals." Also, he rewrote much of his text for the book, got an advance of 7,500$ and made $20k total off of Dune by 1968, very good for the time but not enough until 1972 when he became a full-time writer. Always interesting to see and hear all those rejection stories. There's one for Forest Gump, too, sitting in the archives for years because no one wanted to make the film...

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Dec 19, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Rewrote it? Wow. So somebody really loved the ideas from the start. Interesting. I would find that hard!!

Yeah I think we just keep writing and hope it reaches the right people!

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He wrote two short stories and then took them and rewrote them as Dune. He received the Hugo and Nebula awards for the book.

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Dec 19, 2023·edited Dec 19, 2023Author

Yeah, it was serialised in Analog at first. Took him 6 years in total to get the book done (research+writing). He shared the Hugo with Zelazny in 1966.

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Indeed. All you need is that one editor willing to take that risk...

One editor prophetically wrote, "I might be making the mistake of the decade, but..."

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You can try the audiobook perhaps, someone here is doing that and they like it. As for the prose, there are many who love it. Preference. Glad you find the conversation interesting regardless! SF in general is always first and foremost about the ideas and concepts and Dune is no exception. As they say, ideas live forever ;)

I do not know Chelsea Martin's book, Goodreads says "A masterful novel from an author known for her candid and searching prose" as masterful as Dune? 😅

Now back to CARTER! I shall visit all Stacks later this week. The hour is late...

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Dec 18, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Good thoughts! Ideas live forever. Like it.

I’m way behind in general 😅 will be catching up over the week...

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Lovely read, I enjoyed the conversation like writing that broke the flow of your usual writing!

I read it when I was in tweens in the 90s after playing Dune 2 RTS game and because it was one of the thing to read after Asimov's and most of the symbolism and prose flew by me then but the worldbuilding really captivated me back then.

now reading it again after all those years it really shows how our views of science, religion and spirituality changed in over 50 years. I felt like reading semi history book as some were written as if it is like a retelling of a story by the princess Irulan for her children. with hint of dramatization.

I do have to remark some of the ideals and word choices show the time when this was written where some of the words won't be used in the modern day writing. Also the advent of the Internet helped us to share our knowledge in improving our writing so much better than our forefathers. Or it's just different style of writing.

As for the scifi element, they'll be shocked to see us carrying a computer more powerful than the supercomputers of then in the palm of our hands. our understanding of science is lot better to a point some of the things they talk about are more fantasy than science (shields for instance). However I think those are the charms of old scifi and see how our current scifi holds up in the decades to come.

Dune depicts a world once lush now turned desert, stings us with moral responsibility as our planet is losing its precious drinkable water due to our over use of the natural resources and inducing climate change.

Despite its old prose, I think it's something people should read listen or watch to remind ourselves we or children might be living in stillsuits if we don't take care of our world.

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Appreciate the feedback, Jethoof. Glad to hear the conversational style worked for you and really enjoyed reading your thoughts. I always find it interesting to compare SciFi technology from that 50s/60s SciFi novel era to what we have today, and I agree it can lend works a certain charm.

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Yes, like I mentioned, in terms of writing style Dune is dated if you read closely & pay attention to word choice. As writers, we don't often think about how much our vocabulary changes over ten or even five years, let alone decades, even though Dune thankfully has no glaring missteps like racial slurs etc.

The environmental aspect is something I definitely didn't think about on my first read. Now, I 100% agree with you that people should read Dune as a cautionary tale.

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Thanks, Jethoof. Great to hear you enjoyed the conversation style of the letter! Like you, I played Dune 2 (though RTS is not my forte), read Asimov and devoured any and all SF/F back then, hence I went back to Dune with rose-tinted nostalgia glasses. And as you say, despite its prose it is something people today can enjoy in various forms, such as audiobooks or the new film(s) that may even lead them to read the book(s).

You mentioned "Fantasy" and indeed this is a more apt description since Dune is more magical than science, a fairy tale in an SF setting, or Soft SF, and that's OK. Don't ask how stuff works, Mr. Holtzman. Herbert himself said he writes SF for people who don't read SF.

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Hi Jethoof, thanks for the insightful comment. I also think that the environmental aspect of the book is the strongest and so relevant today. Being in such dire need of water that one has to recycle one owns body sweat and the water of dead people is striking. Such storytelling is needed to help people understand how bad it could get if we continue to value profit over having an ecosystem. The interesting thing is that the Dune civilization has the technology to regulate a planet’s weather but Arrakis is too precious as it is because of the natural resource spice melange that fuels interstellar transportation. Such a clever and on the nose parallel to today’s issues. Frank Herbert was inspired by the oil exploitation in the Middle East at the beginning of the 20th century and I think that he predicted well were this will lead.

Regarding the technology, while it might not be as interesting as other sci-fi, I like that Frank Herbert steered away from AI and imagined a world were human skills are enhanced. There’s a new movement called transhumanism with people using technology to enhance themselves. I find this more interesting than AI because I think that the human-technology synergy will make the real breakthrough not machines regurgitating human content. There’s a dancer that has a device that helps her feel earth quakes. She’s connected to a data base. Imagine being able to have this connection with nature! Anyhow, love the discussions this book starts.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

I'm listening to this on Audiobook and have to say it's really helped me "get" the language and characters. The narrator is excellent and there are different actors for some of the key roles. The audiobook has been like someone holding my hand whilst reading this and has kept me intrigued.

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I'd really enjoy listening to an audiobook version with character narration. Does it feel jarring at all with the constant character POV switching? Maybe it works quite well with a voiceover version.

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No it feels very cinematic, there's atmospheric sounds too. Honestly recommend. There's one caveat, that the voice of the Baron changes, like it's the narrator in places and then clearly a James Earl Jones type voice actor. I've googled this and apparently there were some issues in the recording. But if you are following and aware then it's fine.

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Good to know. Sounds excellent! A cinematic audio experience can be so rewarding.

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Good to know you're "reading" with us!

I love audiobooks with different voice actors too, if done well they make the book come alive much more than reading on the page and imagining it in your head. For some books, I've listened to the audiobook first and then read them again while still hearing the actors' voices in my head. Beautiful.

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That’s so cool! I want to listen to the book with my husband as well. Which version do you listen?

I love that you get more of the Dune world by diving into the book. What things did you understand better? What was new vs the film?

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I can respond! Thanks for fixing. Well the obvious thing for me is the Arabic style language the fremen speak. The whole thing seems much more obvious in Herbert's influences then the film

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Awesome! Is it this one? https://amzn.to/3tbhK3i

That's the one I got with my audible credits. Have yet to give it a listen. Interested in how they are doing a few specific scenes, e.g. the Feyd arena fight in Book Two.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Great collaboration between you all! This was a solid presentation of diverse view points bringing the original text into contact with contemporary social and cultural concerns and the film adaptations, and came across with the levity needed to bypass the formalism of an academic panel. Can’t wait for the next one and hope this model is picked up on other works of literature and film on the platform!

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Thank you so much Brian! As Nathan mentioned, we were wondering if this format works for everyone reading along, glad to know that it worked.

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Ah thanks so much, Brian. We had a fair bit of trepidation as to what format would be best, but so pleased you found it interesting and with enough levity.

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Thank you, Brian, for the praise. Much appreciated and happy you felt it was worth reading. The Spice Must Flow. January 15th. Only on Substack.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Ah-h-h, I’m afraid I have to agree with Nathan here but perhaps go even further. I had such a problem with the prose that it actually made me want to stop reading. I only kept going so I could fully contribute to this chat 😁

The huge chunks of characters thoughts used to dump exposition actually made me laugh out loud on several occasions picturing them standing rubbing their chins as they considered their decisions. It was absolutely absurd writing

Also, the plot just kind of lies there flopping about like a fish out of water. Sometimes you think it’s going to propel itself forward but then it slows down again for more tedious pondering. And Herbert does love his world building which is impressive, to be fair, but it’s at the expense of character. The only one I could relate to was Jessica and found Leto and Paul to be genuinely dislikable. Particularly with Paul at the end of the book where he seemed to just become an arrogant tool

I remember watching the movie and having the same issue. I’m a huge fan of Villeneuve and think Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 are fantastic. However, I found Dune to be cold and remote with again Rebecca Ferguson being the only actor I could empathise with. I thought at the time it was because I hadn’t read the book but maybe this was Denis just bringing the novel to screen as it was 🤔

Anyway, apologies for being so down on something that you all have great affection for but I don’t think I’ll be reading any further. Unless you can tell me it gets considerably better? However, all that being said, I normally give a book 100 pages to grab me and I gave this one 214 so at least that’s something I suppose 🤔😁

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Hi Daniel, please continue reading! The worldbuilding of the Fremen side of the planet is great and it’s worth learning more about their plight and their vision for Arrakis. Also, at the end of the book the emperor will make his appearance. I think it’s worth getting Frank’s take before watching the second part of the movie.

I also found the 2021 Dune jarring after watching it the first time. Like you mentioned, it seemed sleek but cold. But I was expecting this from Villneueve, all image and little depth. But something kept nagging at me and I had to watch it several more times to fall in love.

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Dec 18, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake

Thanks Claudia. I’m going to start book 2 tonight and see how it goes. As you say, it would be good to finish it before the second movie comes out in March. However, if Paul keeps annoying me, then it’s getting ditched 😁

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I just finished my reread on the plane (as well as re-watching the film ... a good way to kill some time) and here's my thoughts on Paul:

Book One: nice lad, sucks for him to be moved from planet in his teens

Book Two: ooh, interesting development, we're certainly focussing on Paul + Fremen now

Book Three: Paul, you're a bit of an arrogant tw*t now 😆

I actually think Book Two (along with the early parts of Book One) are the most interesting. Life in with the Fremen in Book Two, along with what happens to Paul and Jessica, make for a more compelling bit of development.

Book Three suffers in places, but has a few moments of redemption, but yeah, accept the fact that unfortunately Paul doesn't become a likeable character (imo, anyway).

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Dec 19, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

I stuck to my word and started reading book 2 last night so we’ll see how it goes. Paul didn’t annoy me too much in the first chapter which was a good start! However, Herbert was continually going on about the “sphincter” of the tent that he and Jessica were hiding in which I thought was a very odd turn of phrase! 🤔😁

For a main character, I find him oddly lacking in empathy and so he is solely focussed on himself to the detriment of others. Maybe that’s a deliberate choice for the path he needs to take but it made him hard to like. Anyway, his meeting with the Fremen sounds as though it could be interesting so we’ll see where that goes

Welcome back to the cold and rainy UK, Nathan 👍🏼😁

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Thanks, Dan. The cold and rainy weather has welcomed me.

Lol re: the tent scene 😂

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Dec 19, 2023·edited Dec 19, 2023Author

It’s the raw spice in the tent! 🏕️ makes you irritable with visions. ;)

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Yay! Great that you’re in with us. I just started the second book as well, reading before I’m going to sleep and dreaming of Arrakis (nope, last night I dreamt of Xmas cookies 😅). Why is Paul annoying?

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My thoughts (and I think it'll be a worthy discussion for when we get there):

the power gets to him, he speaks with an arrogance that is fuelled by sudden power, and assumes control over the Fremen in a manner that -- although justified with a necessary purpose -- just didn't sit well with me. That's not necessarily a bad thing from a character perspective in writing of course, but when he's the central character I just didn't find myself rooting for him.

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When we get there ;) otherwise spoiler spoiler and then he spoiler spoiler kills spoiler.

Interesting to hear though, if anyone rooted for Paul thus far? Or for which character if not Paul, one or more? And who's your favourite character or least favourite?

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Favourite: Kynes, I think, or Stilgar.

Least favourite: Paul for what happens to him and who he becomes; the Baron if I'm to pick from for stylistic reasons.

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Love the thoughts, Dan. Nothing to apologise for, and in any case I'm in the same camp as you. I respect the book for what it did at the time, the lasting appeal of the world and the messages, but as a piece of compelling writing it is lacking. I didn't mind Leto so much (perhaps because of his fleeting time alive), but yes by the end of the book Paul shifts into something pretty arrogant. I guess we won't get there here for a little while, but particularly the scene where he essentially puts down his rule over the Fremen (granted, they have him as the chosen one, but that power certainly got to him).

I have yet to re-watch the film since starting this reread, so now I'm curious to know if my views of it have changed.

Well done on making it through anyway. I hope you don't feel annoyed we made you read the book 😉

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Thanks Nathan. No worries 😁

It was a book I was always interested in reading so this gave me the opportunity. And despite it not being great, I’ll continue to give it a shot and see if I can make it through book 2

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I believe in you ;)

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No need to apologise, Daniel. You did well! All reader reactions are valid. I offer a few corrections to this sentence here and perspective for future reading :)

"The huge chunks of characters thoughts used to dump exposition (snip:actually) <presently> made me laugh out loud on several occasions picturing them standing rubbing their <elfin> chins as they considered their decisions, <fatigued by trying to swallow in a dry throat>. It was absolutely absurd <magic mushroom induced> writing."

NB: "Spice = Psychedelic Mushrooms

If you have jumped far enough into the rabbit hole, you will have found out that Frank Herbert was inspired by his own experience with magic mushrooms (psilocybin) as he was an avid mushroom cultivator."

The prose won't change as you progress. Also, keep in mind that Dune is considered the best of the series. I am still looking forward to Dune – Part 2, though. Interesting, you say you found Part One cold and the more I think about it, the more I think you're right. When we watched it in the cinema I said to my friend Jason Momoa is no Duncan Idaho, the only miscast for me. As for empathy for the characters, none of them are developed enough after Part One to have any meaningful connection, not even Jessica, a least for me and maybe that is one of the movie's major flaws which is an inherent issue with SF and it's cardboard characters. Even James Holden in The Expanse (series) is nothing more but a template character, but I digress.

Read Book Two – The Desert Mouse, we need to hear your deliberations!

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Wait, Dune is considered the best?

I've heard that the series gets much more interesting from book two onward, which is part of why I agreed to this reread in the first place - to refresh my memory & see what happens after!

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Dec 19, 2023·edited Dec 19, 2023Author

I was always under the impression that Dune was the best of the series, so I've never read any further (other than skimming some lore articles and synopses after the first time I read Dune).

But when you say here 'Book Two', you mean Dune Messiah yeah?

A friend at work said he couldn't finish it as he got so bored ... :-|

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Then you will need to read on. There are ample ranking lists for the books (Brian's are largely ignored because they are so bad apparently) and essays on how Frank could not quite replicate the masterful prose in the first Dune book and how it drifts more from show to tell in the later books, but you will find out!

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Thanks Alexander. Well, the mushrooms might explain it then!

I’ve certainly not put the book back in the library yet so I’ll try and soldier on and see how it goes.

You’re right about sci fi characters. They always seem like cyphers to world building or, in the case of movies, showing off special effects

The Expanse seems to be a shows that keeps being recommended to me. Will need to check it out 👍🏼

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Replying to Dan so that you both see this. Forgot to say that I also really liked Jessica (her expository thoughts aside), but come book 2 and 3 ... she doesn't have much to say or do. Character arcs are a bit weird.

The meditation/hallucinatory aspects certainly come through to the page, so it comes as no surprise that that was the case with Frank.

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I think the moment she becomes the (SPOILER) she is the de facto force behind the curtain, even if she has less page/screen time. Will be interesting to see what Denis does with that in Part Two.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Hi Nathan, yeah, I think the attitude to Jessica is very much of a wise mother figure but now that Paul has his powers and become a “man” he no longer needs her. Showing the attitude of the times it was written I guess 🙄

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Could well be, yeah.

She just sort of seems to fizzle out of the picture. She does serve a critical purpose later in the book, but the strength of her from Book One seems to be lost.

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The Expanse is hands down the best SF show atm. Esp. From a science point of view, unlike Dune which is Fantasy in an SF setting. I could go into a lot of details here but I don’t want to spoil anything, just one bit, if you watch, keep an eye out for color schemes in different locations and situations (ship) and also the sounds (in space ;) a lot of detail went into creating believable/accurate space combat etc!

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Interesting discussion. I did not follow all the details exactly, because I opted not to read the book again—once, five or six years ago, was enough! Maybe I read it at the wrong time, for me and for the book; I might have liked it more if I had read it when I was younger or closer to its original publication.

I did quite like the style of flitting between different characters’ perspectives in the earlier chapters, but generally I recall finding it somewhat hard work, especially after Paul and Jessica had fled into the desert. I also found it difficult to keep all of the different terms in my mind; at least there was glossary at the back of the book, but if I had been more engaged in the world, I would perhaps not have needed that (or would have consulted it with more interest).

As such, after Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, two of my very favourite films, my heart sank when I heard that Denis Villeneuve would next be tackling Dune. Of course, I should have kept the faith! I really enjoyed the first part and the next cannot come soon enough. The right adaption can really make a difference.

On a related note, has anybody seen the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune? For some reason a review of that has stuck in my mind—there is something really appealing about unmade films that might have been—but I have never actually come across it.

Anyway, thanks for the Dune refresher; looking forward to your next collaborative post, which will doubtless stoke collective anticipation for the film even more.

PS: Nathan, I am happy to lend you my copy of War and Peace. In fact, it is my second copy: long ago, I lent my original to some forgotten person, who never returned it—shame on them—so I bought it again a few years later, so I could reread it!

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I watched the documentary! Jodorowsky became obsessed with Dune and was so heartbroken that the film wasn’t produced that he stopped making movies until today. You must see his pre-production work. He created a look book of the film frame by frame with work from original artists depicting the Duniverse. This book went on to influence works such as Star Wars, Alien and even recent films such as Prometheus. He is an institution and his vision of Dune is both psychedelic (the 70s!) but also surprisingly modern. He’s a legend amongst movie makers and his unmade film is one of the greatest influences in Hollywood history.

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Makes me really want to watch the doco!

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Your assignment... 😅

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Dec 19, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

A fascinating story! Thanks for your thoughts; I definitely want to check this out now.

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You won’t regret it. Jodorowsky is telling the story himself. The passion that he put into this project is tremendous.

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Ok, I’ll watch it again and bring it up in the discussion. We have a deal! 👍

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I shall make it my homework in time for the next post!

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I'm holding you to that, sir.

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Dec 17, 2023·edited Dec 17, 2023Author

Thanks, Jamie. I think you may be right about the reading experience depending on when you read it. 1984 was the perfect time for me. Fast forward to 2023, the POV changes I was OK with, but the repetitive, laborious, bland prose was a slog to get through, something a 15-year-old simply overlooks and loses himself in the vastness that is Arrakis.

Jodorowsky's Dune! I linked the trailer during our discussions but have not seen it myself. I have read interviews about it and seen excerpts. A 14h movie... well, if he'd been smart, he'd cut it into six parts, but then again, this is not something they were considering back then and is "a la mode" these days, i.e. "Mission Impossible Part 1 Get the effing key no one cares about."

PS: "On the Lending of Books and the Nefarious Page Ripper" a novella by Nathan Slake.

;)

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The trailer you shared, that's right! I knew I'd come across it recently and that's why.

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Thanks Jamie. Extensive thoughts, much appreciated. I still have your copy of Wuthering Heights, so I need to read that before I claim another of your books!

I haven't seen that documentary, no, but I recall discussing it with someone (you? Alexander?) I imagine Alexander has seen it, so I'll await his comment. Arrival and Blade Runner -- superb. Denis certainly seems to know what he's doing. All the trailers released so far for Dune Part 2 seem to suggest it'll be epic!

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Yeah, I mentioned Jodorowsky, maybe Claudia has seen it? It would have been a very different Dune, in the end, Jodorowsky's work was not in vain as it inspired so many classic SF movies.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

He certainly does! (Well, apart from Enemy... what was that spider all about?)

Despite temptation, I have avoided the trailers for Part Two. I shall see whether I can remain strong for the next couple of months...

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Not seen it.

Ahh (ahh-h-h-h-h), wise move. Well, let me assure you they are most stunning. They do give away some key cinematic moments, though, so perhaps wise to avoid.

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Dec 16, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Like Alexander, I was fifteen when I read it. (I even have the same edition.) Back then, I liked it a lot—especially the Bene Gesserits and Mentats. I had already seen Lynch's Dune, so that colored my reading of the book some. But I would say I probably missed a lot of the nuance and religious commentary until I reread it as an adult.

Like Nathan, I think the prose is pretty dull and uninspiring. Herbert is a bit like PKD (I'm sad to say) in this way, meaning the ideas are better than the writing. He also screws up matters of scale quite a bit, but kina who cares. Few of us are here for any of that. Not a hard sf book and that's okay.

I still love the concept of folding space as a means of FTL travel, and that the 'fuel' is this psychoactive drug that is mined—all that is brilliant and bizarre. In fact the whole book is way more bizarre than it presents itself to be or has ever been interpreted in film. Speaking of ...

I don't care for Villanue's film. I can appreciate that it's well made, and I get that he toned it down for mass appeal, but to me that is a massive downgrade. The SF Channel miniseries is probably the best overall in terms of faithfulness, but is also perhaps the least interesting to watch, so.

Anyhow, thanks to all of you for doing this! It's fun to read!

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Yes, thank you for your thoughts! I feel the same about the film, anything made for mass appeal will be a downgrade from a good book with lots of detail like this. I almost see the film as a standalone spin-off if that makes sense, I don't expect it to do the same things or even have the same vibe as the book.

Curious about the miniseries now!

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Nathan Slake

It's fine. A fairly decent adaptation on a modest budget around the millennium. Worth a look, but it is not as artfully constructed as the new film, nor as weird as the Lynch movie.

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Love the thoughts, T, thanks. Didn't realise (or if I knew, I'd forgotten) that you weren't so fond of Denis' film. But fair points. I've never seen the SF Channel miniseries. Will see if I can find some snippets.

I've also found PKD fairly boring in terms of prose. Partly the era, I guess.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Nathan Slake

I mean ... I watched the new film four times 😄 so, as a movie, it's fine. Very well made, and unlike some, I had no issue with the actors. Well, Josh Brolin a little bit—which is weird, actually, because I usually love him. But it is a highly sanitized Dune with all the subtext and clues ripped out. Such a sadness.

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I need to give it another watch. Just about to fly from Aus back to the UK, so I guess it could kill some hours 😂

Can't have too much subtext for such a mainstream Hollywood movie 😉

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

It could be, but Harlan Ellison and Samuel R. Delany are both from that era and hold up extremely well. Delany is still alive, in part because he was so young when he started. Have a look at Dhalgren if you haven't already.

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Didn't read a lot of Harlan or Delany so can't compare, but read most of the books of the ones they seem to have been influenced by, e.g. Roger Zelazny, Michael Moorcock, which I remember fondly. 😅

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

They're both great, too. Moorcock can read a bit slow and dark by contemporary standards, and Zelazny can get a bit goofy, but I wish they were both better appreciated in current sff.

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I read almost everything from Moorcock and much Zelazny, appreciation was given from my side ;)

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Regarding prose in SF, Douglas Adams put it succinctly:

"I've read the first 30 pages of a tremendous amount of science fiction. One thing I've found is that, no matter how good the ideas are, a lot of it is terribly badly written. Years ago, I read Asimov's Foundation trilogy. The ideas are captivating, but the writing! I wouldn't employ him to write junk mail!"

—Douglas Adams (From: Don't Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy By Neil Gaiman)

It still so happens that people will argue either way, Herbert's prose is masterful vs. Gene Wolfe's prose is the worst. Whatever you enjoy.

My first copy of "Der Wüstenplanet" was from 1978 published by Heyne and I wonder now if the translation offers a better reading experience than the English prose. Did anyone read Dune in another language and compared it to English?

It's good that you mention Soft SF. I hinted at that with my Holtzman comment, such a silly thing, magical, fantastical, zero science, but it doesn't matter unless someone wanted to argue Dune is Hard SF.

In terms of quality of prose in SF I always found Ray Bradbury very enjoyable.

"It was a pleasure to burn" in the Arrakis heat. ;)

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I initially read it in Romanian and the prose was great. But I also like the English version a lot. 😁 I can think of a dozen other sci-fi classics that I found hard to read (hello, Necromancer!) but Dune is not one of them.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

You know who's an interesting case study: Kurt Vonnegut. Player Piano is, imho, almost unreadable. But he gets much better in subsequent novels.

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is that because of the semicolon? 😅 j/k, haven't read and you're not selling it!

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Not read it. Might download the sample just to sample the unreadable!!

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Dec 16, 2023Liked by Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

Indeed, though I am 100% in the Gene Wolfe camp.

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*does a little dance*

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So is Nathan! I will know soon, very soon.

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You probably know this, but you have to stick with it, The Book of the New Sun, to really see the story. If you stop at the first book, you won't really even know what it's about yet. But regarding the prose itself, that you'll get from the very first page.

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Dec 16, 2023Liked by Vanessa Glau, Claudia Befu Ibarra, Nathan Slake, Alexander Ipfelkofer

On the point of movie vs book: Asking my family, who hasn't read the book before watching the movie, the Mentats were totally lost on them. They were seen only as a kind of normal adviser without any special ability. The eye turning white while calculating used by Denis to denote the mental calculation activity wasn't picked up.

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Very interesting, Perry. Thanks for sharing. I bet there's lots of little details that were missed by many. My wife hasn't read the book(s), but she loved the film (to my surprise!) and I'm sure there are things both of us perhaps missed. I've been meaning to sit down and watch it with her again.

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My husband didn’t read the book and loves the movie. But I had to give him lots of background for the story, characters, as some things were lost to him as well. Denis did a great job but the world of Frank Herbert has too many details and it would take more effort and precision’s to include them in a movie.

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Dec 16, 2023·edited Dec 17, 2023Author

Excellent point, Perry. I had a bit in the letter about Thufir and Piter being less prominent vs the book, and I was OK with that but, yes, without knowledge of the source text some viewers might miss the full nature of the Mentats, maybe something Part 2 will remedy. I would argue, it doesn't detract from or diminish, what the adaption achieves, plus Denis made the mentat lip marks from stains into tattoos, even more prominent. I went to see it with a friend who hasn't read the books, and he caught the eye blinks followed by "computational answers" combined with the lip tattoos were enough for him to signify these are some sort of super brainy guys... albeit they often miss the most obvious of points for some reason.

Baron to Reverend Mother: I promise not to harm the mother and child.

Later... Baron: My Dune. All Atreides must die.

Piter: But but... you promised!

Duuuh, Piter... 😅

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The Mentats stood out to me with all the talk about humans vs. machines in Book One but they don't seem to play a big role in the story so it's understandable that some of their uniqueness gets lost in the margins. Still, I think they're interesting as a concept. How does one even become a Mentat?

Like Claudia said, there is very little technical enhancement of humans in Dune so I doubt the answer involves implants or such.

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Dec 17, 2023·edited Dec 17, 2023Author

Few have the mental abilities to become a Mentat in the first place and there are different varieties, too. The twisted kind, with a lack of ethics like Piter. As the Dune Wiki informs us: "Moreover, a Mentat's capabilities can be greatly increased by taking sapho juice, but using it leads to addiction. Sapho is extracted from the root of the Ecaz tree and its use doubles or even triples the Mentat's immense processing power. Repeated use turns the user's lips a shade of red."

As already mentioned, Villeneuve goes one step further and from an indiscernible shade of red gives them lip tattoos, smart move. On stage, you need makeup that stands out.

Re: Enhancement in Dune; it's via taking drugs, be it Sapho juice, melange or raw spice.

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Very cool info about the origin of the sapho. (Don't have my book on hand to see if that's also in the appendix.)

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Dec 17, 2023·edited Dec 17, 2023Author

It's not on your new and spiffy Kindle at all times? ;) Yes, Sapho is explained in the Appendix, as well, as Ecaz.

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Alas, I didn't purchase one. Maybe in the new year.

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My interpretation was testing from a young age to identify savant-like ability (or at least high IQ) and then extensive training in logic/reasoning etc. Maybe there are details there in the later books?

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