That sensation which tells you this is something you’ve always known

A group of us got together recently to watch Jupiter Ascending, the recent effort from the Wachowskis. We were less than impressed. The weak characters with unclear, shifting motivations and a non-sensical plot could not be saved by the gonzo world and over-the-top visuals. But the stunning imagery and story revolving around warring family members in a culture that was an odd blend of the mercantile and medieval got me thinking about Frank Herbert’s Dune, and so I picked up the Kindle version of that classic novel and gave it a re-read.

I don’t think I’ve read Dune since 1984 when the David Lynch movie came out and blew my young mind.

Lynch’s Guild Navigator

I still remember how they provided a glossary of terms to the audience. They needed to.  New concepts and terms come at the reader fast and furious–Gom jabbar, Bene Gesserit, Kwisatz Haderach, sietch, Fremen, Landsraad–each evoking the exotic setting.

From Mark Molnar’s Concept Art Project (worth checking out; every painting is a gem)

This time round, I noticed Herbert’s effective use of 3rd person omniscient, a point of view that is largely out of favor these days.  It is often associated with novice writers who just don’t understand point of view, but Herbert uses it to great effect (much like Louis L’Amour, but that’s another post).

Trust and betrayal are central themes of the novel. Because Herbert moves seamlessly from one character’s thoughts to another, you get a conversation between a traitor and the soon-to-be betrayed where you see how much and how foolishly the traitor is trusted or a confrontation between two people who suspect each other of being a traitor, when neither is. And the dinner party scene with the local notables and the Duke’s household is like watching an eight-way fencing match.

Knife fights in space!

Herbert’s style is spare, which leaves our minds to fill in the imagery.  And boy do they.  No description could convey the majesty, wonder, and strangeness that resonates with the reader and finds answer in their imagination.  Artists and filmmakers through the years have felt that call and done their best with depictions of strange worlds…

The Atreides homeworld of Caladan by Angelitoon (from deviantart)

…advanced technology…

A spice harvester and escort by Brad Wright (from deviantart)

…exotic heroes and villains…

Character studies for Jodorowsky’s ill-fated Dune movie by the comic artist Moebius

…and the worms.  Everyone loves the worms…

Also from Mark Molnar because his work is just that good

…except this poor donkey.  He doesn’t love the worms…

It’s probably clear that I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading Dune and firmly believe it’s time someone tackled it with a new and faithful movie.  Maybe a trilogy.  Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and the new Star Wars films have all paved the way, and the popular audience is ready for the majesty and mystery of Herbert’s imagined future.

(All images copyright their creators or owners and are shared because Dune, and their work depicting it, are visually stunning.)

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1 Comment

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One response to “That sensation which tells you this is something you’ve always known

  1. Harlan

    I agree, we need a new “Dune” movie, more faithful to the book. But the record of Hollywood show that’s very unlikely.

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