Cover of the book Dune

Why Dune the Book is Better than the Movie

When I saw the movie, Dune, in 2021 I was not at all impressed but I had no idea it was based on the book saga “Dune” by Frank Herbert. Don’t ask me how I missed out on this cornerstone of Science Fiction while I was growing up. I have no idea. But recently, I saw it on my library’s options and I thought, okay the movie was awful but maybe there was more in the book that I missed out on. And it didn’t disappoint. As so much of what is expressed in the story is about controlling the mind and thoughts, it really didn’t translate well on screen. That is the main reason the Dune book is better than the movie. But there’s more.

What I love about Dune from the start is the intricate storytelling, the details of the world, the intelligence of the writing. I listened as an audiobook and maybe some of the acting is overdone, but there are many different voices that also make this exciting to listen to. It’s a beautiful balance of thought intrigue and painting pictures of a world that I would love to see more of.

It’s easy to see that Frank Herbert was awake, and understood the power of the mind and the ways in which we can enhance our life by mastering our thoughts. He was aware of emotions and wove that into the story calling it the “training” of the Bene Gesserit calling attention to the fact that few humans actually work on mastering this art. The Dune book did a better job of portraying this.

Frank Herbert also wove in many powerful themes that I won’t pretend I can accurately analyze from his lens in the book. But I was able to apply those perspectives to the world that I am currently living in and appreciated this new view.

Plot

Well, I have a hard time summing this one up. The story takes place in a future where artificial intelligence has been banned, so human intelligence is highly valued. The main plot starts out being about a woman who trusts her instincts to raise her son the way she believes is best (with the Bene Gesserit training). Many years pass and she has no idea if she is doing the right thing, and perhaps there is no right thing. But when they move to a new planet for his father to rule, the people there look at him as a savior. The Bene Gesserit have prepared the people on the planet for him to come and it’s still challenging but she finally begins to see that she has been on the right path.

Her son becomes the hero of the story and survives even against the odds. He allies himself with a population that was largely ignored and marginalized by the previous government (the Fremen). He finds they have many strengths that he can learn from. The ending of the book of course sets you up to want to read the next one, and I believe there are five more in the series.

I know this is a very vague description of the plot. But getting into the details would require me to recreate the world that Herbert has painted and I think that’s best left to him.

A little credit to the movie

If there is one thing I give credit to the film for, it did create really amazing imagery of what Herbert describes in the book. Since I saw the movie first, I don’t know what my mind would have created. I could see vivid images from the movie as I was reading the book. I wonder if anyone who read the book first would disagree? Feel free to comment if you have thoughts about this!

My Thoughts

I am fascinated by the Freman culture and their ways of living. I love their passion for their planet and the way in which water is revered. Water really is an incredibly valuable resource but the extremes to which this was taken on the dessert planet really was eye-opening. I think Earth needs a population so passionate to help reclaim the land that we have destroyed with pesticides and “modern” farming.

The Fremen have a sense of oneness with their planet. They appreciate it fully. This is something that I am witnessing on Earth more and more every day. I want to see more of this world, and perhaps I can even here on Earth. This wasn’t portrayed as well in the movie as it was in the book. In the film, I felt that the scarcity of water was only triggering greed. In the Dune book it was better that there were touching moments making it clear there was respect and reverence underneath the need to preserve water.

I also enjoyed the themes about thought and how powerful it is to be able to master our minds. It also highlighted the importance of mastering our physical bodies. It made me think about how I have neglected that. I am committed to taking action on it now. It’s interesting how a fiction book can have a real impact on how I feel about my non-fiction life.

Themes

Wow, the layers upon layers of themes in this book are hard to capture. There were definitely some messages about feminism, and the feminine energy. The nature of power itself is brought into the spotlight here. I don’t want to water that down by being more specific. But I will point out an adjacent theme of how religion is tied to power. Also the environmentalism that I mentioned earlier is certainly present. This book calls into question, what is a planet capable of when its inhabitants are working with it instead of against it? That was totally missing in the Dune movie, unless it is only going to be revealed in part 2 since the movie only covered half of the Dune book.

Of course, politics is a big part of the book and the movie. What I could see was mostly in line with my current beliefs. It seemed like in politics there are a lot of lies and deceit. Even to accomplish good things, politicians have to often do bad things. I hope that in the future this shifts and there is less polarity. But that polarity has the potential to push many of us to grow past our current perspectives. My interest in politics lies in what I can gain from observing it. I try not to let myself get wrapped up in playing sides, and keep a neutral stance.

Do I Recommend the Dune Book?

The Dune book was not what I would call an easy read but it was a challenge worth taking up. The plot often left me perplexed and there was so much hidden meaning, especially in the dialogue. I found myself wanting to go back to understand better (but wasn’t willing to do so with audio). So I just tried to zoom my attention out and let the story wash over me as if I were in the story. I didn’t need to understand every detail, I just let it become my experience as I listened.

This book felt prophetic to me. Arrakis could be an interpretation of what happens on Earth if we never figure out how to balance our ecosystem properly, or if we didn’t have help from other planets to make it habitable. The Dune book is better because the movie just felt flat, like there was no point to the plot.

Quotes

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”

“What do you despise? By this are you truly known.”

“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”

“There is no escape—we pay for the violence of our ancestors.”

“The mind can go either direction under stress—toward positive or toward negative: on or off. Think of it as a spectrum whose extremes are unconsciousness at the negative end and hyperconsciousness at the positive end. The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.”

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