Frank Herbert

February 7, 2006

Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of those famous books that every good nerd is supposed to read. (Just look at those 926 glowing Amazon reviews, for Chrissakes.) So when I saw it on the shelf of the library’s self-service Book Swap, I decided to pick it up and leave my similarly-serendipitously obtained (and recently read) copy of John Le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in its place.

After all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed other such nerd-staple series as Foundation, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and The Lord of the Rings. Hell, I’ve even slogged through over 10,000 pages’ worth of The Wheel of Time and I’m still looking forward to reading Book 11 for some reason.

When I started reading Dune, then, I was expecting to enjoy it because I’m a faceless drone who usually enjoys whatever nerds enjoy, even if I don’t come right out and admit it. But I was a bit put off by all the bullshit two-word phrases and made-up jargon like “Bene Gesserit”, “Padishah Emperor”, “suspensor lamp”, and “Kwisatz Haderach”: the kind of terminology that’s completely fucking pandemic in sci-fi and fantasy, and is also responsible for the giant glossary (complete with pronunciation guide) in the back of each volume of WoT. After reading all of the above-quoted phrases on page 1 of Dune, I decided to keep reading. How much worse could it get?

Proceeding to page 2 I came across this doozy of a paragraph:

Thufir Hawat, his father’s Master of Assassins, had explained it: their mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, had been on Arrakis eighty years, holding the planet in quasi-fief under a CHOAM Company contract to mine the geriatric spice, melange. Now the Harkonnens were leaving to be replaced by the House of Atreides in fief-complete—an apparent victory for the Duke Leto. Yet, Hawat had said, this appearance contained the deadliest peril, for the Duke Leto was popular among the Great Houses of the Landsraad.

At this point, I tossed the book irritably aside, since so far it had been doing nothing but drowning me in a morass of gibberish, and even the recognizable English words in between everything else weren’t particularly engaging. I took a little break and came back later and started reading against my better judgment.

But nobody talks like this, not even fictional characters.

A chuckle sounded beside the globe. A basso voice rumbled out of the chuckle: “There it is, Piter—the biggest mantrap in all history. And the Duke’s headed into its jaws. Is it not a magnificent thing that I, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, do?”

I think I’m not going to bother reading the rest of this book.

1 Comment

  • Aili says:

    “Padishah Emperor” huh? Padishah sounds an awful lot like pas du chat to me. You know, ballet. What a jerk.

    If I were you I’d take this book back and hope that nobody took your Tinker Tailor book.

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