Book review: Dune (1965)

There was a rather tattered copy of Dune that lay around the house when I was growing up. Given that from age nine onward I read pretty much every other book that I found lying around, its actually a bit odd that I did not read it. But I didn’t. Until now. There are, of course,  thousands of reviews of Dune out there on the web. So I wont bore you with any attempt at a proper review – read some of the others instead.

What I liked. The world building! This is what really makes Dune. It is brilliant, and draws you in. I would also have loved this at age 10. But the book is now 51, and despite some, um, possible evidence to the contrary I am not actually 10 anymore. So, what I didn’t like are the undercurrents of homophobia and misogyny. These make parts of the text rather uncomfortable. Others have commented on this:

“It is impossible not to notice the general position of women as subservient to men, not only in the general culture of the  Great Houses but also in the more positively-portrayed Fremen culture. Indeed, the subservience of women is even worse in  Fremen culture, where they’re treated like property[.]”

“[T]his is a story about a man who has special powers because he can enter the women’s realm (this is explicit in Bene Gesserit lore). Women are never given the symmetrical access to power, which is a classic patriarchal structure… I am queer and this stuff weighed very heavily on me when I was younger—not just in this book but in almost all sci-fi from the 60s. It seems to come up often in books about fantasies of togetherness where sex between men is the one thing that cannot take place...

The tendency for women to be treated foremost as mothers, and the eugenics-slanted breeding stuff (eww),  grated. Jessica is also upstaged by her 15 year old son very early on in the book (eww!),  and needed more definition outside the context of wife and mother throughout the book.

In summary: If you haven’t, read it. It is genre-defining for many good reasons. But absolutely ideally, read it while you are still 10.


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