Friday, 2020-09-18

Re-reading Dune and Heretics of Dune

I’ve re-read Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune, partly inspired by the upcoming movie.

Based on my memories I first read it in 1988 or so. The first novel in the series I read was actually Heretics of Dune (published in 1984) which I borrowed from the library in Halmstad. This must have been in 1986 or ‘87. I’ve long realized that it’s not a huge deal to read some novel series out of order - especially ones that are so self-contained as the Dune novels. Heretics takes place 5,000 years after Dune, after all.

Anyway, if you’re only going to read one Dune novel, the first one is the best. It has all the goodies - the worldbuilding, the Hero’s Journey, the tight plotting and good use of language. Even the 1960s elements have aged well - while standards like telepathy are there they’re only mentioned in passing, and the central idea of prescience is part of the plot and well handled there.

I wonder what the movie will do with the implicit connection of the Fremen with modern-day inhabitants of the Middle East. While using terms like jihad was merely a frisson in the original, they take on a darker tone in today’s climate - at least among the less enlightened. I suspect the projected 2-parter will not emphasize the jihad Paul foresees throughout the novel and instead focus on the thrilling twists and turns.

After Dune I decided to re-read Heretics. There’s almost 20 years between the novels, and it’s clear that Herbert has picked up a lot of contemporary SF tropes in the meantime. The tech in Dune is almost indistinguishable from magic - devices such as suspensors and personal shields were never explained, instead added to impart flavor - and to enforce the quasi-medieval setting of the universe.

Heretics is much more explicit in its descriptions of space travel, weapons and other technology, but not in a way that feels dated. However, the novel is marred by long stretches of interior dialogue, where the protagonists muse about religion, history, and fate in excruciating detail. While I admire Herbert for bringing in female protagonists (in the form of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood), they’re really not that interesting as characters.

I consider Dune a bona-fide SF classic and anyone interested in the genre should read it. But don’t feel pressured to read more from Herbert’s universe.

Thursday, 2020-09-17

Six months since WFH began

Monday, 2020-08-31

Friday, 2020-07-31

July

Hammarby Sjöstad

Sjöstaden

Jul 2019 | Jul 2018 | Jul 2017 | Jul 2016 | Jul 2015 | Jul 2014 | Jul 2013 | Jul 2012 | Jul 2011 | Jul 2010 | Jul 2009

Wednesday, 2020-07-08

Two more novels by Paul McAuley

(Previously.)

  • War of the Maps
  • Austral

McAuley has a wide range. These books were read in reverse publication order.

War of the Maps is a far-future SF story. After our sun has become a white dwarf, post-modern humans construct a Dyson sphere around it and seed it with humans and Earth life. According to the internal legends, they play around a bit then buzz off, leaving the rest of the environment to bumble along as best they can.

The tech level is more or less Victorian but people contend with unique challenges, such as a severe lack of metallic iron and malovelent AIs buried here and here.

Austral is a near-future crime story. A genetically modified young woman gets dragged into a kidnapping plot in a post-AGW Antarctica.

Both are well worth reading!

Tuesday, 2020-06-30

June

Telemedecine is the only light in the darkness of COVID

This pic was supposed to be part of a pictorial depicting one day in my life during Corona, but I got bored of the concept. I just added it here so I don’t have an embarrasing gap for June 2020.

Jun 2019 | Jun 2018 | Jun 2017 | Jun 2016 | Jun 2015 | Jun 2014 | Jun 2013 | Jun 2012 | Jun 2011 | Jun 2010 | Jun 2009

Sunday, 2020-06-21

[SvSe] Söndagsvägen - berättelsen om ett mord av Peter Englund

Englund reflekterar Sveriges 60-tal via spegeln av ett sedan länge bortglömd mord. Genom att ta upp företeelser i tiden visas ett land i förändring, framförallt hur “det moderna projektet” börjar krackelera.

Wednesday, 2020-06-17

Closing Time by Joe Queenan

An unflinching but entertaining memoir about growing up with an alchoholic father in working-class Philadelphia.

5,000 dead in Sweden

Monday, 2020-06-15

Britain’s War Machine by David Edgerton

A revisionist look at the material grounding of Great Britain (and its Empire) in World War II.

Unlike most contemporary views, Edgerton sees Dunkirk not as a low point but as a temporary setback. The real setback was Japan’s entry into the war and Britain’s need to divert forces and treasure to defend the Empire.

In the post-war years, with the Empire gone and Britain’s relative standing diminished, Dunkirk grows in stature, and the myth of the small island sacrificing itself for peace and democracy grows with it.

Sunday, 2020-05-31

Monday, 2020-05-25

4,000 dead in Sweden

Thursday, 2020-05-07

3,000 dead in Sweden

Thursday, 2020-04-30

Thursday, 2020-04-23

2,000 dead in Sweden