Ordinary Human Language

by Brian Crane


Dune was one of the most important books I read in my early teens. I reread it, studied the appendices, worked hard to piece together the world and make sense of everything that was going on with the guild, the spice companies, the Landsraad and the rest.

I looked up to Paul Atreides and wanted to be, as much as I could manage, like him. I wanted to understand how to think carefully and to observe details in order to see past the surface of things like he and the Bene Gesserit and the Mentats did. I also wanted to be as unshakeably calm as they were. (It’s worth dreaming right?)

When I read the novel again this past winter for the first time in years, all of it’s old strengths were still there, but it’s a very different book to me now than what I remember. Paul is so much younger than he seemed when I was reading his story the first time, and the adult characters are so much more present and more interesting than I remembered them. These adults are confronted with and trapped within difficult circumstances they didn’t choose and to which, unlike Paul, they have no time to adapt. They fight, aim to survive, and try to win with what resources they have, but their options are so limited. It is their limited circumstances that establish the political and economic foundations of the novel.

Structurally, I was surprised to realize that nearly half of the book occurs prior to Paul’s flight into the desert. I remembered the later episodes–and especially the final battle when the Shield Wall is breached–as being much longer.

Posted June 20, 2015