#75 – Dune, by Frank Herbert
- Read: 7/27/16 – 7/30/16
- Provenance: Owned (paperback)
- Challenge: PopSugar Reading Challenge 2016
- Task: A book I haven’t read since high school
- Rating: 3/5 stars
Since I’m certain I got my copy for my 13th birthday, and I know I reread it a few times in high school but never after I left for college, I last read Dune somewhere between 18 and 20 years ago. (I’ve seen both the ’80s movie adaptation and the more recent miniseries several times each, with the miniseries viewings about fifteen years ago.) All this is to say, I am infinitely familiar with what happens, but it’s been a long time since I really looked at why.
I chose Dune as my reread for this task, out of several possible candidates, because I recently saw it suggested that Jessica, not Paul, is truly the protagonist (or makes a better one than he does, at any rate.)
I kept that in mind as I read, and there’s definitely evidence in that direction. The very nature of Paul’s prescient abilities means, as a character, he’s choosing between known options; Jessica makes her decisions, both in backstory and during the course of the tale, more out of defiance of the behavior expected from her than from the sort of “wisdom” Paul is supposed to have. From that angle, he’s a weak protagonist at best, because all his actions read as reactions, though they’re often to a future that he’s trying to prevent.
In my younger years I was carried away by the worldbuilding, but now that I’m so familiar with it, it actually annoyed me for taking up so much time. The political machinations that seemed so complex to me as a teenager now seem pedestrian when stacked against more recent, more sophisticated works.
And I’d honestly forgotten how downright weird and unrelatable Paul becomes after he and his mother flee into the desert and join the Fremen. (Though the Fremen themselves might still be the coolest sci-fi tribe I’ve ever read. Serious badasses, all.)
After this, I’m questioning whether I’m ever going to feel the need to read it again, and whether it deserves continued space on my shelves. But the nostalgia I have for it, and knowing how it helped to revolutionize the genre, earn it back some love. I’m undecided.
#76 – Naamah’s Blessing, by Jacqueline Carey
- Read: 7/30/16 – 8/4/16
- Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
- Challenge: ReadsTheBooks 2016 Reading Challenge
- Task: A book about a road trip
- Rating: 4/5 stars
More accurately, a book about several sea voyages of various durations, and two serious treks through the Amazonian jungle. Travel is a major component of all of Carey’s works in this series, so I’m actually shocked I hadn’t considered it for the road-trip task until I went hunting through Goodreads lists for ideas, and there it was, on a list and already on my TBR shelf.
As the final book in Moirin’s trilogy, I was favorably impressed. Since my three most recent reads were two DNFs and a re-read I was less than impressed by, diving back into Carey’s unique writing style was like slipping into a warm bath, and the pages flew by. I’d given both of the previous books in the trilogy two-star ratings: Imriel’s trilogy is BY FAR my favorite of the three, and Moirin simply doesn’t stack up to Imriel as a protagonist, either in complexity or likeability. I tried to like her, and she has her moments, but I put off reading the final part of her story a long time simply because I didn’t think it would be that good.
But how can I read eight books in a series and not the ninth (and presumably final) one?
As the final book in the whole series, though, the ending (while satisfying on its own) felt weak. I suppose thematically, there’s a progression–Phedre and Joscelin becoming consorts at the end of their story, Imriel and Sidonie marrying at the end of theirs, then Moirin and Bao setting out to start a family–but Imriel got to be FREAKING KING OF TERRE D’ANGE and Moirin is just…living in a really nice cave? Sure, she’s still taking on a position of religious authority for her people, but she’s not a queen, so it’s less spectacular, more anticlimactic.
New readers to this series, by all means read the first six books–they’re fantastic, and you can’t read my favorites (Imriel’s) without having read the first ones (Phedre’s) or they won’t be nearly as good. But once you get that far, well, I’d recommend stopping there. Sad to say, I enjoyed this work, but overall, Moirin’s trilogy disappoints.
So that’s it for this week, and I’m wondering if I’ll even have a finished review next week, because, in a fit of temporary insanity, I chose a 1074-page brick of a novel to read for my next task, and I might have it done by next Friday, but I might very well not.