As with Stranger in a Strange Land, I found this piece of foundational science fiction literature to be very disappointing. I love the 1984 Dune movie, and I was so ready to love this book, and I was so sad to find that it has a raging hard on for eugenics, racism, misogyny, and gender normativity. Not in a “this is an old book and thus it has some old ways of thinking implicit within it” way, but in a “this writing REALLY is sold on the traditionally patriarchal male-female binary being crucial to the world as we know it, and selective breeding is the tool of choice for creating the messiah” way. Also, the dialogue is terribly written. Just absolutely horribly written.
Partially, I see why this is foundational literature. In terms of aesthetics, there’s a ton of cool stuff happening here, and the melding of high-fantasy vibes in the Great Houses and the religious fervor of the desert people and the immense tech that just comes at you all the time out of nowhere, it’s all rad as hell. And I really wish it had been used to tell a more rad story, because literal white savior born of eugenics who big time cosigns on the importance of the gender binary and the submission of women within that binary, that’s just not a very fun read to me these days.
I’m told by trustworthy sources that the second and third book save the themes of the story by turning everything on its head and leading the reader to understand that the eugenics and whatnot were actually always bad, and just because someone has main character energy doesn’t mean they’re a good guy. But, I must admit the prose of this story is not engaging enough for me to want another thousand pages just to get to the realization of “this kid is bad,” especially since he’s clearly bad from pretty much the beginning. I won’t be reading the Dune sequels, and I’m going to try to live in a world where the absolute chaos of the 1984 movie is the true Dune, and Sting in a metal bikini is canon.