Revisiting Dune

Back in October, at MileHiCon, I picked up a copy of the Dune graphic novel scripted by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. As I prepared to revisit the world of the first novel, I realized it had been some thirty-eight years since I’d read the novel. The first time I read the novel was during the summer of 1984 around the same time as David Lynch’s movie adaptation came out. Since adapting a chapter of my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires into comic book format, I’ve been interested in seeing how other novel adaptations are handled. So, I decided to reread Dune and then read the graphic novel. Because Dune has recently been adapted to the big screen again, I also decided to see how the new movie compared to the book.

The novel Dune is divided into three parts titled “Dune,” “Muad’Dib,” and “The Prophet.” The graphic novel is a faithful adaptation of part 1, which takes us roughly through a third of the novel. The character and machine designs were developed by the artists Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín. They used their own interpretation and didn’t base the art on designs used for either of the movies or the SyFy Channel’s miniseries. I found most of the characters – including our young protagonist Paul Atreides, along with his parents Duke Leto and the Lady Jessica, and Baron Harkonnen – were a good match for the way I pictured those characters when I read. Overall, I liked the way they visualized machines such as the spice harvesters on the planet Arrakis. They imagined quite bird-like ornithopters in their novel, which seemed almost closer to how I picture my steampunk ornithopters in the Clockwork Legion series than how I pictured the more high tech versions of Dune. Still, it proved a valid interpretation. I was impressed by how closely the graphic novel stuck to the novel’s plot. I didn’t notice any cut scenes. Of course, description was pared down and the art was allowed to show the settings and action while the characters spoke their dialog. I haven’t checked to see if the dialogue was word-for-word, but certainly the most memorable lines were repeated in the graphic novel. I likely will add volume 2, “Muad’Dib” to my collection as well.

Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 movie adaptation of Dune is also “part 1.” In this case, the movie includes all of “Dune” and most of “Muad’Dib.” By my reckoning the movie covers a little over sixty percent of the novel, ending around the close of Chapter 33. The movie adds some scenes not in the novel, such as the scene where a contingent arrives from the emperor to notify Duke Leto that he’s been granted stewardship of the planet Arrakis. The scene cleverly shows us many important story elements without them needing to be explained, such as the importance of the Duke’s signet ring and the political power wielded by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. The movie also does a nice job casting characters who, for the most part, resemble characters as I imagine them. In particular, I really liked Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck and Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban. I especially liked Stephen McKinley Henderson as the Mentat Thufir Hawat, because he reminded me of my uncle. Like Hawat, my uncle had a distinguished military career and while he was very loving to me, I always detected that there was a fierce commander underneath. As for the tech, I really liked the movie’s depiction of the ornithopters. These machines captured almost exactly what I pictured when I read the book. Given that the movie didn’t try to cover the entire novel and that the graphic novel did a very good job of including scenes of political intrigue, I was a little disappointed that many scenes from the novel were cut from the movie. Overall, the movie did a good job of telling the novel’s story, but it felt like it favored action over the complex machinations of many parties shown in the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed both the graphic novel adaptation and the movie, but I’m especially glad the two gave me an excuse to reread Frank Herbert’s classic novel. If you want to read my comic adaptation of a chapter from Dragon’s Fall, visit http://davidleesummers.com/Tales-of-the-Scarlet-Order.html to learn how to get a copy for yourself. If you want to see a scene from my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt adapted for the screen for free, visit http://davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html

Sometimes, a Short Story is Just What’s Needed

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune is one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time and rapidly established itself as a classic in the field. It certainly influenced me. The ornithopters used to flit about the surface of Arrakis influenced the ornithopters I used in my steampunk fiction. I used to pour over the glossary in the novel, fascinated by all the words and phrases Herbert invented. They led me to create planets with names like Rd’dyggia and Sufiro and weapons like heplers. As time went by, my wife and I collected all of Herbert’s original Dune novels in hard cover. I was even fortunate enough to pick up a signed copy of Heretics of Dune soon after release. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet Frank Herbert. I hadn’t realized he was in town at my local bookstore until I arrived about an hour after he left.

Over the years of going to science fiction conventions, I have been fortunate enough to get to know Kevin J. Anderson. We both have stories in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone edited by David Boop. What’s more, Anderson has been collaborating with Frank Herbert’s son, Brian, on numerous novels in the expanded Dune universe. I’ve long been intrigued by the expanded universe, but I was never quite sure where to begin. Right after I saw Kevin J. Anderson at MileHiCon, I came across the collection Tales of Dune, published by Anderson’s WordFire press. This volume contains eight standalone short stories from the expanded Dune universe written by Anderson and Brian Herbert.

Since I had only read Frank Herbert’s original Dune, I wasn’t certain how well I would follow the stories in this collection, but decided to take a chance. As noted in the introduction, some of these stories had been published in magazines and others had been published in standalone booklets to entice readers to explore the expanded universe. In light of that, I thought it was worth a try. As it turns out, the stories did indeed stand alone. Each story introduced its characters and situations well and resolved them in the space of the story. As noted in the introduction, “Sometimes a short story is exactly what you need” and this collection was just what I needed to get a taste of the expanded Dune universe.

It probably did help that I was familiar with the first novel in the series. Because of that, I knew about such factions as House Atreides, House Harkonnen, the Navigators Guild and the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. I also knew about the Butlerian Jihad where humanity had overthrown the oppression of artificial intelligence, or thinking machines as they’re known in the world of Dune. The stories in this collection range much of Dune’s future history. The first stories are set during the Butlerian Jihad. Later stories are set around the time of the novel Dune, then the collection finishes with stories set concurrent or just after the last of Frank Herbert’s original novels. The book even includes a timeline to help you know when the stories take place relative to the other novels of the series. Overall, I found Tales of Dune an enjoyable, quick read and I now want to sample the novels in the expanded universe. You can learn more about Tales of Dune here: https://wordfirepress.com/books/tales-dune-expanded-edition/

Not only have Kevin J. Anderson and I had short stories that have appeared side-by-side in an anthology, but Kevin’s WordFire Press is the publisher of the anthology Maximum Velocity that I co-edited with Carol Hightshoe, Dayton Ward, Jennifer Brozek, and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. It contains 18 fun, high-octane science fiction stories featuring everything from pirates to marines, horrors and battles all in space. Sometimes, when you’re looking for a great read, a short story is just what you need. You can learn more about Maximum Velocity here: https://wordfirepress.com/books/maximum-velocity/